Wednesday, August 24, 2011

“No Pillows, No Blankets”

Yesterday (Aug.23) I took an early morning flight of a major Indian airways from Cochin to Chennai.. Usually there would be the airline chaps to help needy passengers with baggage and checking in. I required assistance because of a back problem. Looked around for support staff. No luck.

A young girl offered to help but she had much luggage. So I thanked her and managed on my on with difficulty. The counter chap said that porter service was available at the Metros only. Just five days earlier I had received this facility at Cochin when I landed from Chennai. Anyway he was kind enough to assure me that he would ask his Chennai office to provide me assistance on landing.

After we took off, I asked one of the hostesses for a pillow. Pat came the answer, “No pillows, no blankets” and she went marching away. No politeness, no apology, not even a smile. My poor back had to suffer the nearly one hour forty minutes ATR flight because of an ill trained and incompetent hostess.

A little while later the hostess came selling ‘you make your own tea’. No coffee. I let her pass. There was nothing to do because I had forgotten to carry a book. Newspapers are too costly for some airlines to provide free. They could at least think of selling them and making a profit. After all, if you can have a roving tea stall on board, why not a moving bookshop? Some major booksellers and several passengers might be interested. But, buy pillows with the profit. They could even rent out pillows at the check in counter.

One had the choice of either keeping the eyes closed, or staring at the two large advertisements (I was on row 3 and could easily see them) for Whyte and Mackay and Black Dog CDs. I suppose that most people know what those really are. But you can’t get them on board. It was too early for Scotch anyway.

The Air India one hour flight I took to Cochin on 18th Aug had pillows and blankets and a pleasant crew. It was almost like the Air India of the good old days. We were served a good solid brunch that was included in the fare which was just Rs.1223. The ‘no pillows’ carrier cost me Rs.2426. One reason I can think of for the higher fare is that they flew me forty minutes longer. Can you fault the logic? Reportedly, this airline is running at a heavy loss for the last five years.

At Chennai Airport baggage collection there was just one porter of this airline. A lady with her little baby and rather heavy baggage was already on to him. I managed on my on, ignoring the back problem.

If you travel by this particular airline it is advisable to carry along a pillow.

Also see  Douglas DC 3, The Dakota

Monday, August 1, 2011

Creating Gen Next Engineers

The motivation to convert young men and women into efficient technicians on whom the future of the country depends is noble. First requirement for this of course is an engineering college. Take Kerala for instance where there are quite a few of them. As long as friendly politicians are around the necessary clearances don’t pose a problem. Thereafter it is a simple process of accounting, sometimes in the books, sometimes outside them. If you happen to hear the tinkle of money, don’t be surprised.

There has to be a building to run a college. Of course, there is one. In fact a few, if you consider attached structures too. If you see the photos in the college advertisements you might think that you are joining one of the finest educational institutions in the world. It is good to dream sometimes.

The Principal might be a post graduate in engineering. He might be a laid up old man though.  But there are a handful of Bachelors in Engineering on the college staff. One or two of them might have just passed out of that college itself a couple of years back. The others are credited with five or six years experience. That is great. Sometimes teachers from nearby Government Colleges snoop in to take classes. Several other teachers have no engineering degree. Some of the institutions are bright – they share teachers. There are no reports yet of peons and gardeners getting a chance.

A court ordered enquiry into 28 of the 84 private engineering colleges in Kerala has come out with some shocking revelations. God knows what the inspection of the rest of the institutions will reveal. How did this preposterous situation develop? Who are responsible? Surely the money makers, the universities, government, and parents of the students can’t escape the blame.

Finally The Kerala High Court has intervened. No more sanctions for private engineering colleges. All the colleges are to be inspected. Permission of some of the existing ones might be withdrawn. (What will happen to the students of those colleges?) The ultimate verdict will come only after the inspection of the rest of the colleges is also completed.

But imagine the damage that has been already done. Some of the half baked graduates from the existing colleges will be teaching engineering students in future.