The New look of the Delhi International Airport
Once upon a time there was an airport known as the Indira Gandhi International Airport. The airport welcomed flights from all over the world. It was massive in size — however, it eventually became dilapidated as a result of wear and tear and a lack of general maintenance by those in-charge. Soon visitors started dreading having to visit the airport and once they were in it, hurried to escape.
As I step off the plane and onto the aerobridge, my eyes and nose get ready for the sights and smells that, I anticipate, will greet me — the sight of pot-bellied police officers, in decade-old mud-brown uniforms, wearing a look of genuine boredom, lazily gazing at passengers making their way to the immigration counter, while forgetting their duty to secure the safety of those around them — and the combined smell of a dirty old carpet, smoke, sweat and mango pickle. I’d also usually expect to see a couple of airport workers in white uniforms bearing badges with generic “A Sharma”-type names printed on them, guarding rickety wheelchairs, waiting by the door of the aircraft and a solitary greeter with the name of a “VIP” scribbled in white on a board standing next to them.
I quickly realize that that was then. Today, now, this time..was different.
This time I immediately notice that we are in GMR’s New Delhi airport terminal ( also called the T3!) with a brand spanking new carpet (not my choice of pattern but let’s not get caught in the nitty-gritty). I then noticed that the New Delhi airport is comparable and generally at par with the airports in cities such as Dubai and Singapore, with all the conveniences that one would expect in those places. The signage is clear, correct and brightly illuminated. Everything, from the airport personnel to the baggage trolleys, is in its place. There is an air of efficiency around me, neatly enhanced by a lime-lemon air-freshener. The lines at the immigration counter are moving a rapid pace and the immigration officers are smartly turned out. Most even have a smile on their face and are making a real effort to talk to the passengers. Did I hear one of them say “Ma’am”? (or am i having silly airport dreams…?) Proudly I give the South African team who were travelling in the same flight a look to say “See! We can do international airport standards too( when we aren’t lazy or complaining )!” and then proceed toward baggage claim. Throwing a quick glance to the South African contingent, I see the team being directed to a different part of the Delhi airport by a smart, 5 foot 6 inch female CWG volunteer, clad in a red and white tracksuit and carrying a clipboard. They follow her without question, looking like lost toddlers in a public park.
It takes less than a minute for me to clear immigration and our bags are already on the assigned carousel when I reach. As mine steadily makes its way to me, I notice posters depicting various things that Indians are undoubtedly proud of (such as Mahatma Gandhi) all around me — an attempt to add an artistic touch to the place. I feel a sudden and unexpected sense of pride and reach for my camera.
Also to compliment the swanky new Delhi airport, The airport express line has just been launched. Made possible by a unique consortium of Reliance Infra and the Delhi Metro, this one of a kind metro will travel at a fast pace bypassing all those nasty traffic snarls and making the trip from New Delhi to the Airport in just 18 minutes.
So it seems that after all the talk about GMR’s Delhi airport bringing world class standards to India, this time it’s not been just talk. GMR deserves every bit of praise it gets and should continue the good work in its newest infrastructure baby. I don’t know about you but some people might just think about making that weekend getaway from Delhi as an excuse to have a look at the New Delhi Airport. So here is three cheers for GMR’s Delhi Airport HIP Hurray! (You do the rest of the 2!)