Monday, October 17, 2011

India Developed

The previous weekend the Diplomat, Son and I made a 4-day visit to my Inlaws in Chennai, India. We thought we had been rather clever—since tickets from Dhaka to Chennai were quite pricey, we decided to buy tickets on two different airlines. From Dhaka we’d fly to Calcutta on the wings of the impressive Bangladeshi GMG Airlines, and from there board an IndiGo flight to Chennai. Not so much.
I have learned one thing in Bangladesh—NOTHING ever goes as planned. EVER. EVER. EVER. As we were sitting happily in our office on Tuesday of last week, a day before our trip, a good friend called to complain that HIS GMG flight to Calcutta was cancelled for no reason at all. Somewhat panicked, we decided to call them just to make sure our flight on the following day was OK. Um, not so much. GMG brightly informed us that yes, indeed, they have cancelled their afternoon flight on October 5th, but we are more than welcome to fly that same morning at 6 am. No, thank you, we said nicely and then yelled some more asking them what in the world we were supposed to do now. We asked to be given back half of our money and be put on another flight by another company (there ain’t many airlines flying out of Dhaka, mind you and buying a ticket in the last moment would prove to be a rather costly affair). The boss sales manager came on the phone and nicely told us that we needed to email them the request rather than communicate on the phone. Livid and foaming, we hung up and sent the email. Soon afterwards, we received an utmost polite email telling us that in today’s competitive world, GMG prides itself on good customer service since they understand its importance. Therefore, they WILL refund to us half of our ticket price. Um, I hate to say it, but that’s kind of mandatory, good service or not. GMG, however, were clearly very proud of their “exceptional” service. Naturally, no word was mentioned of them reimbursing the extra $300 we had to pay out of pocket to buy tickets on another airline because of their stupidity. In their defense (they said), they did send the Diplomat a text message mentioning the cancelled flight. His phone was at home. I admit we were forewarned by friends about GMG. One never listens….And by the way, two weeks later, no money has found its way back into our account.

Good times were had in Chennai. I am lucky that three of my best friends from A-100 were stationed there and happened to be around to party with us. It was truly magical to be all the way across the world and see good friends and eat some great Armenian BBQ (long story). For those visiting Chennai and asking for a truly great, romantic dinner experience, I remain forever impressed by The Park—a gorgeous boutique hotel with fabulous rooftop restaurant by the pool overlooking the entire city, and the Raintree Hotel—another fabulous rooftop restaurant with exquisite fusion cuisine. I was also introduced to Café Amethyst touted as the best expensive café in Chennai. It features a gorgeous colonial style two-storey house, which houses pleasant white wicker chairs and tables on the large wrap-around porch and an astonishing menu, which included even a Salas Nicoise. The garden is large and resembles a small jungle of local trees and flowers.
I also remain largely unimpressed by the Taj, supposedly the best hotel in Chennai. The Diplomat and I were out for one last night on the town before leaving the next day, and decided to treat ourselves to the Taj for dinner since it is the top of the posh there. The Diplomat dressed in his (one and only) $200 Hugo Boss shirt, fancy loafers and dark blue elegant shorts and I was wearing a Nicole Miller dress and 4-inch heels. We arrived in smashing style at the Taj, were promptly frisked by the paranoid hotel security and then even faster refused seating in the Italian restaurant in the hotel since we appeared too casual to them. Rather miffed, we spoke our minds to the manager on duty, an exquisitely-sareed young lady, who told us there was absolutely nothing she could do and then inexplicably followed us all the way up to our car to tell us again the same.
I was immensely impressed by Chennai. I was there just over two and a half years ago and the difference in everything could be measured in lightning years. The old decrepit buses are gone and new ones with electronic info streaming at the front are now zooming through the city. Traffic is nothing to speak of; shopping is excellent from multi-storey malls to small boutiques; young women and men zip around the city on scooters and motorbikes, wearing western clothing and texting incessantly their zillion friends on Facebook. The streets are clean (well, relatively speaking), new infrastructure is being built with phenomenal speed, the restaurants are excellent, it even makes its own cars. In short—I now get what the deal about India is. I can safely say that India is on the path of something absolutely remarkable, which will soon leave any other fast developing country breathing its dust from behind.

Regrettably albeit understandably, India has also become rather paranoid about security. Its airports have turned into unpleasant endless points of searches and frisks, and the border immigration agents go out of their way to be unpleasant. Son gave two security guards the sweat of their life when he suddenly bolted from the security lineup in Calcutta, waiving his tattered teddy bear victoriously up in the air and screaming delightedly, "You can't catch me" at them as they were chasing him with stern determination. We pretended he wasn't ours.
In other Dhaka news, the Diplomat and I attended the annual Glitter Ball last Friday. The event deserves it own post, including some ludicrous pictures of expats behaving like crazy people. More on that-later.

1 comment:

  1. It was so great to see you!! We miss your fabulous self.