Every writer has her favourite writing place, where the ideas keep brimming and brewing without interruption inspite of the chaos around. While for most, it is the loo, mine is the Dumdum Airport. It was renamed as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in 1995 after the famous freedom fighter.
In 2017 it has ranked world number 3 in the ASQ Awards (Airport Service Quality) by ACI (Airports Council International). In the very same year, I remember we had just had about eight to ten counters at the airport, selling matrix calling card, sarees, rasgullas (a famous Bengali dessert), perfumes, luggage bags, transport counters for getting taxis and other conveyances, a corporate gift shop, a couple of eateries and a bigger counter selling chocolates, soaps, toys at extremely high prices. Once I needed a sun screen but didn’t buy seeing I was being overcharged. Later, I regretted not buying the sun screen as it was three times the airport price at my destination. There was a lot of empty space to be utilised all around. And yes, there was the ‘Namo’ clothing shop, named after the Indian prime minister. I’m a left winger by the way. We also had a very chic, well decorated, comfortable premium airport lounge that could only be accessed through certain memberships. The airport has its international departures from the first floor and domestic departures from the ground floor. While this data I have derived from my experiences, the scenario might be different for different airlines.
On 30th January 2018, the daughter used the toilet of the international terminal and the faucets were shockingly out of water. Yes there was liquid soap in the hand, and no water to wash. There was no attendant to complain to, may be because it was midnight. But I told the luggage bag counter salesman, who wasn’t in a position to do anything for me. Though he did make a few calls. Needless to mention, this post is due since then. When we are upset with someone or something, we observe even the most trivial minutest things about them, that we would have happily forgone in a normal precis. That was precisely the day, I realised we needed more counters for non-writers. There was so much space to be rented out for some gorgeous ravishing revenue that could make the port stunningly richer and better maintained. They could buy new faucets and recruit 24×7 plumbing services with the money. Being one of the busiest airports in the country, they should stand competent enough with other international standard airports that have already long adorned their fancy shopping mall couture. If I have a layover, or a delayed flight or hop into the airport early in excitement of the journey or for the fear of missing my flight, I need to window shop or atmost shop. Where is the entertainment? Also, where are my food choices? Questions to be pondered over. Something that never occurred to me, not until there was water in the tap. This has to be written about with photographs.
So last Saturday, I reached the CCU Airport two and a half hours before the flight time. It took me 20 minutes in the queue at the airport entrance reason being special security for ‘Independence Day’. My six year old was patient, cooperative and helpful. She carefully pushed the luggage trolley so that I was free to click pictures. We aren’t allowed to take security pictures.
After checking in when I thought I would be clicking the empty spaces and bringing them to light. To my surprise there weren’t any left. They were all filled. There were counters everywhere, with readily helping sales staff and also consumer traffic. We have numerous food options, and by that I mean covering almost every cuisine from Bengali to South Indian, and coffee to kebabs. Apart from the counters we also have a food court. Flurry’s, Kolkata’s very own breakfast place also has its pastries and donuts selling here. For coffee there is ‘The Coffee Bean &Tea Leaf’ placed under a beautiful dome right at the entrance of the first floor terminal and also ‘Coffee & More’. We have one more coffee shop near the airport entrance, but I’m covering only the terminals here. The prices are affordable. Almost same as outside. We have ‘Wow! Momos’, ‘Tea Junction’, ‘Afraa’, ‘Kusum Pole’s’, ‘idli.com’ (Oh! I love that name), ‘Banchharam’s’ for sandesh, Chaatwala and many more counters. There is ample seating space in the food court.
We also have a quintessential pharmacy, ‘Bipha Ayurveda’, and an eccentric umbrella shop. Coming to the luxury section, to start with there is a Ritu Kumar, pret wear store, that stocks scarves, shirts and casual wear by the famous designing house. By the way, Ritu Kumar house once offered me a design manager position, that I denied. Next to it is ‘The Tea Shop’ by Manjushree for assorted classic Darjeeling teas.
We have ‘Pavers England’, in case broke your sandals while strolling around and ‘Kompanero’ for that extra cabin baggage and jackets in case your destination is cold. There is ‘Tanishq’ the most trusted jewellery brand in India, ‘Skinn’ for a little fragrance, Benetton for a colourful attire, the Sun glass hut, ‘eske’, ‘Shaze’ , ‘go colours’ and the very important coke vending machines. ‘Misti’ – an indian sweet shop has an ongoing inaugural offer, that means, it just opened. ‘Namo’ is still there and I am still a left winger. I didn’t look for a make up shop as I was already loaded on that. There must be one. If not, they are missing on a hot selling product. Also I wish we had a Furla shop at the airport.
How could I forget ‘WHSmith’ the bookshop. Name the author and they have it, but no discounts here. They also have a small chocolate and gift counter with limited options. I needed a nice chocolate box for someone really special. Though the sales girl aptly suggested a Lindt, would have preferred more options like liquor. Daughter was bribed with an Elsa doll for bearing with me while I was on the click-clack spree.
The O2 spa at the first floor terminal, has very relaxing and easy on pocket services making your layover soothing and tranquil. Also there are pay and use travel lounges open to one and all.
The CCU Airport is equipped with trolly pushing cars, senior citizen golf cars (that we also have in railway stations), glass cleaning machines and last but not the least, nice clean toilets.
Like the ones we have in malls abroad. There is an attendant and a cleaner in all the toilets. The faucet has water and there is a special place for washing feet for the tired travellers. The hand dryers are also working effectively.
So, here I am, trying to concentrate on writing substance, getting distracted by the glitz and flamboyance around. It’s time I look for a new favourite writing place not as happening as the CCU Airport.
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