By Abhirup Bhunia:
It’s like a cubbyhole if compared to other major airports ofÂ India; pass up the world. The 50 minutes postponement was announced thus: “… the delay has been caused due to unavailability of parking bay in Dehradun [airstrip]…” Indeed, the Dehradun airport is small, especially when the bustling IGI airport stays in you. However, may be — for some it clearly does not — the adage, ‘small is beautiful’, tallies with the airport. But then that’s not my topic.
THE VIP’s AND HEARSAY
The President was to come to Dehradun. Although I got the information from a Dehradun local that morning, anybody could make out from what was visible. It was 9am merely — I reached the airport then, and by then the word had spread perhaps. Officials speaking in hush-hush voices, fidgety faces, policemen hither and thither, an eye on you, red bulbs on white ambassadors (a few of them) — and all of it was certainly reason to look forward to a VVIP landing.
President Pratibha Patil was to grace the platinum jubilee celebrations of internationally reputedÂ DoonÂ School. But the word of mouth had that HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and the Emperor ofÂ BhutanÂ was to come as well. [Indeed that was true, the King was the special guest, and Kapil Sibal was part of the hugeÂ DoonÂ alumni that was to come] After check in, as people got seated, the idle talk only grew. The airstrip was able to be seen — a convoy passed through; officials, policemen, security people rushed, an Indian Air Force helicopter was parked… there were no signs of the press though…but when else could the mass possibly engage in speculation? Soon the airport was a scuttlebutt.Â
PRICE PAID, SPECULATION AND IMAGE
The worshipping of big shots known as the VIP culture (or ‘protocol’ if you’d like) has always annoyed normal Indians who hold there’s no reason to do so much so to comfort, please and ease the VVIP’s that the common man is just about disallowed his right. Some in the Dehradun airport, excluding the 7 odd foreigners I spotted (they couldn’t care less who was to land, it appeared), were of the view that the arrival of the dignitaries were made out to be a much bigger thing than it was actually, causing trouble to the common man. The unavailability of parking space some credited to the fact that the special jet carrying the dignitaries would land anytime and all work was thus stopped up till then. One of them said the airfield was ‘booked’ for the President for one hour. A few of them whined how important work was pending and that such wastage of time for ‘some VVIP’ doesn’t make sense. I could see the ‘preparations’ from 9am and it was already 12.30pm. The ambassadors and the jeeps moved to and fro the runway area. An Indian Oil tanker soon arrived. Amazed, one of the victims of the delay cogitated that it was for refueling in case the plane falls short of fuel. The notion in the mind of the Indian is that too much is made out of our political public figures inappropriately and that affairs of the ordinary persons were treated as heedlessly nonessential. “Why overprotect them at the cost of normal people,” they complain. Earlier this year — one of quite a few such incidents — four women and a man died on the spot when a speeding escort jeep of Union Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju hit an auto.Â Quite a din was caused. This is not a preferred image that the President, or the PM, or any other minister would like to possess.
Are they unaware? Or are they simply not bothered even though they might be informed about it?
Image courtesy: Alex Graves via flickr.