Very recently I was in Bangalore after a gap of almost four years. My Bangalore break was very brief, less than two days, and I hardly had the time to do even one-tenth of all that I wanted to do. In the limited time I had, what struck me most about Bengaluru was its new airport. A beautiful and reasonably clean airport, easily accessible through a world class road, it has replaced the much reviled HAL airport which clearly wasn’t sufficient to meet Bengaluru’s growing needs. I have a read a few reviews criticising the inadequacy of the luggage conveyor belts at the new airport, but we collected our luggage in record time. The Meru cabs outside the airport were unbelievably good and took us to our destination in comfort and at a reasonable rate.
However, there were a few things about the new airport which struck a discordant note.
On our way out, after clearing immigration, we had a good two hours to kill before catching our flight. It was eight in the morning and we were hungry. I looked around and found just two restaurants – a pizza hut and an Italian restaurant – and a Kingfisher Sports Bar. I don’t know about you people out there, but I don’t fancy pizza for breakfast. Nor do I like to start drinking at eight in the morning, even if it is at a branded sports bar. Ever wondered what the connection is between sports and drinking?
This left the Italian restaurant. It was very clean and very empty, though there were quite a number of people at various gates nearby waiting for their flights. The menu listed only Italian bread, coffee and pastries. The waiter confirmed my worst fears. ‘Yes, we serve only Italian items,’ he told me proudly. They didn’t have ciabatta bread and I had to settle for a ham sandwich made out of focaccia bread. I wanted to scream. Why on earth can’t Bengaluru airport have a restaurant that serves Indian food?
No, I am no chauvinist and am all for diversity everywhere, including in cuisine. I enjoy western food much more than the average Indian does. However, I find it intolerable that Bengaluru, home to ragi mudde, bisi belle bath and masala dosa, should have a world class airport without a single Indian restaurant inside the airport. Our bill for the focaccia sandwich, a croissant, a caffe latte and a chocolate chip muffin came to around five hundred rupees, which I think is decent for an international airport. At least 90% of the people at the airport at that time of the day were Indians. I am sure that most of them would have shelled out this amount for a warm Indian meal before catching a flight that would take them away from home.
The second irritant, which is more serious than the first one, was the inadequacy of baby changing facilities at the airport. The toilets outside immigration control didn’t have any baby changing area, but we were told that we would find one after clearing immigration. And as promised, we did find a set of toilets which claimed to provide for ‘baby change’. My wife took our infant daughter into the women’s toilet and came out looking very irritated after ten minutes. ‘The baby changing facility consists of a sofa,’ I was told. ‘That’s it?’ I asked. ‘Yes, that’s it.’
What made things worse was that there were no wipes or paper covers for the changing surface on the sofa. A previous user had soiled the sofa, which had been cleaned in a very unsatisfactory way. I hate to sound snobbish and uppity, but the mid-size shopping mall in the small British town we live in has better baby changing facilities! If Bengaluru Airport is to be of international standard, this is something which ought to be taken care of. Also, I don’t understand why the baby changing area should be tucked inside the women’s toilet? What if a man is travelling alone with an infant?
The third irritant (not a serious one, but I may as well get it out of my system) was that the men’s toilet did not have double doors. This may not sound like a big deal, but the toilet I used was right next to a couple of gates and all those sitting there could have had a clear view of the urinals every time the door was opened.
Bengaluru is growing. Bengaluru has a million needs, a zillion demands and very finite resources. However, the lacunae of the type mentioned above can be avoided by a bit of extra care and thought.