How a no-show by cabs at the Goa airport left hundreds of GBF guests stranded.
It is 12:45 pm on Oct 17. The stadium is filling fast and it gives me a relief to see the crowd pouring in. This is the most critical time of the GBF and most of the airport arrivals are to happen between 10am and 2pm. I am feeling good in my black suit and white shirt and generous dosage of deo. Little do I realise that there are more people stranded at the airport than are entering the stadium. As usual my mobile is on charge. I glance at it and feel the shock. There are 12 missed calls and my phone is on silent by mistake.
I discontinue my discussion with the event manager and quickly start looking at the missed calls. Fortunately, these calls came in last 7 minutes. Three from Jaya, three from Damayanti and balance unknown numbers, possibly participants and the drivers. Before I could call someone, the phone rings again. It is Jaya with a very different voice tone…anxious, frightful and nasty. Siddharth Zarabi and his crew were not attended well at the airport and he had to take a cab to get to the hotel. I now realise, given the nature of the problem, that she was quite nice to me on the phone. I remembered Raj who told me in Jan, “Kiran, make sure the airport experience is wow. This is what people will remember for a long time.” I sense the magnitude of the problem and feel the adrenaline rush in my body. FYI – I had just turned 50 the previous day.
Make sure the airport experience is wow. This is what people will remember for a long time.” I sense the magnitude of the problem and feel the adrenaline rush in my body.
Without wasting a moment, I rush to the exit and hop onto an empty Innova, ignoring the shouts of some of the people who were bonafide passengers in that car. I am on way to the airport. I tell the driver, “Bhaga…bhaga aaj teri Basanti ki ijjat ka sawal hai.” He looks at my suit in the rear view mirror and then assesses my language and smiles. We are gliding on the road. I am not aware of what I am going to do at the airport, but I knew I would do what it takes to contain the damage. We reach the airport in 40 minutes and my phone is showing 9% charge.
I look around for event management staff and our staff and find none. Then I see a driver holding an A4 ruled paper sheet with GBF written with sketch pen and the sheet is slightly folded. He is my starting point. Through him I connect with the rep inside who narrates the story of what happened. Fortunately, there is the option of buying a ticket and entering the arrival hall. I enter after 10 minutes to empty GBF welcome desks. One has gone to the loo and the other is trying to find a mobile charging station. While I am waiting for them to return to the welcome desk, I see a participant walking towards me. I ask him, “Are you an alum?” He says, “I am a speaker”. I welcome him, offer to drag his trolley (he doesn’t agree thanks to my suit) and I see him off at the taxi pick up.
I am back at the welcome desk and both the attendants are back too. Thanks to my training as a coach, I listen to them completely and figure out there were more design problems at the welcome desk than execution problems. Now it is my turn to release the frustration. By now, my phone is at 4% charge. So, I take the phone from the event management staff and call the manager. I tell him, “What you told me were all stories, what I am telling you is the TRUTH.” I then tell him to fix the balance of the pick-up arrangements, hand over chocolates to the welcome desk staff and come out to return to the stadium.
I just feel a little better. I smoke in the hot sun with a black suit. I was burning both inside and outside. This was my penance.
Just as I am about to get into the car, I see three participants coming with the staff towards me. I see his pleading face to release the car for the guests which I immediately do. I just feel a little better. I smoke in the hot sun with a black suit. I was burning both inside and outside. This was my penance.
As I am returning back to the stadium, I get a call from Pratap asking me to rush to the stadium as one minister’s food taster urgently wanted to meet me.
I said to myself in Marathi, “Naveen gilli naveen dav. Chala!!”