Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Normal

All my life, I have had weird hobbies (e.g. Blogging), and weird way of doing things (e.g. Insistence on seeing museums). Many of my acquaintances classified me as “different” from them. Which I  believe was their sweet way of saying – “You aren't like us. You aren't normal!”. The more people I meet the more I realize that there are two distinct set of “people” in the world. The people that think I am normal, and others that think I am not.

As I ruminated further I realized that we are self-centred egoistic homo-sapiens. Whoever is like us is normal. Whoever is different from us is abnormal. Period.

So if you love to dance and party late into the night and drink till your heart’s content then all other people doing the same are normal people (and the ones sleeping cosily in their bed are abnormal). If you love to read fictional books and are a bibliophile then everyone else doing the same is normal. If you love seeing museums when you travel, everyone else who does the same is normal and if you think the sole purpose of traveling is to stand at touristic places and taking pictures – then people who do that are normal.

My conclusion is – for every person out there, there is a group of people who are similar to them. If you find a group that has some major personality traits similar to yours then you become friends. If not, then you “can’t get along with them”. And that my dear friend – is social life simplified. Now stop whining and go party while I sleep peacefully. If you wanna have early morning breakfast with me then you are normal!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Guide to boarding a flight

Note - This is like a dummies’ guide to navigate an airport to board a plane. For everyone of you this is completely redundant and boring. Please skip reading this post. I am putting it up cause I promised someone I would do this guide.

In this blog post we will go through boarding a random aircraft (UA049) at Mumbai International Airport (CSIA) to go to Newark.

Any Airport can be divided into the following parts (for passengers):

  1. Terminal
  2. Arrival
  3. Departure
  4. Departure Door
  5. Check-in Zone
  6. Check-in Counter
  7. Security
  8. Immigration
  9. Boarding Gate

Terminal - The Mumbai Airport as of 2015 has only one terminal T2. So there is nothing to worry about going to the wrong terminal anymore. The Taxi driver should take you to T2 and to the “Departure area” if you ask him to take you to the international airport. Departures are generally on the higher floor (so the taxi takes a bridge and drops you off).

Departure Door - In Mumbai, Departure taxi drop-off area has several doors (each door for a set of airline companies). The doors are written on the right side of the bridge as you approach the taxi drop-off area. However all doors lead to the same departure hall so the only advantage in getting off at the right door is – you have to walk less.

For our UA049 flight on the day I took pictures, it was Door 5.

Door at the Departure Drop-off Area

Once you enter from the door, first look for a Television showing “Departures” or “Departing Flights”. The flights are always listed in the ascending order of their scheduled departure time (even if the flight is delayed, its actual scheduled time is used for display).

All Internation Departure Details

Check-In Zone - Here we can see that UA049 which is scheduled to leave at 00:10 is listed along with the Zone where you have to go Check-in and get your boarding pass. The Zone is “J” in the picture.

Locate Flight by following the Departure time

Check-in Counter - Once you go inside the door and go towards the zone, you can see another Television listing the “Counter” for your flight. There are numerous counters in each zone, and you have to go to the right counter to get your boarding pass.

Departure Zone

Counter Details in Departure Zone

At the counter, give your ticket printout and passport, and the attendant should provide you with a boarding pass, an Immigration Form and your passport. The boarding pass will show your seat number and gate number and also your boarding time. Make sure to collect bag tags for all your carry-on baggage. Purses, and pouches are counted as separate carry-on items by the airport security. All your Check-in baggage will be taken away and checked-in to the flight here.

Directions to Immigration and Security Check

Security - After this, go in the general direction of “Immigration” and “Security” boards. In Mumbai you go through Security first followed by Immigration.

International Departures

At security make sure that all your carry-on luggage has the security stamps (stamped by the airport security personnel). Then proceed to Immigration.

Immigration - Here you have to submit the form that you got with your ticket and the officer will stamp your passport and boarding pass. I haven’t taken any pictures of the Security area cause I didn’t wish to cause any false suspicions.

Immigration Entrance

Gate - After you are done with Immigration, there will be Television displays again showing Flights listed in ascending order of their scheduled departure time, followed by the Gates at which they will be departing. This information is also available on the boarding pass. But sometimes the Gate might change after the boarding pass is issued, so these displays are the best source of latest information. They also indicate what is the current status at the Gate.

Flight Gate Details and Status

Our flight UA049 can be seen to be departing at Gate 86A. Follow general board directions to 80-90 Gates.

Signs at the Gate

There after follow directions to Gate 86A. And once you reach there, wait for announcements for the actual boarding to start.

Gate 86A

Bon Voyage. Mumbai Airport is amazingly beautiful and you can spend hours looking at all the local art that is promoted there.


I came back from a short trip to India. Nothing much I did except for the fact that I had a lot of butter chicken. I have decided to stop eating it for a while (till I recover from the excess!).

Anyway, this post is not about the chicken. I noticed that India is undergoing a massive revolution in ecommerce. Everything you can think of, can be bought online. And there are several competing online retailers for the same product category. I guess if you are in ecommerce, India is the best place to be. I can already safely predict that over the next decade, we will have a lot more joining the race, and then we will go through a massive round of bankruptcies and acquisitions leaving 3-4 ecommerce vendors dominating the market.

But anyway, the most affected by any ecommerce boom are always the brick and mortar retailers. The guys with showrooms where you can “touch and feel” the product before you buy. And as far as I understand, if there is one industry resilient to ecommerce – it is the apparel and clothing industry. People (in general) still love to “wear” and see their clothes before buying.

And here comes the irony. I tried to go buy myself a couple of formal shirts and realized that all the brick and mortar retailers I went to, have a new policy of “no-trial” of the shirts that you are gonna buy. So let’s say you wish to buy a shirt size 40 style “X” then they have something called generic trial shirts for that size. You are supposed to wear them and if satisfied, pick your desired shirt and meekly leave the shop. No trying.

I am amused and appalled by this policy. It’s like not using your “only” competitive advantage and giving your customers to the ecommerce retailers on a platter. If you don’t even let me try the shirt I wanna buy, why do I even buy at a brick and mortar store? I might as well buy it online and get it delivered home.

I can understand that shops are trying to cut costs of “repackaging” (I still don’t get why they have to pack the shirts for sale. They can just hang them on hangers for people to try before buying). I also understand that since India is a super massive market any damage of any idiotic policy will take years to have effect. But I find this suicidal to say the least.

I tried to be a concerned customer (or an idiot – the way you like to see it) and put this entire monologue as a comment in the “Suggestions box” of a shirt retailer that I patronized for last 10 years. I am pretty confident my comment either went to the trash bin the next day or was ignored in the hierarchy of the shop management.