Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My first experience with BIAL (Bangaluru International Airport Limited)

I had to travel to Mumbai for my personal work on 23rd of May 2008. It had already been announced that BIAL will flag-off the same day. I had to catch a 3:30 pm flight. So I planned to work for the first half of the day in office. At the back of my mind, all the uncertainty involved with the travel time kept me worried as this was the first day of airport opening and there were no data to tell me the exact time it would take for me to reach the airport. The best I could do was to plan to leave office at the earliest.

Call it my luck, due to elections; the opening was postponed by a day to 24th of May, and I comfortably spent the first half of my day in office. The HAL airport is just walking distance from my house, and I took my Kingfisher flight to land in Mumbai.

I had my return flight on Sunday, 25th May. I knew BIAL has already started its service, and prepared myself mentally for the long trip back home. This is the first time I properly looked at the Mumbai airport. It looked beautiful. Lot of work is still going in one of the terminal and construction workers were spread around at the terminal with their machinery and equipments. I looked for the terminal from where the Kingfisher (KF) flights takes off. I figured out the auto dropped me at the first terminal and I had to walk down to other end of the airport. The KF terminal is at an unbelievable location and reaching there was a real adventure: passing under overhead construction workers, walking up staircases to the second floor and asking multiple peoples. The KF flight was delayed by 1 hour and finally reached Bangalore by 11:10 pm night.

I peeped out of the aircraft window to get a first glimpse at the new airport. To be honest it looked really impressive and huge, compared to its old HAL veteran. But soon all my enthusiasm vanished as we waited more then 10 minutes with the aircraft door still closed. This delay after reaching late to Bangalore was annoying. An naturally embarrassed flight captain announced “we no more control the disembark ladder. Its been controlled by BIAL and they has been informed about the requirement”. This was the sign that BIAL is still learning to manage its resources in the second day of its service. Finally the ladder came and we were out of the aircraft. The Volvo bus took us to the terminal building. I guess it was a rare mistake; the driver dropped us at the wrong door. Everything was closed and whole team was struggling to find their way out as everything was closed :-) We saw other busses dropping passengers further down, and we started walking to the other door. To be frank I was quite frustrated after all the delays and the mess, and others looked frustrated too..

After entering through the door, got the first glimpse of the new terminal building. The space is not that big, but naturally spacious compared to its veteran. There were LCD

panels all around displaying adds. The overhead LCD screens displayed the baggage claim details with belt no for each flight that landed at that time. I just had my hand baggage, so I won’t be able to comment on the efficiency of the baggage claim system. I directly walked towards the exit of the airport. The directions were nicely marked at all locations visibly illuminated. I followed the direction that said Bus, which lead me to the exit. There was a helpdesk right there where I enquired about the bus service. They guided me to the bus stop, which is located right outside the airport, and it can be seen even from inside. Walked down to the bus stop. When I looked back, got the full view of the illuminated BIAL terminal. It looked really great. Outside the airport there was sufficient space for parking for vehicles, each locations clearly marked. The bus conductors were calling for passengers for their respective routes. I enquired about the HAL airport route and I was guided to the route # 4 bus. It’s the same Volvo that plies in the city. The front seats were replaced with luggage compartments for ease of luggage transport. I paid rs. 150/- for the ticket. The bus started it journey at 12:00 at midnight with the bus filled with passengers.

The bus left the airport to hit the highway. The infrastructure outside looked awesome. The roads leading to the airport has been really well built, and may be because it being the second day of operation, the whole road leading to the airport is beautifully illuminated. Felt like moving out from a real international airport. The Volvo bus took to its full steam, and roads were quite empty at that hour at the night. Saw the cabs from the “Meru & Easy Cabs” the official taxi service for BIAL. It looked cool with its ash color and big taxi sign illuminated at its top. The cabs were mahindra logan vehicles. The bus traveled without any traffic interruption, something I have never experienced in Bangalore :-) It was funny that roads got worsened when it entered the city, and I got the feeling how bad Bangalore infrastructure is. The bus took the bellary road, old madrass road and finally hit Indiranagar and then airport road. When I was dropped at my place in front of erstwhile Kemp Fort, I quickly looked at my watch. It was 1:00 am at night. I believe this is the minimum time I would take to reach home, as there were hardly any traffic and the bus was at its full steam. I might have to get a more practical estimate of the travel time, as today travel was quite an ideal one. I guess, at least one and half hours looked practical. The same time will apply for reaching the airport also. I would ask people to keep 2 hours for airport travel to be on the safer side.

Things that worried me the most, the airport travel looked smooth: courtesy BMTC. Besides the operational hiccups in the new airport (they will improve that with some days of service), the overall experience was very satisfying. Only pain was the drastic increase in the travel time, but I guess I will start getting benefit of reduced traffic on the airport road from now on.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sunfeast World 10k run

Bangalore has been gearing up for the Sunfeast World 10k run, so was me. I have only once been part of a marathon, which was the BSNL Bangalore International Marathon on December last year. Believe me, the thrill of running with whole of Bangalore is just amazing. So I didn’t wanted to miss this opportunity.

The registration process was also available online (along with the many drop boxes), which made it really easy to get myself registered by paying Rs. 200/-. The simplicity of the process gave me the first glimpse of what turned to be a truly well organized event.

Training for race day:

After registration it was time to get ready for the real race day. I have done a 10k distance before (including the last marathon), so I knew I could complete it. The fact that most worried me was lack of training for quite some time with my foot injury. So started running over the weekdays in the treadmill of the company gym. Also tried out couple of 10k attempts over the weekend. The first was a failure where I had to stop with severe back pain after just 3 kms of run. I regained some confidence with the completion of the second run, with not much complication. The open 10k run (in which I participated) is scheduled to start @ 9 am. With the current hot weather of Bangalore, it is going to be real tough. I knew the problems I might face, but there is no way I can prepare myself for that. Just decided not to stretch myself by getting carried away by other runners (knowing my limitations).

Pre-race process:

We had to collect our bib# some days ahead of the race. So left office early on 16th Friday evening for Kanteerva stadium with my office colleague who is also participating in the run. The idea was collecting the bib# much before the race was the sign of a well-planned event. This reduced congestion (due to multiple collection time for multiple days). There was also a fair happening down there in parallel where different sponsors were displaying their products. A surprise for me was a F1 car at the entrance, courtesy Vijay Mallya. The bib collection was at the end of all the stalls (very smart, as you can’t avoid the stalls). We showed our acceptance letter and ID proof to collect our bib#, my bib# is 1420. The number 420 at my chest was not very comforting J. Collected the timing chip with a deposit of Rs. 100/-. We also received a goodie bag, with loads of stuffs (water bottle, biscuits, mints, chips etc.). Well, to be honest I felt the value of the goodie bag was more then the registration fee of Rs. 200/- we paid. The line at the bib# collection counters was also small, thanks to the multiple lines for different ranges of bib#. Detailed information of the race day (route map, locations etc.) was duly attached with the bib# for the convenience of the participants.

Race day, 18th May 2008:

Woke up early then my regular Sunday time. Took bath and got freshened up. I had planned out for a light breakfast the previous night. Prepared some fresh fruit juice and gulped some bananas. Did not want to go there with a heavy stomach, which might create problem while I run. Asked my rommie to drop me at the stadium entrance. Reached the stadium @ 8:10 am. Went directly to gate 12, which was the entrance for the participants with chip. Once in I saw many peoples already gathered there. There were music and entertainment programs going on at the middle of the stadium. Started stretching my muscles and got warmed up for the run. The women world 10k participants were completing their runs, and we all stood up to cheer them up. Unbelievably there was a photo finish by first two women participants. Athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia dominated the top 10 places. This followed the prize distribution ceremony. The times clocked by the winners in 26-27 minutes were just too amazing.

We were asked to line up at the starting line. At exactly 9 am, the run started. I also started with full josh with all the other participants. It was real hot out there and after the halfway mark the heat started to take a toll on me. At one point of time I almost decided to stop running because of getting extremely drained out. My speed reduced quite a bit and I saw peoples overtaking me. What was more frustrating was the seeing the peoples who overtook me which included ladies and senior citizens. I did not wanted to stretch, nor wanted to quit. So kept moving at a steady pace until I hit closer to the finishing line. Reenergized myself for the last 100 meter and gave a final push at least to beat some participants. The clock showed 10:06. I believe I completed the run in 66 minutes with an average speed of ~9 kmph. Will have to wait for the timing certificate to get my official timing. I was dead tired and exhausted from the heat.

Collected my refreshment pack. I was happy to see some bun and biscuits in the pack. Good thinking by the organizers, as at that time I needed them very dearly along with the water. Went to collect the timing certificate. Saw lots of peoples already standing in the queue, suggesting the high completion percentage. The timing certificates were over by that time and organizers asked up to deposit the timing chip, and the certificates will be mailed on a later date. It was time to call up family and friends to inform my completion of the 10k run.

This 10k run was more enjoyable then my previous half-marathon experience for multiple reasons:

- Great organization, easy registration and bib# collection

- The traffic was stopped for all the route, last time there was quite a bit of traffic mess up

- Water stalls were sufficiently available, last time I remember water getting over and I was begging for water from my fellow participants

- Since it was a smaller distance run, huge crowd accompanied me from beginning until the end (minimum drop off’s) and it was fun

- The only dampener for me was the race timing, it started too late (9 am) and the sun was unbearable. The run could be made more comfortable by advancing the race timing.

Added on 27th May:

Received my official timing, it's 1:04:36

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Advantages of SMOKING:

1) You will not live long.. This world anyway SUCKS..

2) Peoples around you do not like passive smoking, so it’s a good way to scare away peoples you hate

3) Smokers are always under controversy (eg. Shahrukh Khan vs. Ramadoss). So it is also a good way to get free publicity.

4) Restaurants provide you ash trays as additional benefit (and they charge you for that in taxes), so why not make full use of all the benefits

5) There are data suggesting it helps to perform the morning ritual (at toilet, some peoples can’t do without it)

6) You end up carrying a source of fire. If you get lost in a isolated island, you don’t have to eat anything raw

7) Specially for kids, smoking makes you look mature J

8) Tobacco industry employs hell lot of people. So you are indirectly supporting them

9) It can make your career. It helps you keep awake during your last minute overnight exams preparations. After all you have to work hard for building a career

10) It gives something for you to pass your time if you are alone

11) It can scare away mosquitoes if you do not have repellants

12) Add your own comments……

Power of Media and Indian Premier League:

Indian Premier League (IPL), the greatest T20 cricket extravaganza recently started in India. It has created a hype never seen before, with the two biggest fantasies of Indian population coming together, Cricket and Bollywood.

But sometimes I wonder, the Indian media had a very big role to play for the kind of hype that has been created. There is a parallel league that runs (which started before IPL) called the Indian Cricket League (ICL). There are equally good players, both domestic and foreign, playing in that league. But there is hardly any media attention to it, and most common Indians do not know about it. Its not being recognized by BCCI (the body governing Indian cricket), and this might be a reason for this step-motherly treatment. But not even the winner of the ICL finals getting published in the premier Indian newspapers was a disappointment.

But the IPL created hype even before it got started, with the newspapers and the television news channels flooding their space with IPL news.

The media power also came into light when they made BCCI kneel down and take back the restrictive clauses put down for the media. Indian media has become quite powerful recently with news reaching peoples within seconds and people responding emotionally to what is been published or shown in TV.

Though this media uprising is a good sign, the power has to be used responsibly. May be I can quote the Spider-Man dialogue “with power comes responsibility”. They should be neutral in performing their responsibility.

I am not sure why ICL news was not seen anywhere, not even on a small newspaper column, and IPL is driving full-page reports (and in some case 2 pages). ICL has the equal right for the news space as do IPL.