Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Salem- We almost missed flight from Chennai (then Madras) to Calcutta

During Performance Guarantee Test of MECON's  2 Hi Stainless Steel Mill, we had to over stay at Salem due to  re - test for certain sizes of strip, which was not taken care in our planning. We, - myself, Dr KG Pandey, Mr SM Ganguly, Mr Raha and others,  were short of cash due to this delay and had just enough money to reach Calcutta (Now Kolkata.). We were not worried for our stay in Calcutta since our company had a guest house. We were also not worried for our onward journey for which we had confirmed air tickets.However we were definitely worried if we  were to miss the flight at Madras. 
We reached Madras in the evening by train. Our  flight was at 6:30 PM. It left us with just enough  time to reach airport before check in counters will close. We immediately took a taxi and rushed to the airport.  But Murphy's Law caught up with us. "What may go wrong will go wrong." On way there were some trouble - a crude bomb was set off by miscreants at an important road Junction and all traffic to Meenbakkam Airport was diverted. 

Our one hour ordeal of worry and tension - now started. Due to precarious cash position we could not afford to miss the flight. Had we anticipated all this, we would have taken some advance from SAIL office  in Salem. There were no ATM or Credit Cards in those days. Our company (which has an office in Chennai today), had no office in Madras in those days. If we missed the flight we had no money to stay or purchase even train tickets to Ranchi. 

Driver started driving through alternative route. He followed the taxi ahead for some time then lost sight of the it. Since there were not may flights in those days, not many taxis or cars were there on the road to follow. We soon realised the driver is not familiar with this route. We got scared once we realized this.  Dr Pandey threatened the driver with consequences if we miss the flight. Others also got jittery and started scolding the driver, who due to this pressure missed some turns. I asked him to stop at a betel shop and ask for the direction. I tried to over hear the Tamil conversation and could make out he has overshot some turm and is about 10 km from the airport and one railway crossing shall be on way to the airport. Once he took a U turn all of us lost our temper.  We still had 45 minutes from the flight departure. They used to close the counter half an hour prior to departure. Every body was prepared for rushing to Indian Airlines  Manager's office to allow us late check- in. At this point of time I remembered that I had an all India road map book I had purchased this during my car journey from Salem to Ranchi via Tirupati.
I took the map out of hand bag, and tried to locate our current position. Soon I could locate the railway crossing near the airport. It was another day for me to become a "hero" for the team. I  guided the taxi to airport based on the direction as per the road map within 15 minutes. Every one was relieved - though no body thanked me and simply rushed inside the departure area after paying the driver and carrying the bags. No body even bothered to use the baggage trolley.
On reaching the airport we found that the flight was delayed by one hour. This fact instead of making us happy disappointed us. This was like preparing hard for an examination for which examiner has set very easy paper !

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