Thanks to a couple of my colleagues, who regularly remind me about leave travel concessions, blocks and so on, I have so far availed of this benefit about three times in these past six years (half of what I could have). AND THIS TIME I TAKE AN ADVANCE! Which means that I am forced to submit the papers to settle the account. And find that I’ve lost the boarding pass for the Delhi-Chennai leg. I am told that I can get a “certificate of travel” from the Air India office near Safdarjung Airport.
So I get online and locate it. Easy peasy. Get off at Jor Bagh metro station, exit via gate 2 and take a right turn. Aha. Next question. Should I go that day (Friday) or the next (Saturday)? Not so easy to find the answer. Go to ‘contact’ on the AI page, find the booking desk number (open M-F 0930 to 1730), decide that is not what I want, call 1800 180 1407 (call centre), get a cheery voice that, Amreekan shtyle, asks me for my name, and gives me the usual how-can-I help you ones, I explain, and he cheekily (yes, as an again-Indian I cringe at strangers calling me by my name) says, Geeta, please hold while I …etc and then comes back with the information that the office would be open for my business on Saturday. Hurray! Then I am seized with a sudden doubt–really? on Saturday? So I hunt again, find information on the Safdarjung office and call the landline number that, I guess, is physically located in the building where I need to go and should give more accurate information. Same deal: hanji, Saturday ko khula hai ji, 9 to 7. Ok that decides it. I go back to thinking about biogeography.
Next day, Saturday, I finally manage to leave home at about 9:20, take the yellow line all the way to Jor Bagh, find gate 2, come out, ask the auto wallah who directs me to the right and points me to … a gate with a large ‘Air India’ sign– it’s right there! Very excited, I enter the gate, go into the building, take a token number from a machine, and plonk myself down in front of the first agent I see (what EVER have they done to their sarees! Imagine something much louder than this in blues and greens and yellows, and relentlessly matched with blouses of identical print).
I explain to her and she tells me that said office is closed, that they only open M-F, 1100 to 1600!! Dismayed, I exclaim, but of course there is nothing further to be done. I sit for a few moments and then suggest to her that maybe AI ought to be more informative on its website, she kept saying that that was a different department (yeh mera kaam nahin hai ji); I said, I am making a suggestion, could you not pass it on to your superiors; but she was like a stubborn mule that did not make a single gesture of appeasement or help or empathy or anything. Disgusted, I walked out.
But wait!, I thought, as I was nearly out of the building, surely there must be someone to whom I can give suggestions, even on a Saturday? A complaint book, perhaps? So I walk back in, and target someone else sitting at a window in a glass-lined enclosure that seems like it might house a different rank of personnel. No luck, she boots me back to the long desk where the booking agents are sitting, toward a bespectacled man (mercifully clad just in a white shirt and dark trousers). He looks a bit taken aback, I explain, he then explains that the person who would normally deal with such an issue was not yet there (he gestured toward the enclosure, so my instinct was right). I look crestfallen. He relents, gets up slowly, conferring with his colleague/neighbour, also male (also clad soberly), and the two go toward the enclosure, telling me to sit down on the visitors’ sofa.
As they walk, I hear them wondering whether there is such a thing as a complaint book, etc, then they call someone (the tardy official, I am guessing), who tells them something, then one of them gestures to me to go into the enclosure. So I do. And he pulls out a pad, a standard complaints form, with the necessary carbon paper (real cc:!) and asks me to write my suggestion/complaint. I do, in a rambling fashion for in between he asks me about how I got the info that the finance office would be open; if I’d known it was a finance office, I’d never have dreamt of coming in on a Saturday, I say, as I tell him that I called both the call centre and their front desk; he then says oh it must be the call centre “unko kuch nahin maloom;” No, I insist, it wasn’t only the call centre — and I give him the landline number I called (hurray for cell phones); he recognises the number, immediately calls it and chastises them (oh so gently); takes in my complaint, pacifies me. And more.
Normally, one fills in the form, submits it with a Rs 250/- fee, then waits for them to dig out the info and contact you (after a few days, I am told) and then you go back to pick up the document. Ah, but my new friend–he gets me the form I need to fill out for the certificate, has someone call up the details on the computer, gets a printout of the document, has me attach it to the form and give it to someone sitting at what looks like a cash counter (no doubt the sole representative of the finance section on Saturday). I hand the documents over to him, and he tells me to call on Monday to find out whether the certificate is ready (it should be).
Wah wah wah! I have already obtained my benefactors name and appreciated his helpfulness in my written suggestion/complaint; I now directly thank him and his colleague (equally helpful) for their help and note that our systems work largely because of helpful individuals like them; individuals that put themselves out just a bit to make life just a bit easier for people around them.
Note to self: Monday, collect certificate after class; Tuesday, tackle finance section at DU 🙂