I am presently located in Toranagallu village, Bellary District in Karnataka. The once sleepy village has been transformed by the ‘House of Jindal’. JSW Steel is the largest steel producer in the country today. From a humble 1.6 million tonnes Hot Metal production in 2005, it has grown into a 10 million tonne Plant in 2011. Plans are already on the anvil to scale up the capacity to 16 million tonnes in 2 phases by 2014. The size and scale of the Plant can be appreciated by a fact that there are 145 kms of railway track within the Plant premises. The company has deployed 22 shunting engines of its own and will shortly be doubling their number. It is not untrue to state that many railways do not have as many shutting locomotives as JSW Steel has in Toranagallu! To be part of this historical expansion is exciting. One can also take pride in the yeoman service of the Company to society by way of its Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives in the spheres of community health, education, women’s empowerment and such like. The JSW Steel is served by 3 self sufficient townships, prime among them being the Vidyanagar Township. The employees number nearly 17000, both direct and indirect; the township is open to all. The Vidyanagar township of JSW Steel is arguably the best in the country. It is understood that Shri Sajjan Jindal and Smt Sangeeta Jindal take personal care to ensure the upkeep and growth of the townships. The green environment is reputed to be the initiative of the First Lady.
Ajay, my son, had joined me in the township on the 22nd after his examinations. We left early this morning for Bangalore via Hiriyur and NH4. Breakfast was at the Kamat Upachar in Sira. The Kesari Bath was delicious. The Easter lunch in Tom’s house was a majestic meal preceded by Baccardi Breezer. The ‘Kuttanadan Duck’ preparation was difficult to tear away from. The quick disappearance of the Appams from the serving plate, I blamed, on the excellent gravy! Time went by very fast in the company of Maria and Lizy, the perfect hosts.
The chauffer driven pick up of Emirates Airlines arrived at the appointed hour to take me to the airport for the flight. The airport lounge of the Bangalore International Airport was a disappointment in so far as the drinks and food were concerned. EK 567 to Dubai took off ahead of schedule from the Bangalore International airport. It is Shakespeare who said: “Sorrows come not single spies, but in battalions…”. The flight by EK 567 from Bangalore to Dubai proved that practical wisdom was the hallmark of the Bard of Avon. When the opportunity came to travel to Tanzania and Dubai for tourism I had booked on Emirates Airline and got upgraded to Business Class, first to transit Dubai enroute to Dae-es-Salaam and then to return to Bangalore via Dubai. The exceptionally poor quality of service on board EK 567 today made me feel like a stowaway. The Airline lays a lot of stress on service and quality of food on board, it is advertised. Whether the attitude of the staff that served me was intentional or just part of his natural ‘armor’ of customer service was difficult to tell. But either ways, it is debilitating to the Airlines. While taking food orders I was told that “we have only one Seafood Pie and two Chicken”!! It made me wonder if I was travelling Business Class or ‘Cattle Class’ (move over Shashi Tharoor) by Emirates Airline. As if that was not enough, the steward took upon himself to decide how I should have my drink and brought me a drink he had mixed to the proportion of his choice. Later when I asked for a refill of the Single Malt, Chivas Regal was produced! Such shocking attention and behavior from the Emirates Airline staff in Business Class is not what I had factored in for the journey of such immense personal importance.
At the time of booking I was told that the Airline would take care of the transit Visa and accommodation in Dubai on the 24th. Accordingly, arrangements were made for the Visa to visit Dubai on the return leg on the 30th April. At T3, on arrival in Dubai, I got the manual visa made from the Airline Help Desk proximate to the Immigration. Then I was handed the rude shock by the Immigration that the manual Airline Visa would not be processed since the Visa for the return to Dubai on the 30th was ‘already in the system’. I had arranged to meet with Haism, who I knew from my days with DP World, upon arrival. The delays after arrival ensured that the entire pre-scheduled program is ‘consigned to the shredder’. After many clarifications and unacceptable alternatives from Emirates Airline staff (such as ‘sleep in the lounge’) I was left with no option but to use the Visa that was ‘in the system’. All through the ‘drama’ lasting over a half hour the staff at the Emirates Help Desk refused to intercede on my behalf with the Immigration citing non-existent customers to serve! The embarrassment and the precious time lost were nobody’s concern. I rued the decision taken to travel with Emirates Airline.
Mercifully, Avis provided a car pronto to transfer me to the Meridian Hotel (chauffeured by a guy from Kannur, Kerala). The hotel room was comfortable to rest the weary legs and mull over the events of the day.