Shaji and I had agreed to meet up at 5 pm on 12th from where we would go to his lovely home for drinks and dinner. On the way we stopped at a supermarket for a couple of things I wanted to pick up. Amaretto biscuits and soft jelly candies I had had at the B&B were on my purchase list. Special goodies were on ample display for Xmas shoppers. Shaji had prepared a whole lot of stuff for dinner. But generous helping of artichokes in olive oil, steamed assorted seafood and fried chicken wings more than stuffed me, besides the Glenfiddich. The lively conversation revolved around life in the country, opportunities for new generation and work. Shaji is an excellent conversationalist and I lost my sense of time. After 9pm I suggested we leave as I had to pack up and get up early to go to the airport.
I had a 10 am flight out of Milan on the 13th. This meant that I had to take a taxi to Centrale at 6.30am, from where I could take a 7am, or thereabouts, bus to the Malpensa airport. Over breakfast on the 12th Cinzia offered to get me a reliable taxi. When I didn't get her confirmation till late evening I was a bit ruffled. But she sent me a message in the night that Fluvio would be at the B&B to pick me up at 6.30. I was more than a bit jittery knowing what happens in India about such promises. I needn't have been. Fluvio was right on time and he dropped me off at Milano Centrale after a wonderful conversation about the city, its growth and his own personal experiences.
I was just in time for the bus that left a few minutes after 7 am. Having woken up quite early I dozed for most part of the drive to the airport. When I woke up I marveled at the amazing sight of snowcapped Alps that 'fenced' the airport. It looked as if the airport and the surrounding region had been neatly placed in a bowl with snowcapped sides. Despite having checked in online I had to wait an eternity to drop my bag; some glitch with the software, I was informed. Two shots of Baccardi and coke, snacks, breakfast and "Munna Micheal" helped me through to Abu Dhabi.
I wonder why we have to face gargantuan and slow moving immigration counters in India. Of course, all the paperwork has been done away with. Even then, I am sure, passengers need not queue up for so long to secure immigration clearance. Even security check in India is so cumbersome. Everywhere these days, security and immigration are a simple walk through experience. But not so in our country. We have to stand, shuffle, stand and suffer.