A blog about writing, reading, travelling and great characters I meet in life. I love these things more than cheese-on-toast times trampolines times monkeys.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Customer service - the 'extra mile high' variety

I'm so excited to tell you about Tanya, Sandeep and Mohit. I met them on my Jet Lite flight yesterday from Port Blair to Kolkata.

The reason I'm excited is because of their MASSIVE ENTHUSIASM for their job as cabin crew with Jet Airways.

I like flying. You can read, listen to music, write and relax. And every now and then, a trolley comes along with refreshments.

But it's the service from cabin crew that can turn a good flight into a brilliant flight. The smiles and the personal touch and a bit of friendly conversation - beyond safety instructions and food.

The extra mile...

Mohit sees I'm reading The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh. He strikes up a conversation about books. I chat to him in my seat for a few minutes, then he invites me to have a cuppa with the rest of the crew in the 'galley' at the back of the plane.

That's where I meet Tanya and Sandeep - both in their early days as cabin crew. I ask them what they like about their job.

'I love being up here in the sky,' Tanya says. 'I trained with Jet Airways for four months, there was loads of study and you have to get a really high mark to pass. When I got my wings on my graduation day, I felt ecstatic.'

Tanya proudly shows me her gold 'wings', pinned to her navy blue jacket. She's smiling so much it makes me smile.

'We don't really live on Earth,' Mohit says. 'The aircraft in the sky is our home. We just go to Earth to visit.'

Like friendly aliens - I love this idea.

I also ask Tanya her top beauty tip. I'm always a scruffbag at airports, so when I see the cabin staff swish through security, looking immaculate - I often want to ask them how they do it.

'Sunscreen,' Tanya says. Simple. And genes, I guess.

People power

These lovely people are an example of how staff make businesses. Maybe it's the training at Jet Airways or maybe they are just great people who would thrive in any job. But their enthusiasm is so infectious that it makes my customer experience great.

'We Indians are so much into hospitality, you know,' Mohit says with a smile and a head wobble, 'it comes easy to us.'

I go back to my seat for landing, happy to have made some new friends.

The extra extra mile...

Outside the Departures door at Kolkata airport. Bright sunshine. Big rucksack and shoulder bag. One tall armed guard. And me.

I'm trying to figure out how to get to the pre-paid taxi counter. It's just metres away from me, but curiously it's behind a padlocked metal gate - beside the tall guard with the gun.

A cartoon character would have scratched their head in bemusement, so that's what I did.

'How do I get to the taxi counter?' I asked the big-booted guard.

'Not possible,' he said. And then he made a sweeping gesture with his arm. He seemed to be pointing me in a big loop around the car park and then off somewhere beyond the airport.

'But it's just there,' I said to him. So near but yet so far. The guard just held his gun across his chest and shook his head at me.

I looked round to a sea of smily Indian faces, all watching this little scene as they waited for relatives. And I started laughing.

Then Mohit, Tanya and Sandeep appeared from the airport doors, pulling their wheelie suitcases.

'I think I'm causing a minor incident,' I said to them, explaining the situation.

'Where do you want to go?' Mohit said, so I told him the address.

Mohit walked behind the guard with the big gun, hopped over the metal gate. He sorted out my taxi ticket in a flash, then came back and handed me my voucher.

As easy as that.

And now, I love Jet Airways as a result. Simple.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

What is the plan for Hampi?

Please take a quick look at this short film about Hampi in India - we put this film together as a direct appeal to UNESCO to step in now and stop the demolition of Hampi's long-established community.

Thank you to all the people in Hampi who have spoken out on this film about the demolition of their homes and businesses in July 2011. Another round of JCB demolitions have now been ordered - and still there is no clear idea of where Hampi's wonderful community will live and work.

No consultation. No compensation. Just more bulldozers.

Or watch our Hampi film on You Tube.

To find out more about Hampi's lovely community and to support Hampi's community, please visit Save Hampi People.

Monday, 2 January 2012

A Hampi New Year

It feels like coming home.

I arrive back in Hampi on New Year's Eve and the welcome from the community is the same as before - smiles and handshakes and happy hellos. And this time I get a few hugs too, as it's my second time here in a month.

There are many tourists in town who have also experienced the Hampi effect. They came for 2 days but have ended up staying 2 weeks or more. They all say it's about the local people here - the welcome they've received from families who have lived and worked here for generations.

I'm back in town to meet with some locals who want to make a short film about the demolitions in Hampi. A court decision in December 2011 has ordered further demolitions in 2012 - over a hundred more homes and businesses are targeted for the second round of JCB demolitions.

And still the government's resettlement / compensation plan remains, at best, very unclear to the locals here. They say they have not been consulted about their future. They are living on a fraction of the income they had prior to the July 2011 demolitions. They have to find out the latest developments from newspaper articles and hearsay.

But the Hampi spirit lives on...

Despite all this, the community continues to smile.

On New Year's Eve, the local community celebrate and look forward to 2012.Families decorate the streets with a rainbow of 'rangolis' - vivid powder paint designs outside their homes and warm wishes for the new year.

Kids play in the street and the atmosphere is calm and friendly.

Locals offer every passerby their New Year's Eve cakes and sweet cashew nut treats. (Three slices of cake later, I decline further offers).

There are a few fireworks at midnight - but soon after the clock strikes 12, the town heads to bed for a good night's sleep. ZZZZZzzzzzzz.

I hope Hampi finds peace in 2012 and there are no further demolitions here. Hampi is just too good - exactly as it is.

To find out more, please visit the Save Hampi People Facebook page.