Despite the constant, omnipresent threat of terrorist danger faced by India, today's events have left me wondering whether those actually at the coalface have any idea how to deal with such an attack, or even just the potential of one.
My morning flight to Bangalore on the budget airline Indigo left Delhi on time. It was comfortable yet no frills, and it arrived at Bangalore before time. (After too, too many flight delays, I've come to appreciate this punctuality).
Unbeknownst to passengers, however, was that about 20 minutes before we landed, a bomb threat was phoned in to the Delhi airport, specifically naming my flight. After landing, passengers were briskly herded onto buses on the tarmac. And kept there, right next to the plane, for a good 45 minutes, as we watched ground staff scurrying back and forth, towards and away from the plane.
We were only told when we left the bus, at the terminal, where we went through stringent security checks, of the bomb scare. It was then another two-odd hours before they released our bags.
That two hours was enough time for wild rumours to spread throughout the baggage claim area. Some said a second call had been made, claiming there was indeed a bomb on board that had failed to detonate. Others said the call had originated from the cargo area of Delhi airport, indicating an inside job. And everyone looked suspiciously at the poor man who hadn't thought to shave before getting on a plane.
The hapless Indigo employee deployed to inform us the bags would take a while and we weren't allowed to leave the claim area, really earned his money today. People were wild - about missed connections, missed trains, missed meetings, and that guy bore the brunt of it. I think the mob would've burned an effigy if there had been any hay and lighter fluid nearby.
Then the sniffer dogs came through: two of the biggest labradors I've ever seen, almost the size of Great Danes. The toddlers went crazy and went running after the doggies, trying to pat them. Teenagers took photos on their iPhones.
Finally by big shiny red Samsonite arrived; thankfully they'd not busted the lock to get inside. On my way out I passed the Bangalore police commissioner. He looks just like a Bollywood villian, complete with handlebar moustache and aviator sunglasses and was slapping the back of a bald guy who looked a bit like Djimon Hounsou and chortling. It was all very Deewar.
But seriously, the question remains: just why did they keep us on the buses next to the plane for so long? If, as they likely suspected, the bomber was among us, what if he or she had detonated while we waited? What if a bomb on luggage on the plane had gone off? We were locked in a bus that was going nowhere.
I'm reluctant to point fingers at Indigo or Bangalore Airport, but think the incident serves as a timely reminder that Indian security, and moreso the kind of intuitive response needed, just isn't there yet.