Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How the manager of a travel agency made a difference!

Even if Shashi Tharoor deserved the boot, one must give him credit for what is due. For a person who studied in St Stephen’s, Delhi, and left the country to make in mark in the United Nations, graduating to a position none less than director-communications, standing for election as UN Secretary General must have been the icing on the cake. I’m sure he didn’t really expect to win that one though. Without the United States approving, election to such a coveted post is just not possible. But Tharoor must have decided to swim with the tide then and make an honest attempt to pull off something spectacular. By the time reality dawned bright and clear, and a South Korean beat him to the post, Tharoor had made enough friends in government here in India (especially leaders of the Congress, including Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh who endorsed his stand) and it was only a question of time before he would be offered a position in government.

That Tharoor took easily to Indian politics (at least it appeared so), before, during and after the election, and as Minister of State for External Affairs, is something to be appreciated. Even during the current fiasco when the Opposition was baying for his blood and he was eventually hounded out, he kept the smiles on and even quoted Mahakavi Vallathol in Parliament, while stressing that he was innocent and had done nothing to tarnish his reputation. His conscience must have been clear.

Even as Tharoor’s fate was sealed, the volcanic ash spewing forth from Iceland made the lives of many, many travellers miserable. My family played host to a girl doing her clinical psychology in the UK, stranded as her British Airways flight from Chennai last Friday was cancelled. Her supervisor had given her only two weeks leave for Easter, and she had already overshot that by a week. And here she was, uncertain when she would be able to get back.

So, off we chaperoned her from one travel agent to another till we met the manager of one, a very warm and helpful woman who made everybody feel at ease and ensured she’d do her best for the youngster. She kept her word, checking the news and departure of flights every hour it would seem, and, finally, today morning managed to get a BA ticket for tomorrow (Thursday), ex-Bangalore. She also reserved a seat on the Chennai-Bangalore leg this afternoon. So, the girl’s countenance abruptly changed; she was back to her normal charming self – well, almost. She was smiling and bursting into laughter and chatting up all of us. We were all so glad to see her so happy and while bidding her goodbye at the airport we felt sad because during the few days she was with us it was almost like she was family. Hope she will read this some time and know that she is being missed already.

All thanks to the sincere efforts of a manager in a travel agency who, if I might use the phrase, “went beyond her calling”. After all, there were tickets blocked for Friday and Sunday, although at prohibitive prices, and she really need not have made the extra effort to see if a seat on the first BA flight out of Bangalore after the weeklong aviation crisis would be available. This is what honest, good work can do. It creates goodwill that cannot be purchased for a price and at the end of the day it is also excellent PR. Well done, Usha Surendranath! All I can say is keep up the good work. And at least as long as you are there, my first choice would be PL Worldways.

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