Postcard from... Delhi


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The Independent Online

I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived in Delhi's Indira Gandhi International airport today. The place I remember from a few years ago was hugely crowded and disorganised; I waited ages for my visa, and found myself in darkness after a power cut.

But the terminal 3 I arrived in this time is something else. Opened in 2010, just in time for the Commonwealth Games, it stands shoulder to shoulder with any other fancy airport in the world: it is clean, has all the shops and restaurants you could wish for, and seems to respect its target of having 95 per cent of all passengers take less than 45 minutes from touch down to exit.

One thing that has stayed the same is the high security. Uniquely among airports I've been through, cigarette lighters are banned. In my various visits to Delhi airport, I probably handed over 20 of them to the security staff – one handbag search yielded at least eight, including a cherished fire extinguisher-shaped one. I begged to no avail (tip for smokers: take matches, they're fine, it seems). To be fair, it makes more sense to me than Heathrow's obsession with shampoo. You'll also get a body search whether you beep or not.

There's another unique reason to feel especially safe here. You are protected by police "performer of the month" G.K. Sharma. His portrait watches over you from above the x-ray machines. It states: "His profiling and later frisking led to the arrest of an UAE national who was smuggling a rare species of monkey (Slender Loris) from Bangkok to Dubai via India by hiding it in his undergarments."

The poster also includes a portrait of the primate. It is small, in case you were wondering.