We took off from Jodhpur at 2.45pm on Tuesday and climbed, rather slowly it seemed, over the Rajasthani desert on the first leg of our journey home to Scotland. After fifteen minutes, and five thousand feet at best, there came an announcement: we had a ‘minor technical fault’ and would be returning to Jodhpur.
For the rest of the afternoon we drank chilled water and looked on in hopeful ignorance as an earnest knot of uniformed types ferreted around in the plane’s innards. Then, at 6.00pm, came the second announcement: we were grounded for the night.
This meant that several of us would miss our international connections in Delhi. Agitated conversations took place in hot, crowded offices. The ground staff were variously evasive, defensive, rude, conciliatory, unintelligible and plain confused. Jodhpur is not Heathrow. It is not even Exeter. It might conceivably be Stornoway with palm trees. This was a situation they had clearly never been trained for.
Odd bits of information emerged, none of them helpful. A small part, but nonetheless vital for making the propellors go round, had broken. We might or might not have come close to falling out of the sky. The part was in Mumbai from where it might or might not appear sometime during the hours of darkness by road, or plane, or some combination of the two. They might or might not be able to find us overnight accommodation and alternative flights next day.
It’s enough to say here that things got considerably worse before they got better. I’m writing this in Heathrow T5, where I should have been yesterday, and where I’m now also keenly reminded of the debacle over the opening of the new terminal building last year.
So often, it seems, the problem is that information is a jigsaw, with many people holding a couple of pieces each, and no one holding them all. This is when it becomes more important than ever that people treat the information they do hold with integrity.
The truth, from the start, wouldn’t have made our enforced stopover at Jodhpur any more comfortable, but it would have made it a lot less stressful. Yet we all, in different situations, have our own reasons for fearing the truth – and that fear is simply the biggest obstacle to good communication of all.