Saturday, May 24, 2008

I want a window seat

So I said "picture abhi baaki hai" (the movie is still on).

If I thought my last trip from Singapore alongside a ghaati traveller was an experience, I hadn't seen anything yet.

Annual Conference, Phuket. Delhi-Bangkok-Phuket and back including an airport transfer on the way back. And guess who's flying with me. A friend and collegue who is going to fly for the first time in his life -- he loves trains.

A week prior to departure, he asked me: "If I have to travel all by myself, what do I have to do".

I was going to tell him, "Grow up". But then refrained and said, "But you aren't travelling alone, so what are you worried about. There are going to be another 103 people apart from me and you who are going for the conference on the same flight. Just relax."

But he would not have no for an answer. "Run me through the procedures at the airport please," he said.

I had no choice, so I explained everything to him - right from how to get the baggage screened on arrival at the airport to his personal security check and boarding. He mixed up the two and said, "But why do I have to go through security. Didn't I do that at the beginning."

"That was the baggage my boy. They wouldn't put you through the X-ray machine, would they," I retorted. Aaaah!

So arrived the day and arrive the hour to check-in. "I want a window seat," he said the moment he reached the counter. The lady obliged and I thought to myself this is going to be one hell of a sight.

Well so we got on to the waiting aircraft through the aero-bridge. "Where's the bus?," he asked me. "No bus dude, you just walk in to the aircraft here."

"Wah, Wah!"

Our man took his seat and soon after the aircraft began to taxi. He was fine till then, expecting that the plane would take speed exactly the way trains do - over a stretch of a few kilometres.

Then the plane reached the end of the runway, revved its engine and the brakes were released. It was like a catapult and our man held on to his seat and to his dear life as the plane moved into the zero to sixty in so many seconds mode. His throat went dry, his tounge wet his lips and he almost clutched at his heart as if it would pop out.

As the plane was airborne, he made his last mistake of looking out of the window. At an angle with the lights becoming smaller, he sunk in to his seat. And that's pretty much how he was in the rest of the flight as turbulence completed his initiation into flying.

I must admit though that he was a vastly improved air traveller by the time we took our fourth flight back home (that is if one was to overlook the fact that he misplaced his departure card before eventually finding it). But the reason for his success was a simple one: NO WINDOW SEAT PLEASE.

One mint, One mint

Seen Cheeni Kum?

There's a dialogue in the film that states how more and more people from India were travelling to the UK because the air fares had gone down. Don't know about the low air fares (coz I never get a cheap ticket) but more and more non-air travellers are beginning to fly.

And is it 'fun' to watch them as they make their way from check-in to boarding or what. Also their on-board antics are things that legends are made of. If you haven't noticed it, try the next time.

I don't want to sound classist, but there's no term better than the word ghaati that describes some of these neo-travellers.

On a recent flight back from Singapore, I landed up on a seat away from one such ghaati traveller. The middle-aged man was clad in a white kurta, pyjamas, white pair of socks and black canvas shoes. He landed up on his seat with a bottle of Black Label and a carton of Marlboro cigarettes (Both Duty Free).

The man has tastes (or may be he was following instructions). But that's where it ends.

He sat cross-legged on the aisle seat, which was not his. What followed was straight out of the film Bheja Fry. His passport was wrapped in a transparent plastic with rubber bands around it. He wore a vest that had pockets coz that's where he pulled it out from when the steward asked him for his boarding pass. Thankfully, I had a window seat and the middle was not taken.

But very soon I realised that he was actually the passenger in the middle seat. I began to pray!

The steward asked him to move to his own seat as the other passenger had arrived to claim his aisle seat. "No problem, no mint, one mint," he said.

I prayed harder and the lord hear me.

His "one mint" (one minute) lasted for such a long time that the plane completed taxiing to the end of the runway. The steward had no choice but to seat the waiting passenger somewhere else. "You can continue to sit here sir," he told the ghaati, much to his pleasure and mine.

Well so the plane took off and it was time for drinks service. Ze man opted for Tiger beer. He got a can and then he wanted another one. Didn't want to miss out on the free booze. The stewardess, who was Indian, then told him in Hindi: "Main aapko ek baar mein sirf ek hi drink de sakti hoon. Main agli baar phir se serve karoongi." (I can only offer you one drink at a time, I will serve you again).

Then he turned to me. How could he tune in to Om Shanti Om on the in-flight channel?

That was the solution. For the remaining part of the flight he was happy watching the film. Seeing him engrossed in the film, reminded me of a stand up comedy tale though.

It's about our favourite airline, Air India.

A man was traveling from the US to India. The flight reached Mumbai and continued to hover over it without making any attempts to land. After 30 minutes the man asked the air hostess, "Why aren't we landing?"

"How can we," she said, "the movie is yet to get over."

True! Just like the line in OSO - "picture abhi baaki hai".