AR speaketh...

The questions, the answers, the thoughts, the ideas and the other crap that make me, well, me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Flights of Fancy

Foreword: What happens when a rather sedentary smart alec travels around 10000 km in a space of 30 days? You get his unique (and gifted) point of view on matters concerning travel and life. Rejoice, brethren, for you are going to partake of my phenomenal insights. Whether you like it or not. Between a family emergency and my annual vacation, I logged some ten thousand of the frequent flier kilometres and faced with insomnia, cramped economy class seats and an unfriendly digestive system, had the opportunity to observe the world passing by. Here’s a collection of some memorable episodes.

What is with airlines? No, seriously, what is with them? How do they manage to maintain a density of 2.78 goo-dribbling, sonic boom generating and otherwise being a thorough pain in the you-know-where infants per ridiculous row of economy class seats? What about me forces them to seat me next to an indulgent mom travelling with shipping containers full of redolent diapers, baby food, teething rings, baby snaps and as if that were not enough, a complete human mini specimen including a larynx? (The part that REALLY irritates the hell out of me is how they manage to get all of that in one piece of cabin baggage!) And why on earth does that little guy have to be the inter-galactic champion of vocal strength? So, you’re an evolutionist? Tell me this, how is it that evolution has still not managed to provide a mute button for infants? Oh! You’re a creationist, are you? Why did God, in his infinite wisdom, not equip the little angels with volume control? Don’t get me wrong. Like every other nice guy, I like a diapered, rubber-sheeted, well powdered and perfumed baby lying on his abdomen and cooing at less than 80 decibels at no less than 100 feet. It is just that I’m particular about how I like them.

If you thought babies are the only things that airlines choose to accost me with, you’re dead wrong! The other thing that gets my goat is the airline accent. Even if I am lucky enough to be seated farthest from the lone infant on board, I can never manage to shut out the weird airline accent, which is like nothing I have heard in India. Every carrier manages to recruit air-hostesses and even pilots who sound like they were born in Peru, abducted by wandering Eskimos and forced to spend their formative years in Scandinavia, then sold off into slavery of the oil Sheikhs of the middle least and finally given a course in phonetics by the Chinese. Nothing even remotely connected to India, unless you consider the silk-route. Why do they do that? Is that their idea of a cosmopolitan appeal? Or are those stewardesses and pilots simply sneaking out all the airline candy and eating them ALL the time? Honestly, somebody get them to talk like normal people!

Which reminds me, my heart went out to a poor girl who was sporting this ugly welt on her cheek. My blood boiled at the thought of the brute that would do that to her. Then in walked another stewardess with the same welt. Then another. Obviously, the brute was on a roll here. That sounded outlandish, even to yours truly, so I checked again. Sure enough, the welt was their idea of rouge or whatever it is that you apply on your cheek bones to make them appear as if you’ve been at the receiving end of some stiff domestic abuse. OK, so you’re a low-cost airline and cannot afford expensive make-up tips for your employees. Do everyone a favour: save on the rouge (or whatever, see above).

Do I sound cynical and caustic? I’m sorry. Let me tell you about this incident that can almost be called romantic. On one flight, I was lucky enough to be the only one on a row of seats. Just before the doors closed, a very pretty girl walked in, looked right at me and smiled. I smiled back. Then she started coming towards me, looking on either side, apparently trying to locate her seat. I looked at the two vacant seats next to me wondered: will she? Won’t she? As it turned out, she did. She walked right up to me and said, “Sir, please fasten your seatbelt. We’re ready for takeoff.”

Oh wait! I forgot to tell you about the train journey. Kolkata (Calcutta, earlier) happens to be the end of my flight and the beginning of my train journey on my way home. What makes Kolkata Kolkata is its people. I have already gone on record with my opinion about them: I wish the men were half the men that the women are. Sure enough, I saw evidence, yet again, on the station. I saw this guy: seven-footer, built like a truck, the kind you’d apologize to thrice if you happen to brush past, with his head bowed and listening to some really unpleasant words from his four-foot something wife. As if that was not enough, the lady made it a point to underscore her words with rapid jabs to the man’s ribs, which were a trifle higher than her head. Can’t blame the woman too. After explaining how to check your name on the reservation charts about 6 times, and reaching the cerebral equivalent of mishti-doi, you’d get irritated too.

The point being, if you aren’t an expert at reading reservation charts, it’s not advisable to marry in Kolkata. And yes, whatever you do, when you have your little bundle of joy, don’t board that plane I’m on. I mean it.

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