martes, marzo 07, 2006

“Sir, you’ve had… what, two glasses of wine? Would you care for a third?”

Hell yeah, I would! Flying has never been one of my favourite activities but when you’re working abroad (fairly) frequently, I think it makes more sense to fly 8 hours than spend 6 months on a cargo ship with 154 other highly strung men suffering from a testosterone overload. What makes the whole experience worse is that fact that my company has a tie up with Air India, but on the plus side, employees get to carry 10 extra kilos while flying AI – which is a lot considering your mum wants to pack you off with so much food as to give someone the idea that Europe has a perennial food crisis.

Anyways, so flying Air India hasn’t exactly been on my list of Top-10-Things-To-Do-Ever, but since I was scheduled to travel back from Ipswich (that’s another post in itself) to Mumbai, AI was the only option. What I hadn’t expected was to have an utterly eventful flight home. As is always the case with me, I over-shot my prescribed weight limit by a meagre 4 kilos, which is quite heartening considering it’s the lowest in the past 5 years – but don’t blame me! I can’t help it if folks back home want a year’s supply of Schwarzkopf shampoos and St. Ives’ body scrubs, and I can’t say no. They’re the only family I have. Back to the point, though. I over-shot my limit and the chap on the counter where I checked in my luggage sat with a face that only implied a night on the couch and no sex for four weeks. In short, he was in no mood to humour me. I was to reduce the luggage by 4 kilos – not a gram less. His words, not mine.

Thankfully for me, he had messed up someone else’s ticket / boarding pass, so Mr. Pissed Off along with his 16 kids came barging to the counter, which effectively occupied him for about 20 minutes, by which time he had conveniently forgotten about me and my luggage. Once he shooed them off successfully, he was so harrowed by the experience that he gave one look at my luggage, another at me, and waved it off without even so much as a murmur.

Once I did get my boarding pass, however, did I realise that I hadn’t asked for either a window or an aisle seat, so I was hoping like hell that I wouldn’t be caught on the middle seat with two guys next to me, who insisted not only on sticking to their seats but also on talking to each other non-stop for eight hours in a totally incomprehensible language (that happened to me on one of my earlier flights). It came as a pleasant surprise to have gotten a window seat next to the emergency exit (where there aren’t any seats in front of you so you can stretch, stretch, stretch your legs!) and the two seats next to me empty. Having one of the air-hostesses - who for the record, was so old that I could count her wrinkles and guess her age – tell you in a throaty voice the operation of the emergency exit in case she fainted on impact, was only a small sufferance. I did however neglect to tell her that once I realised that the plane was going to crash, I would probably run around like a screaming banshee.

Much to my relief, I never had the opportunity to tug-unfold-hop-slide. Also relieving was the fact that the whole affair of trying to make me understand why I had to use the life-jacket if we were not crashing in water proved too much for Miss Throaty Voice, who soon tired and drifted off to sleep on the crew seats bang in front of me. Thus I had the pleasure of being served by – clearly the highlight of my trip – an extra-young doting little thing who insisted on serving me seconds and thirds without me even asking for it. I have a vague feeling she also adjusted my air pillow and blanket but I could have been dreaming. I was also in strong doubt if she knew this was economy and not first, but she was probably drowning in her own effervescence to take notice.

Her excited presence alone reduced much of the drone and probably the average IQ of the plane too. She also suggested, in a very ominous voice, to go for the vegetarian option to which I meekly complied. The crew had probably spat in the meat-menu, and I was in no mood to find out. Too much wine (I eventually had 4 glasses before my bladder took control) led to the inevitable. Just as I relieved myself and half-opened the door, I was grabbed by a guy with such foul breath, it would have made a garlic wilt in shame. Over the hum of an aircraft at 30k feet, I was short-listed for a job that paid up to 300 quid a day. Why I get a job when I’ve quit my existing one to join B-school is beyond me, and I made an addition to the mysterious ironies of the universe.

All in all, it was a great trip back home. Much to both, my delight and my chagrin, nothing has changed back in Mumbai. The roads are still dug-up; the air is just as polluted but the people are still as warm and it’s great to have a life again.

I, Me, Myself

Indian. MBA. IESE. Barcelona. Need I say more?
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