Saturday, January 15, 2011

Flight chronicles

Travel and journey--such routine parts of our lives. In our attempts to fulfill our everyday targets and make life pleasing for our dear ones, we undertake those hectic, jostling, noisy and sweaty journeys by buses, autorickshaws, cycle rickshaws or most recently, the metro. For work involving a greater degree of general or self interest, we sometimes need to travel farther and accept the punctual services of our very own Indian Railways or our 'low-cost' airlines. Each of these journeys is not just about reaching our destination. The journey itself becomes such an integral and interesting part of our lives because of the entertainment that each means of transportation brings with it, chiefly thanks to our fellow passengers. Seriously, the way people behave in an auto or on the metro or on a long-distance train will make for an entire novel, movie or television series. But, more on those gems later. Today, let me write about my air travelling expriences.

The first time that I was travelling completely by myself, I almost made a fool of myself by getting confused with the seat arrangements and thinking that my seat was just next to the window. Then, an elderly couple came and claimed that seat as one of theirs. I realized my mistake and promptly shifted to the aisle seat but they kept frowning at me for another half an hour. Then, they stared at the sandwich which I ordered, and kept on staring at it as I ate it. I wanted to ask them, "Is there anything wrong with my sandwich? Do you suspect it to be a bomb? Or are you just tempted to have one too? Go on, have it then, but please stop staring!" Look, it's a lot better to have sweet elderly people as co-passengers than some nasty guy, but even old people can get on your nerves at times by behaving weirdly. On another occasion, for instance, my friendly old grandma co-passenger asked me to occupy the middle seat so that I wouldn't have to get up each time she went to the toilet. I told her politely that I wouldn't have problems getting up, but I had not taken into account the fact that I would be switching on my laptop. So, when she did ask me to let her pass, I was at a loss to manage her legs, my legs, my entangling headphones and huge laptop. Somehow, she went through and I promptly occupied the middle seat, having learnt my lesson. But, this was my mistake and I turned out to be entertaining for the other passengers. Then, the lady returned from the toilet and began bombarding me with questions. Why was I going to Kolkata? Why was I in Delhi? Who lived there? Who lived back in Kolkata? Which class? Oh ok, which college? It must be colder in Delhi, right? What is the temperature? Is the flight taking too long? How much did my ticket cost?...Therefore, despite all my affection towards old people, I was happy when the flight landed.

Then, ther will be people who will talk in intellectual tones, delivering their sermons on various topics. They will discuss stuff eagerly with their co-passengers. For instance, a woman sitting next to me did not know in which terminal our flight would land at the destination airport. Before the flight took off, she angrily began ordering her driver at the destination to find out and be at the right place. She was kind of loud. Then, she asked the man sitting next to her, who was very glad to help a lady. Then, the two began conversing in English, one in her American accent, the other in his Indian accent. The man seemed pleased with himself, and they discussed the pathetic condition of our airports, offering their own solutions. Some people try so hard to act smart on planes.

And, I don't even need to mention how awful a flight can get if there are naughty kids around. They and their wailing, crying friends, can constitute the worst group of co-passengers. Some people keep on looking at the loo from their aisle seats while others will go there at least twice, that too when the air hostesses are pushing the food trolley and there's no space for such varied movements of different people. I also don't understand why people have to board the aircraft with such huge pieces of luggage. It's supposed to be 'hand' luggage, but people carry medium suticases on board. What pleasure do they receive by increasing their own burden when they can give those chunks of rock away as their main luggage and be comfortable throughout? Why do they have to pull those trolleys all along past the Security Check counters, the long boarding gate queues, the crowded airbus and the still more crowded plane aisles, hurting other people's feet? Then, there are the seat-exchanging people, who for any tiny or no reason, will want to exchange their allotted seats with those of any other random people of their choice!

I also find it a little annoying when people don't switch off their cell phones on board. They simply ignore the air hostess's repeated pleadings and think, "Nah! Nothing happens if we keep them on. Why do they ask us to switch 'em off anyway? We don't see the point." But, supposing some problem did arise? When people have no idea about what the problem can be, why do they refuse to follow a simple flight rule which requires them to press a button just two more times than usual, and stay away from their plaything for a few odd hours? There are some who switch on their phones even before the flight lands properly and all over the plane, various versions of the Nokia 'ti-ti-ting-ting-ting' tune can be heard. They begin informing people that they have reached when the flight plane is still in motion. After all, it had required their utmost efforts to keep their fingers away from those keys, which they can't help but go on pressing with or without reason.

And, these are only some observations. There can be many many more, specially if you have an eye for detail. In my next post, I shall try recording my metro riding experience in Delhi!