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I flew into my home town Udupi recently and flew out 3 weeks later and somebody remarked that I keep zipping in and out of India, and an international flight is quite like a local bus journey from Udupi to Mangalore for me.
I beg to differ. We don’t have dashing pilots and cute flight attendants on Udupi-M’lore buses, just a sweaty driver who thinks he’s on a Formula One race track and a conductor who thinks he might be the next Rajnikant.
Our 3 hours and 20 minutes journey between Abu Dhabi and Mangalore is usually uneventful if you can ignore some idiotic passengers who refuse to switch off their mobile phones despite repeated requests to do so or others who get up as if their seat is on fire and start collecting their cabin luggage even before the plane has landed properly, like.
But this time, the journey both ways was quite happening. To begin with, my Air India Express flight from Abu Dhabi was delayed by almost 14 hours, and harassed passengers were given the option of either returning home and coming back the next day or spending the night at a select hotel courtesy the airlines. I’m sure all my readers would unanimously agree that it would have been foolish of me to throw up an opportunity of living it up at the Sheraton and go tamely back home. Even if this Sheraton is just two blocks away from my building. No prizes for guessing what I opted for and I woke the husband up at 1.00 am to give him the breaking news.
The next morning, after a leisurely continental breakfast, the bus picked all the passengers and dropped us back at the airport in time for the 1.00 pm flight which took off at 12.50 pm and the officials seemed quite pleased that a flight already late by 14 hours was leaving early by 10 minutes! I finally arrived at the parents’ home exactly 24 hours after I left mine.
Three weeks later I boarded an Air India Express back to Abu Dhabi and stap me if the journey wasn’t as eventful if not more, than the previous one! Once the attendants on board had collected the discarded snack packets, cabin lights were dimmed and some gentle to thunderous snores from around the aircraft proved once again that some people are blessed to be able to fall asleep anywhere and anytime. Unlike me!
While I shifted around in my seat bright-eyed and wide awake, a young girl in a seat one row ahead rang the bell for the flight attendant and proceeded to raise a noise about the chap in the seat behind her. He had apparently been kicking the back of her seat for quite some time. She would still have put up with that and given him the benefit of doubt; after all, aircrafts on short flights are hardly made for comfortable leg space and unless you tuck your feet into your pockets, long-legged people are bound to kick at some point.
But, she claimed, a person behind couldn’t also be touching your arm, which is up ahead on the armrest, unless intentionally wanting to do so. Again, not once or twice but three times before she decided to take it seriously; and complain, which she did, while the man did his bit of protesting and trying to play the innocent card bit.
A formal complaint was lodged, some forms were signed by both the chief flight purser and the complainant and that was that. Complaints of this kind are taken very seriously in Abu Dhabi, so the general opinion was that there’s not much hope for the man.
While applauding the young girl for taking a firm stand, I so wished the incident had gotten more exposure, inside the plane and outside. Travellers should be made aware that just because they paid for the journey, buses, planes and trains are not their private playgrounds. Along with other in-flight instructions, it would do well to remind unruly, drunken and horny passengers to keep their hands, legs and other parts of their body to themselves.
This article was first published in the Witty Wordsmith of Times of India.