Thursday, 20 June 2013

A for Airplanes

Note: Since graduating I have at hand so much time that I've tried to sleep off most of it. Since sleep has the potential to become a mind numbing activity which can stifle creativity, I decided to get back to writing. However, excess sleep has already done some damage so I need to look for some prompts. Inspired by my cousin and fellow blogger Zainab's successful attempt, I've decided to embark on the A-Z blogger challenge. 
Every day I am going to select one letter of the alphabet and blog about it. Hopefully, this will stimulate my brain enough to come up with something good!

Here I present to you-  

A: Airplanes

As a scrawny defence kid who grew up near air bases in different parts of India, the sound of a fighter jet shooting through the sky brings with it a flood of fond memories. I remember wistful dreams of becoming a pilot who'll one day trail-blaze the same skies, looking down upon the minions still on earth. Okay, I made up the last bit.

But flying was always a dream. A wishful dream until my 7th grade when we moved from Pune to Bangalore. What happens when a 12yr old, a 9 yr old and 6 yr old get on a plane for the first time? They embarrass their parents. I remember the three of us being super hyped while getting into the plane and then fighting over who would get the window seat. Finally I got one such seat, with my parents sitting next to me. Bilal and Shereef agreed to share the other window seat and ended up alternating every few minutes. When the air-hostess served us candies I took one, shyly, mentally kicking myself for not taking a few more. My brothers, on the other hand, decided to abandon all shame and grabbed four hands full of toffees and stuffed them into their pockets. The two hour flight was like a dream for the three of us (and an embarrassing nightmare for our parents). Floating above the clouds, glancing down at the outlines of cities, we sipped on (what we thought was) free coke, we really felt on top of the world.


We have come a long way since then. Since my dad left Air Force, we have been on the go. At first it was Saudi, then Italy, then Malaysia. Slowly one trip merged into the other and it didn't matter anymore whether we were in the sky or seated in the airport terminal as long as we could sleep comfortably. Of course the flying experience is different with different airlines. Trips to Italy are usually comfortable, except for the time I got a seat near the emergency exit and was left sitting awkwardly, envisioning in my mind scenes of the plane crash-landing and pictures of me splattered across front page of all newspapers next day- "Young woman saves lives with quick thinking", "Girl presented with bravery award for opening emergency door".... Ah well, haven't had many 'brave experiences' so far, you see...
Malaysia has always been with a budget airlines. And boy is it uncomfortable! Of course it's a great way to fly on a shoe string budget, but it sucks that I have to pay 100 rupees for 4 drops of water and  some bread crumbs. It also doesn't help that I have 0 leg space. The 4.5 hours in the flight are spent contorting my very inflexible body into positions which would put a Russian gymnast to shame. By the time I find that prefect pose which would let me sleep without breaking a few ribs, the seatbelt sign turns on: It's time to land. RAGE.

My prayer before flying is always that I get good co-passengers. I have been stranded next to newly married couples who are so lovey-dovey and gooey that they are at a serious risk of melting off the seat.I have also witnessed countless crying babies, a few grumpy old people, and snotty children running up and down the impossibly narrow aisle and between the legs of exhausted-yet-smiling airhostesses who tried not run them over with their carts (is that what it's called?)

Talking about aisles- I absolutely hate them. Why, you ask? Well, because I cannot walk without stumbling, falling on people, or breaking things in a football field. So how can you expect me to walk with my laptop (stuffed with excess luggage), my eight kilo cabin bag AND my handbag, without hitting a few people in the head with my elbow and maybe stepping on a few toes on the way. At trying times likes this my tongue sets itself on an automatic loop, playing 'sorry' till I reach my seat and plop myself down very gracelessly. Yes, I am that person you hate. Don't judge me

Illustration: Andrew Joyner. Courtesy-

Stuffing your pregnant bag into the overhead compartment without it falling and cracking the crying baby's skull deserves another post in itself..some other day, some other day.
My other nightmares include- sitting next to gassy people (or being that person myself), snoring and drooling on the shoulders of my co-passengers, burping or emitting any such questionable sounds, smells or substances which might jeopardize my standing as a model traveller of the world. I also dislike passing through the security checks because I becomes really self conscious and end up behaving in a very suspicious way. I give furtive glances at the exit, avoid eye contact with the security personnel and in general emulate everything a perfect terrorist would do (as observed in movies). Clearing customs is like a load of my shoulders as can be seen in the huge sigh of relief. I am sure those analysing the security cameras are keeping tabs on when I'll get stopped eventually.

Not all is bad though, there are some perks of flying too. I am one of the few people who likes airplane food (not the budget airline one, mind you). It's not just the food, I like the whole process. Peeling off the foil covering, tearing the tiny sachets for my coffee and finally digging for the tiny piece of chocolate hidden in plain sight. The mess afterwords doesn't really make it to the list of my favourite things. But, yeah, whatever.

At the end of the day flying has become a part of my life. Sometimes inconvenient, but it's still there, so might as well try to enjoy it. When I am up there, it's like everything else has been suspend. I am just a tired body cruising through the sky with others whose names I might never know, but with whom I share the excitement of resting eyes on loved ones, soon. As I get out of the terminal, my body all sore, my tattered passport in sweaty hands and my exhausted eyes finally find my parents faces smiling at me (of course it's the more energetic and vigorous, exclusively Indian, 'I am here!' hand wave that makes them stand out in a crowd of sober firangs), nothing else really matters. 

1 comment:

  1. One month too late but WHO CARES? This was extremely fun to read. It's been ages since I last travelled by air but your post dusted off all those memories buried in my head. My father loves regaling everyone with the tale of how I slapped an airhostess - I WAS JUST ONE, don't judge me!

    I've always wanted to go by Emirates, though. Maybe next time :)

    Entertaining post, and eagerly waiting for more!