Monday, February 11, 2008

Dilli Walli returns from Mallu Land, saga 2:

I am the lone tea drinker in a crowded coffee bar…wait, this is an airplane!

Was I thankful when that eight year old who kept hassling his polite father for something or the other, and hassled all around him because his insistent voice was loud and demanding, got off the plane at Chennai. I leaned back a bit, now I could read my book in peace.

My relief was short-lived for a cacophony of sound entered the plane and it was seating itself all around me. There was a never-ending bunch of males boarding the flight now, part of a group, and they talked like excited schoolboys out on their first picnic. I shook my head in disbelief. From the frying pan into the fire, and it was suddenly very hot in that air-conditioned space. The chatter of voices never stopped, never mind that politeness required that due consideration be showed to others riding the bird/soaring the skies with you.

One particular fellow, who just happened to be seated right in front of my seat, kept popping up like a jack in the box. He was short and middle-aged, dressed in jeans, and had a silver ear-ring on one lobe to show that he moved with the times. His excitement level was of the totally juvenile variety. During the flight, he traveled up and down the aisle, laughing and joking rather loudly with his friends. He would return to his seat, then pop up to look outside the window and watch the blue sky as if seeing it from close quarters for the first time. To do this, he leaned across the other two friends who occupied the inner seats. He then commented on which part of the country we were passing over-he was sure it was Madhya Pradesh. He said this loudly, and then called for the air-hostess to confirm this great deduction of his. She said she did not know, but would find out and inform him. “No need,” he said, his expression benign and all-knowing, “I am sure of it,” and that kind of settled the matter.

Refreshment time, and suddenly the plane was even more alive, with orders for coffee for various friends seated all around me. I felt somewhat foolish asking for tea in this sea of coffee drinkers, but decided to stick to my choice. As I heard plaintive cries of “Coffee, Caaffee” all around me, I asked for a cup of not-so-strong tea in a rather subdued voice. I was kind of wilting since the dosage of males who wanted coffee was getting too strong for me.

The man seated next to me decided to talk. “Madam, “he said, politeness quite overtaking him now, “what do you think of this turtle?”


Did not know much about them, except that one of them was a major character in a childhood fable.

I shrugged my shoulders. “Sorry,” I said, “can’t help you. Don’t know much about turtles.”

“Your pen please, Madam, could I borrow it?”

“Of course,” I handed it to him and watched as he filled in the price for an item on a wish list provided by the airways. The highest bidder would get the object of desire, which ranged from watches to handbags to turtles. Yes, turtles, of the feng shui variety. He was entering the price with my pen.

“Lucky pen, I think, Madam,” he said, and smiled as he returned it to me. I did not know what to say.

Turned out, he did get the turtle, not because of the lucky pen so much as the fact that no one else bid for the turtle. He beamed with pleasure when he opened the box.

“See,” he said, as the small, golden coloured turtle with stone eyes and jeweled back glinted in the afternoon sun that streamed in from the plane’s window. I could not help but see.

“Great,” I said, suddenly happy for him. Part of my stiffness melted; after all, my pen had been instrumental in making his day.

I use my pen for writing, and the whole idea of writing is to reveal something that the naked eye misses. The turtle revealed to me the pleasure of small joys. Peeping out of the plane window need not be reserved for kids alone, nor the enjoyment of turtles for that matter.

I think I had been behaving like a somewhat stiff upper lipped jerk.

I relaxed thereafter. The crew was there in any case to enforce the rules, albeit I must say that they were quite ineffective in this.

“May we request all passengers to be seated and to fasten their seat belts...”

“Sir, Sir…”

Ladies and gentlemen, may we request all passengers to…”

“Sir, …”

Yes. The gentleman in question had to be politely forced to be seated. To fasten his seat belt –a prisoner for a while. It was beyond his comprehension as to why he should, but then, I think it was his first flight. The excitement would wear off and he would learn to obey the rules of the game. Like all adults eventually do.