Saturday, July 21, 2012

The First Flight


My mom never fails to remind me of what a traveler baby I was the first few months of my life. I was born in Mumbai, then after a brief brush with the royal treatment that only the first-baby-in-the-family gets, I was flown back to (then) Madras, to where dad and mom had set up home.  I remember everybody coming up to me and going “Ooh what a lovely, beautiful baby! She is the prettiest baby we have ever seen!”. So I really have no recollection of my first flight.

But that was the first of many flying experiences- which I would describe as either memorable or hilarious or at times- even insightful.
The only time I remember flying a non-low-cost airline was when we, as a family flew Indian Airlines, from Mumbai to Chennai, again. I was six and I learnt that whenever I am given a choice between vegetarian and non-vegetarian, I ought to choose non vegetarian because one simply cannot go wrong with that. I had my first taste of bacon and sausages and I shamelessly scooped extra chocolates with both my tiny palms. Oh and I also remember (shamelessly, again) I smuggled wet, scented tissues and flaunted them at school.

I miss that. Sigh.

But now, with the advent of low cost fliers, I see a noticeable shift in my interest: from food to people. Conversing with fellow passengers, empty stomached, with a very Indian ‘Who pays 200 bucks for a sandwich, say?’ mindset keeps me very content indeed.

Long flying hours can actually be fun. And outrageous. Once I had a co passenger who wanted my window seat. I usually be nice and give in- but this man was oh-so-rude! So I smiled politely and said no. Then he wouldn’t let me enjoy the view, and what followed was the most oh-my-God-is-this-even-allowed sort of conversation that I have had all my life. Seriously- where else can people get away with asking you how much money you make an hour, (and then doing some mental arithmetic, and going- OH! SO MUCH IN A YEAR?!) So I played along. When he disembarked, he said, ‘Bye Veronica, please say hi to Shaid Kapoor when you meet him for your Yoga classes!” There was this one other medical student, who was regaling me with operation theatre stories, and talking about cancer cells and paper presentations and saving lives..I started feeling very very tiny after that. And oh, one other time, there was this nice gentleman who was the marketing head of an auto-parts manufacturing firm, who gave me a lot of free gyan and who I happily shocked with my opinion about corporate ethics and the like, we ended up having a good laugh over it. Oh, and the last time I flew from Delhi to Chennai, my seat was right next to this really cute guy, with who I was exchanging ‘the smile’, and down swooped the parental protection cops. The hilarity of the situation was my mother fussing around and successfully squeezing in between dream-boy and me, and me sitting aisle-side, stifling giggles.

It is such a shame to fall asleep in transit when there is so much to look around at. Looking outside the window is one thing, but when I tire of that I start people-watching. I try to see who are first time fliers (very self conscious, everything interests them, they read the briefing booklet from end to end and don’t miss a word that the airhostess says during the briefing talk) and how very snotty the air hostesses can get (strained, plastic smiles, eye-rolling, repeatedly ignoring requests- and things only get worse when there is a steward on board. Then all the passengers start doing the eye rolling). I see so much love, in the air, in the air. Intentional pun. I remember this very young couple with baby that would have been just about a few months old. The mother kept feeding her, and after a while the baby got bored, I guess, so she started bawling her lungs out and the mom was simply too tired to calm her down. The father gave the mother this smile, picked the baby, and walked the length of the aisle- to and fro, to and fro till the baby fell asleep in his arms. 

But my most memorable experience in a flight? That would be when this old aunty came up and struck a conversation with me at the Chennai airport’s loo. She wanted to know if I was flying to Pune, I said yes. We were trying to understand each other with the little English that she knew and the scanty Marathi that I knew. But the message being conveyed, she stuck by my side and simply wouldn’t let go. We made no conversation. We would simply exchange smiles. I was going to meet a very special friend after many months, and my best friend who had moved to Pune a while back- I was exuberant and bouncy. This lady’s resigned quietness once even made me feel guilty that I was this happy. Still, I was brought up to be nice, so I carried her hand luggage, and she had missed a tag, so I got one for her, helped her up the stairs, navigated though the mindless crowd milling about the aisle, jostling for luggage space, and finally found her seat and sat her there. I was ashamed to feel relieved and was going to seat myself- a few rows away, when she tapped my elbow. When I turned around, this frail lady, who I was unwillingly helping, hugged me tight- there, for all to see, and she kissed my forehead and it felt like somebody had poured warm honey all over me. The goosebumps wouldn’t go.

Every journey comes with a free lesson about something new. Makes you a little wiser, or a little more humble, or teaches you a new flirty trick, or a new way to do up your hair or your scarf, or- even, what not  to do when there might be people looking at you. Every journey is an experience. And though I might have been too young to miss the one that came with the first flight- I'm grateful to have had many, many more, to make up for it!

PS- This post is an entry for an Air Asia contest which asked for entries about one's First Flight Experience. 

19 comments:

ReneGadE said...

chocolates? I dint know they had chocolates...

Good read!

Rock on...

ganeshputtu said...

wow...what a born traveler...loved the snarky way you commented on the next seat passengers (note to self: remember never to sit beside gitanjali anywhere) and i totally sympathize with your "romantic momnet" being ruined by fussy parents...great one gitanjali..loved this

No biggie said...

Ive travelled to so many places, made so many journeys from your stories.. thank you!

gitanjali said...

@ReneGadE- yes sir they did..long back. Those were the good times :P The sugar candy sort of things..colourful ones :D
Thank you! I loved your blog- keep up the good work! Cheers :)

gitanjali said...

@ the doc- hehe thank you :D but never sit beside me? no no no :D Im not so bad, really :D

gitanjali said...

@ No biggie- wow! thank you so much!! That meant a lot, should say! :) will post more for you :D

Sameer Khanna said...

Travelling entails its share of adventures with it. Glad you had many :)
Recommended read :)

saran said...

Good one!

Sithan said...

Nice one geeths.. made me think about my flight journeys.. the first international flight being with our philosopher aswin.. another time, I was seated next to a doctor, had a good looking daughter next to her too.. she was very friendly, but after I said I work for BMW she said she had a BMW which broke down a month before.. and started complaining about the poor customer service she had.. I was like, ayyo naan illingovvvv..

gitanjali said...

Sameer n Saran- hee, thanks guys :D

gitanjali said...

@Sithan aka sid- hey, you :) n 'our philosopher aswin' :D big hi to him too! lol, BMW backfired huh? :D happens, happens ;) all in the game :D

Ni... said...

Good one babes!!! Keep writing!!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely collection of experiences poured into one post! I could connect to it so much that I was smiling all the way through.. :)

I remember this time when I had a window seat - but there was a man already sitting at my seat. I told him politely he was on the wrong seat but he was ready to fight it out (not literally!)..

The funny thing is, I would have given it up if he'd been polite to me - and requested I seat on his seat.

Great read. I feel like re-posting it on my wall. May I? :)

Jayakrishna said...

"hugged me tight- there, for all to see, and she kissed my forehead and it felt like somebody had poured warm honey all over me"..................really i can feel the truth behind these words..gr8

gitanjali said...

@Nish- Thanks babe :)
@ Anon- hey hello :) haha, we are all children inside I guess .. but THAT is still no excuse :)Sure, you could post it (with credit) but you should tell me your name first! :P

gitanjali said...

@Jayakrishna- many thanks! :)

jaish_vats said...

Was a very engaging and fun-filled read...Good One...And yes, I do people-watching too...And Yoga classes with Shahid Kapoor? :)

gitanjali said...

@Jaish- hello :) people watching- its fun isn't it ;) and when i feel evil enough, i (shameless again) eavesdrop too =o ;) lol, what i dream of, i make up :P should have said suriya instead of shaid, probably. pensive*

mahesh said...

Hi Gitanjali,

Great post :)

Just a quick confirmation are you joining us for the Landmark Quiz?

I have sent you an email as well.

Please do reply.

Thanks,
Mahesh