Return to mataland: things learnt

1. Before Kingfisher ruined itself, it ruined me.

Among the three airlines operating internationally in India: Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher, the last was the best. From leg space, in flight entertainment, food, to service, it stood apart from the other two. I erroneously blamed Air India and branded it the only indecently atrocious flight, but Jet was as bad in terms of food and even hospitality. Dinner I won’t disparage much, as I have eaten worse… But breakfast was a vegetarian over sweetened muffin. There was no mention of tea/coffee. Let’s not even go to the leg and/or general space, Air India was somehow miraculously better. I have been elbowed from two sides for 8 hours and I shall not withdraw my claws. Besides, I got a nosebleed from dehydration and had to go demand some water at what seemed like the air hostess party central, made me conclude that the attendant bell light might as well be your good old tuni bulb. Jet also has acquired some, err, plus sized air hostesses. (Or is that where all the food disappears to?) So, Air India has serious competition.

Mr Mallya, please get your act together and bring back the good times!

2. Wear pajamas while traveling, especially while traveling international. 

I was stripped off most of my attire in Heathrow and padded down and downright massaged. New areas of massage now are : mammary glands -over, under, around, buttocks (very professional) and waistband of underwear (very disconcerting). I am sure they wore the gloves for their own health, safety and hygiene issues, but, what about mine? The security personnel explained as she ran her hands lovingly around first the waistband of my jeans then lower, around my rupa ka underbheyar, that I could be hiding something sharp there. Really? Something sharp in my underwear…. Wow. So I have decided on pajamas sans unmentionables  with flip flops as ideal travel attire.

3. Mumbai International is the worst airport to enter India… Gateway to India…tis not.

The only response to if I would choose to fly into Mumbai airport ever again evokes Kourtney Kardashian’s life mantra: I…would rather…dai. And if you have made me quote any of the Kardashians, you know exactly how dire the situation is. 

After the sweaty entry…cause a/c is obviously overrated along with toilets, working escalators, a smiling face; and never-ending wait for your luggage (which was supposed to have been booked through, but, err, is not) you have to x-ray all your stuff again at the green channel (what’s the point of the green channel if everyone is checked anyways?). Then of course since I look every bit the glamourous big money spender in my Primark Jaguar tee which doubles as my nightwear….I am immediately suspected of carrying “braended pursas” in my suitcase, so, “open please, Medam”.

I obediently open the offending piece of luggage and am most appalled to parade my much used, denim stained bags, but of course they just pick them out, shake them at my face and harrass me for receipts. I wish Janpath did receipts, so I could prove how cheap the stuff actually is, but sadly…not there yet. So, the chandan tika-od custom dude decides to take matters into his own, very capable hands. He starts rifling through my obviously increasingly depressing suitcase when a packet of sanitary napkins explodes in his face (this I like to call the real modern day Draupadi vastra haran sequence, a.k.a OCD ka suitcase phan-phan). At this point I am too angry to be “mujhe dharti mein samaa lo” Sita but I feel the onset of embarrassment laced with a thick layer of “Ha! Serves you right.” But I smirked almost too soon. You see, what they say about Mumbai being women friendly and respectful just might be true. Unlike a Delhi official who would give some sexist comment likening me to a tethered cow gone astray or a shy Assamese official who would have at that point disintegrated into boson’s boson particles, this dude calmly picks up the packets scattered all over the floor and his person, and puts them back into the bag! RESPECT.Then the moment is ruined when he notices all my vivid underclothes neatly stowed in the see-through zipped compartment on inside of the suitcase lid. He immediately shields his virtuous eyes from this offensive sight with a well placed (and unquestioned) Fiorelli bag, gives me up as a bad case, and asks me to leave. Ironically, I had receipts for those ;-)

4. Wear a man’s shirt for functionality

Ideally, over the pajamas and flip flops should be a man’s shirt with a ginormous breast pocket. This mitigates periodic rummaging through bags to locate passport, resident permit, boarding pass(es), mint, lip balm and the ultimate hijack tool a.k.a the tweezer.

The only solace to this whole ordeal is I am going back to Bangalore. A city that may have changed aesthetically but it is home to most of my friends and there I find instant welcome, instant love and most importantly combustible manic laughter. Tis just might be my version of the revival of the good times :D

5. Mistaken identities

After my four hour wait at Mumbai for my flight to Bangalore, the ground staff finally announced my JetConnect flight. I stood up purposefully with my humungous rucksack and a bag not wanting to be at the end of the line and having problems later fighting for luggage space the overhead compartments with a rowdy janta. Regarding the rowdy janta, I had forgotten two things, I was not flying to Kolkata or Delhi, so there in fact was no rowdy janta. And I  was flying domestic Jet where like Indigo, the flight attendants are actually courteous and offer to help put your bags up especially if one is a questionable 5’2″. This is juxtaposed to Air India, of course.

Anyway getting back to the story of my purposeful stride to attain número uno queue position (which tantamounts to zilch if you get stuffed into airport coaches and have to start the race all over again when you reach the craft), I presented my boarding pass and to my initial delight and rapidly growing horror, I was the only one from the terminal. Now, I was sure that I wasn’t late, having sat at the lounge for so many hours, and I knew I hadn’t missed any prior announcements, so it was puzzling for me to be put courteously into a coach all by myself. When I got to the aircraft at the tarmac, I was again suspiciously ushered up alone on the staircase (on closer inspection which was attached to the side of an aerobridge as well). I realized that the other passengers had been waiting somewhere else, and for once it wasn’t my fault as the international transfers were set up all stupid. Anyway, the aircraft was being cleaned so the security person asked me to wait just outside the entrance and kept smiling indulgently. Then he asked me if I was scared and if I had an attendant. At this point I began to wonder if they had been expecting a lunatic to be seated first and then the other passengers would be let in having been previously warned not to stare too much. There could be no other explanation. Could there? Just when I was proposing to launch an investigation, a little girl, about 10, sauntered down the aerobridge escorted by a Jet personnel. The cabin crew let both of us in and I happily stowed my stuff in an empty overhead compartment and settled myself in my spacious emergency exit window seat. Yay. A few moments later a friendly air hostess gave me a juice pack and asked me if I wanted a snack. “I have no money on me,” I said, “it’s all up in my bag overhead, and besides I would rather have some water.”  She smiled at me sweetly, a maternal (bordering on creepy) smile I hadn’t seen on a grown woman’s face since I was 14 at most and said “Your mummy has booked it already.” And then it hit me. (okay, so I was severely jet lagged by then and my body wanted to curl up and die do my brain took time to figure this out). I was mistaken for a little girl traveling all by herself in the big bad world. I set her right and she gave me the snack anyway and we both had a good laugh. Awww! At 27, that is just….. Bloody insane! I think I can pass off as 23 at most. Mayhaps 22 on a good, non-frowny day. Jet Airways needs to launch an eye check up day, but seriously, I had the most eventful journey this time around.

p.s.: Having copious cups of chilled water. Jet has redeemed itself in my eyes.

6.Unexpected beauty

As the aircraft pulled out of Mumbai, I looked out sleepily and in an instant I was wide awake. I was gobsmacked. It looked smaller than imagined but what a beautiful city! The bit of Mumbai that sprawls across the Arabian Sea like a magical lil island holding it’s own…almost floating, gave me a case of “I have to visit this place and have a good look-see.”  The coastline looked divine and my shutter happy fingers started itching like mad. I can’t put my finger on it, but something about the way it looked just charmed me. And so, I have made up my mind to visit it. I have a few friends here and I think I can work out something soon. This had happened to me in 1998 with London, fell in love with it on first sight from the plane, and crazily enough, that propelled me to live in it for what became 3 and a half years of romance (to be revisited for life). And now, 15 years later with Mumbai… How terribly nice to have that sense of wonder still intact :)  

Ooh, Captain says we have started our descent into Bangalore. *beaming like a psycho*

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2 thoughts on “Return to mataland: things learnt

  1. HEY..if you are flying bk via Mumbai..be my guest..fbook me your India contact no..it is indeed a very b’tiful city..that my 10 yrs of courtship with this city tells me for sure. interesting read btw.

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