Substantial airline travel is a work hazard that has plagued my existence for the last ten months. Airplanes have become a third-home of sorts, after my 600 sq foot 1BHK bachelor sty and the Hard Rock Café. (HRC? Why, you ask? ‘Cos there are very few things I’m balefully finicky about. My butter chicken – tender, high on cholesterol, high on guilt; my kaamwaali bais – unrelentingly mute, perennially inodorous, categorically incurious – NOT “itna paisa main itna-ich milenga”; and lastly my Friday night Long Island Ice Teas – not too strong, not too light, just right! Goldicocks is my well-grounded second-middle name. The first being danger of course.)
You know you’re getting more than a lion’s share of airborne suspension when - you exhibit clear signs of Pavlovian conditioning by sticking your arm out vertically and groping for a button every time you feel hungry; you involuntarily dig out your mobile and feel your back pocket for a boarding pass whenever you pass through a doorway; you’re disappointed that your WC ‘twirls rapidly’ versus ‘suck swooshingly’; you expect your boss’ secretary to dance out the minutes of the meeting in synchrony with members of her secretary sisterhood placed at equidistant spots along the aisle that leads up to your workstation; you remember duty-free locations by their geo-coordinates (Bangkok Duty Free - 13° 55' 0" Latitude, 100° 37' 0" Longitude; Singapore Duty Free - 1° 21' 38" Latitude, 103° 54' 33" Longitude; Jakarta Duty Free - -6° 10' 27" Latitude, 106° 49' 45" Longitude) but lose your way while coming home from the airport.
Evident by now, airline travel brings out the worst in me (only second to restraining myself from gagging suburbanite yuppies selectively screeching only the chorus of ‘Roke’ anthems in a voice that is clearly the bastard produce of my hangover headache in coitus with a banshee. “The summer of 69 might have been the best days of your life, but I couldn’t care less that Jimmy quit, Jodi got married and left you a miserable sexually confused virgin.”). However, the said pale in comparison to the effect a few fellow airline travelers have had on my sanity.
Munna Mobile: “Please turn your mobile phones and other electronic devices off” should not be interpreted as “Please engross your pathetic self in jargon laced corporate phone-talk in a last-ditch attempt to impress the 55 year old tone-deaf vestal spinster, seated at the tail end of the craft. We are hired exclusively to put up with the façade that conceals a lonesome man whose wife has taken to chronic lesbianism, son has spent the equivalent of Sierra Leone’s GDP to take up Post-modern Hindi at Yale and daughter has taken leave of her sex. But look on the bright side; you do have your Blackberry with a 6 month won’t-fuck-you-when-you’re-down-and-out warranty! Should I perhaps, in the meantime, warm your seat for you?”
Jesus said to him, “There are fat things which may not fly among all the beasts that are on the earth”
- LEVITICUS 11:2
Protuberesh Motwani: There is a reasoned non-Darwinian rationale behind the Penguin’s inability to fly – the Bible. The Word of God forbids a beast with a well-rounded blubbery tush from flying. “Fatty, do you really want to risk antagonizing the Lord?” If your navel has the gravitational pull potent enough to send a mayfly into orbit around your paunch, completing but a single revolution in its entire lifetime, DRIVE! You are forewarned that your derrière trespassing on my seat will elicit counter-attack strategies like acupuncturesque butt-poking and puerile taunts like “Fatty! Fatty! Boombalatty!”
As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes and stewardesses."
- Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Joshua Speed, 1855
P.S. How about tonight? Please, my lil Speedo-dido. I’ll make it quick Speedy.
Wtf! Men? Stewardesses? Bitchin mate! Oh… and btw free the Niggers.
- (unconfirmed anon. paraphrase) Speed to Lincoln, 1855
P.S. Oh Abe, my babe! Only if you come dressed as a stewardess?
Chindi Rani (fraternal twin of Chanda Rani, a household name among pimps): Over a hundred and fifty years since, but we still betray the promise of our forefathers (Well, technically not OUR forefathers. More like, forefathers of the Americans and a few Anglo-Indians). We’ve miserably failed at liberating Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the international skies from the shackles of slavery. One moment you’re using a credit card you stole from a doodhwalla (not to be confused with the Dudewallas of Zoroastrian pedigree who dispense their time and modest intellect inbreeding and formulating hideous caveats against outbreeding lest their dhansak-fed, in-bred Cusrow Baug daughters elope with the butter chicken-fed, ill-bred Hiranandani author) to book a ticket with a base fare lower than Jayalalitha’s sex appeal on a scale of one to a million. The next moment you’re stepping down from a cycle-rickshaw, reasoning with the ground staff that your potli and potlam are perfectly permissible hand baggage and children smaller than either potlam or potli should, in all fairness, be issued only half-tickets. However, as you set your bata appareled foot in the craft, imperial history is rewritten in haste, royal genealogy trees stage an impromptu collapse and you’re transmuted into a regal, familial focal point sprouting branches to intercept the King of Jordan - Hussein, the Queen of England – Elizabeth and the Prince of Gay Pride – Prince.
You demand that the captain prostrates himself along the aisle in an expression of consecrated servitude, the cabin crew break into a well-machinated lawani jig to the sedate in-flight remix of Dil Main Baji Guitar and your fellow passengers kneel before your bainess in inviolable obeisance. Your fiddling potli-baba and potlam-baby are sanctioned uninterrupted what-does-thiiiiiis-button-do cockpit-time while the plane taxies down the runway. The plane takes off at the snap of your fingers. You are Rani! Chindi Rani! The Queen of Cheap Times.
Mrs. Chatrina Pa-Tale: Post a frenetic Friday in the rustic underbelly of the bovine plagued landscape of India (underbelly = anywhere that is not Bombay), the sole scheme of my existence is to get back to Bombay before the Cinderfella within me turns into a grouchy, irritable, ill-tempered pumpkin. While striving to consummate the intended undertaking, I pamper myself with a game of hide and seek – hide from anything human and seek a few prized in-flight winks. However, I forget that the only genetic trait (rabid, unrestrained, loud, violent, unrelenting and intolerantly savage support for the Indian cricket team aside) ingrained in every Indian stem cell is that of the instant conversationalist.
Now, with the advent of low-cost airlines, your standard off-the-shelf long-haul share-your-sob-story-in-twenty-hours railway berthmate has taken shape beside you in seat 3-D with the herculean task of recounting the abridged version of My Whole Life (pun un-unintended) in two odd hours -
Chapter 1: When I was a baby
Chapter 2: Pubehurty
Chapter 3: Then I was his baby
Chapter 3.5: Married cradle-snatching bastard!
Chapter 4: God, no more PMS!
Chapter 5: My Boss’ Dick
Chapter 6: My Boss is a Dick
Chapter 7: My Life’s whole now
Chapter 8: My Life’s a Hole now
Chapter 9: God, no more PMS?
Chapter 10: My Vagina’s Monologue
After many a stillborn attempt at repelling overly chatty armrest sharers - by feigning death/ epilepsy/ orgasm(s)/ sterility, mumbling verses from the Koran, flittering my tongue in a viciously lustful fashion, pretending to be a chauvinist/ feminist/ existentialist/ nihilist/ misogynist/ misandrist/ sadist/ masochist/ sadomasochist – I decided to enroll myself in the uber-exclusive F.L.I.G.H.T. Club (Fuck! Lady, I Give a Hog’s Testicle! Club). Prerogatives of the F.L.I.G.H.T. Club include uninterrupted sleep, unopposed abusing and access to the ‘Repulse button’. When annoyed, a push of this cleverly concealed special access under-seat button deploys a screen that drops down before the assaulter. The screen reads –
“The extremely miffed individual seated alongside you, besides being a blood relative of Bappi-da (paternal), Altaf Raja (maternal), George W. Bush (cerebral) and Batman (conceivable), is an esteemed member of the Elite (official usage obviously pending Mayawati’s approval) F.L.I.G.H.T. Club. The rules for treating members of the club a.k.a. the FLIGHTERS are as follows –
The 1st Rule of FLIGHT CLUB is: You do not talk to a member of FLIGHT CLUB.
The 2nd Rule of FLIGHT CLUB is: You DO NOT talk to a member of FLIGHT CLUB.
The 3rd Rule of FLIGHT CLUB: Someone yells stop, goes limp or taps out, you SHUT UP!
4th Rule: Only two warnings to a flight before you’re thrown off board.
5th Rule: One FLIGHTER at a time.
6th Rule: No gossip, no small talk.
7th Rule: Flights will go on as long as they have to, but if you’re seeing this message you SHUT UP!
And the 8th and final Rule: If this is your first time with a FLIGHTER, you HAVE to SHUT THE FUCK UP!
Violation of any of the above regulations will result in forced airborne deplaning faster than you can say “Look Ma! No wings.”