Drama at the departure gates

Airports are buzzing with stories. Scripts can be written and rewritten in minutes.

The gates at T3 terminal in Delhi are so far from the security check that I should have been huffing and puffing by the time I reached gate 55. But today the buggy guy thinks I am a senior citizen and gives me a ride in his cart without grumbling.

I have arrived a few hours ahead of time. And the staff from a fiery airline have just completed boarding their passengers to Goa. They are trying to call some errant ones who have not reported to the gate yet despite checking in. Their flight is scheduled to leave at noon.

First a young girl in her early twenties comes running at 11.43 a.m. saying “Sorry Sir, sorry Sir.” The strategy works. The staff member reprimands her for not picking up the phone. “Where are the other three?” he asks. Three more passengers rush in. By then, his colleague has efficiently called the flight and informed them about these four passengers. He tells them that two of them have large suitcases. Just as they are being allowed to board, a young guy in the group bristles. “We are not late. The flight time is 12.35 pm.” You can see the mood of the airline staff change perceptibly. “The flight will leave at 12!” he is told. “But my dog had an emergency. I had to attend to that before reaching the airport. Your terminals changed this morning,” he argues. What a silly man! The bright young lady runs back to intervene with her “Sorry Sir” routine and saves the day for them.

It is 11.55 a.m. I hear the staffers talk. “Now we will have to deal with one more mohtarma who checked in at 11 a.m. and has still not reached the gate.” As they talk, a stylish young lady in her early thirties in a trendy red jacket walks in with a suitcase and two expensive bags. I look at my watch. It is 11.56 a.m.

She is told she cannot board the flight. Immediately a shrill voice emerges from the delicate lady which can be heard two gates away. “Don’t do this to me, please! It is a matter of life and death! It is an emergency! I have to be in Goa.” She beseeches them in all possible ways. “I will fall at your feet! Let me board that aircraft! I too belong to the hospitality industry. I know you can get those gates opened. See, I have had to run to reach here!” The staffer offers her a bottle of water and asks her why she hadn’t come on time. He politely tells her again that she cannot board the flight.

The lady now turns shriller. “You can call the Goa hospital. God forbid if I don’t see my mother in her final hours.” I suddenly find myself melting and feel bad for her. “What if it were your mother and not mine?” she asks. Nothing seems to work. Her tone changes. “I work for the Hilton. For their world wide services. I’m sure you can get me on the flight in this emergency. We belong to the same industry.” The staff refuse and offer to help her find another flight to Goa today.

I am sitting at the other end of the gate. She turns away from the staff and speaks to a lady on the phone. I can hear her clearly. There is no sign of distress that she was demonstrating a moment ago. You could have played intriguing music in the background. She informs the person on the phone that she will be coming later as she has missed her flight. Another airline staff member prepares to accompany her to the gates to book an alternative flight.

She swivels around. Glares at the staffer and asks his name. He tells her. Her mannerism changes completely. It is like watching a new script altogether. In a cold voice she tells the staffer loudly, “Mayank, God forbid, if something happens to my mother I will make sure you will be sorry!” He quietly apologizes. “Don’t say sorry, I will make sure of that, if something happens.” And she walks away angrily. She had to have the last word.

There is stunned silence for a few moments after she leaves. Then a passenger comes over to speak to the staffers, empathizing with their job. “Don’t you worry, we see these kinds every day,” they reassure him. “She had an hour to reach the gates. She must have been relaxing in the lounge or shopping.” And then they say, “Her tickets were booked two months ago. There was no emergency.”

But what a performance that was! In the 12 minutes when the scene played out, there was not a murmur of conversation. All eyes were riveted on her. Ekta Kapoor should consider sending her scouts to airline gates to get dramatic performers.

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