As I reached the departure gate, my eyes fell on the display board. Five out of the seven flights scheduled for that evening were either cancelled or delayed. Jet Airways, of course, had cancelled its flights. But the Indigo to Delhi was also cancelled. The only ones on time were Indigo’s flights to Mumbai and Hyderabad. I murmured a sigh of relief. I was travelling to Mumbai that evening.
They started boarding passengers on time. It was 8 p.m. The flight was scheduled to leave at 8.40 p.m. I sat down on my aisle seat and waited for the other two passsengers in my row to arrive. As the airhostess announced that boarding was complete, a warm and friendly woman came to occupy the middle seat. Too friendly. A moment after she sat, she asked me: “What’s that thing on your hands?” “I have a skin ailment,” I murmured pretending to read the book on Ikigai I had just bought. She stood up and shoved me aside. She got her bag out of the overhead bin, shuffled inside and pulled out her phone. Once she occupied her seat again, she spoke to me.”I’m giving you some unwanted advice. Try this medicine. A doctor from Vashi prescribed it for me.” She scrolled through Whatsapp and showed me a picture of an ointment. I looked at it and thanked her for the information.
Just then the speakers crackled again. It was the pilot. He said there was a technical snag and the engineers were looking at it. He said he wouldn’t be able to give us a time frame of when the flight would depart until the engineers did their job. I dozed off while reading the book.
When I awoke it was 9.15 p.m. and the flight was still in Nagpur airport. I realized I was freezing. I noticed that the lady sitting next to me had opened the AC vent above me and directed it toward my being. While she had closed the vent above her seat. This when I was running a fever.
I rubbed my eyes to see five ground staff dressed in neon jackets asking questions loudly. Passengers were being asked to identify their bags in the overhead bins. What was the confusion now? Apparently some passenger had “self-offloaded”. And technical rules demanded that all bags had to be rechecked to see if that passenger had left anything behind. Standing next to me, one man hollered: “Please identify whose bag this is!” He said that thrice before I pointed out that it had a “crew” tag attached to it. It was the pilot’s bag, the air hostess said. Some passengers were having a good time at the expense of the staff members: “Why didn’t you ask the pilot to come and identify his bag?”.
The pilot, a smart Sardar with envious twirls in his moustache, was taking a walk outside. There were no signs of the fault being rectified. There was an announcement that when another Indigo flight would land at 10.30 p.m. we would all be transferred to that aircraft, and then we would leave. Now we had several passengers walking up to the front. One smart alec went to ask the crew if they would put him up in a hotel, so that he could take the flight next morning. He was refused.
In 10 minutes, the airhostesses and ground staff started handing out snack boxes to all the passengers. The white boxes had an apology printed on them. But some people could not be satisfied. “But this is a kiddie snack box!” a man two rows away complained. The air hostess explained that this was the best they could do in this short notice. “But this is your problem, not mine,” the man screamed like a spoilt brat, “I want my dinner!” She ignored him and walked ahead.
There was pretty to be amused by. Human behaviour can be very interesting. The husband of the woman who was sitting next to me got ingenious. He called out to an air hostess who was passing by and said,”Get me a chilled Coke.” The air hostess kept her calm and went to the next passenger distributing the snack boxes. “Kya kahaa aapne?” asked his wife angrily. ” Do you know your blood sugar levels? And you want to drink a Coke!” she hissed. The next time the same air hostess passed by, the man told her, “I’m making your task easy. Forget the Coke. Get me a chilled bottle of water.” She returned a few moments later with a tray full of glasses of water. “We don’t have chillers on board Sir. This is water at room temperature.” You should have seen his face!
Everyone was lining up to use the toilets and there was a crowd in the aisles. The ground staff quickly cleared all the trash and then the airhostesses started asking passengers to stop using the lavatories, get back to their seats and fasten their seat belts. There was good news. The engineers had rectified the technical fault. The pilot made his announcement. He gave us some aviation spiel about how the ‘elevator’, a part of the plane which allows it to gain altitude was giving problems and how everything was now alright. I tried hard to listen to his explanation, but it went over my head. It was 10.10 p.m. The flight, he said, was now air worthy. But we will have to wait for five more minutes. What now?
“We are waiting for a sandwich.” he announced. “The old lady seated in Alpha One needs her dinner. She isn’t doing too well. Once the sandwich arrives, we will take off!” Wasn’t that super sweet? We all grinned and spontaneously gave him a loud ovation when he said that.
As we landed in Mumbai after midnight, I made it a point to thank Capt Arshdeep with his magnificent twirled moustache for keeping his calm when the passengers could have turned irate.