In Other Projects

Rotarian Haresh Jagtiani takes a tongue-in-cheek view of a recent flight to New Delhi

I’ve come to an unoriginal conclusion that when you fly different airlines domestically you’ll experience a diversity of air cultures that’ll prod you to thumb an inane post. I flew Vistara to Delhi (business, of course) and sat next to a silent sort of Vistarian who had earphones embedded into both ears before take-off, and from his general
appearance was, presumably, listening to rustic North Indian folk songs.

Fortunately, I had a fair bit of reading to do for my Supreme Court hearing the next day, and I wasn’t going to ponder over why Vistarians are obsessed with rustic and rural songs. So, I preoccupied myself with studying my case and how I’d argue before a bench that would hopefully indulge me for at least 40 seconds before tossing the brief into oblivion.

The flight was more than half done when I needed to ease myself after a few cups of coffee. That meant getting past my ear-plugged neighbour who, by now, was in deep meditation and entering a state of bliss. So, I tapped him ever so lightly but he jumped right out of his skin. He twitched a smile and made way. But just as I reached it, a cabin crew entered the toilet to dry and sanitise it.

I thought I’d hang around that area near the cockpit and use that utility once it was sanitised but I was told that that wasn’t permissible. I decided to stand in the aisle near my seat so that when the toilet symbol turned green, I’d in six quick steps be where I most wanted to be. I tried squirming to ease my discomfort, but the contrasting sight of the peaceful ear plugged fellow flyer made my misery more pronounced. Finally, the green flashed!

I made my Usain Bolt move only to see that the Captain, who was three strides away from the pleasure pit, beat me to it. The hostess explained unapologetically, the Boss needed to go urgently. I was in no mood to reason, but a blurry notion entered my head that if safety of the aircraft was at stake, by prioritising the Captain’s urges, I could do my bit of yogic bladder control. In that attempt I shuffled back to my place on the aisle and absolutely refused to so much as glance at that ear plugged entity, who by now must’ve attained nirvana.

The Captain apparently was in no hurry to resume flying, and stayed long enough in that receptacle for me to regret the supreme sacrifice I’d made for the sake of my fellow travellers. A whole five minutes later he emerged as was revealed by the loo symbol becoming green again.

‘Light’ met its match, and faster than it could travel (186,000 miles per second) I presented myself at the portal of paradise. But in front of me was the co-pilot claiming precedence to that hallowed precinct. He entered first and shut the door fast enough to arrest my entry into it. I turned to the hostess and asked “Why should he get to go before me? He’s just an extra guy in the cockpit and is not needed to fly the plane. Get him out of there and toss him out of this aircraft if you must. I’m bursting!”

None of this washed with the cabin attendant. In total resignation to the critical situation, I crawled back to my spot and nearly assassinated my neighbour for appearing so calm while I was contemplating afterlife. The co-pilot was
in even less of a hurry than his Captain and stayed in the bladder room for what seemed to be forever. The red light shone brighter than a thousand suns and showed no indication of changing hues while I configured and contorted my lower half into as many shapes as would enable me to retain a dry pair of pants.

Six eternal minutes later the redundant pilot emerged and in a grunt I raced to the loo, brushing past another pilot who aspired to use it next. “A third cockpit crew creature, what on earth for? There’re just two steering wheels on the plane. Who needs him?” flashed through my mind. But other parts of my being claimed my undivided attention and I was finally within solitary confines, free to fulfil life’s immediate purpose.

I emerged relieved and triumphant and returned to my window seat and this time I shook my neighbour firmly with a view to bring him out of samadhi, in which he surely was. He shuddered to my complete satisfaction, and even the earpieces were dislodged. My mission accomplished, I beamed a benevolent smile at him. It was reciprocated, but with a hint of suspicion as to whether my smile was genuine, which it certainly wasn’t.

Post script: the flight was well into its descent, and the announcement proscribing the use of washrooms had been made. It’s then that the meditating Vistarian felt the need to accommodate his mortal urges and seek physical bliss. He unbuckled his seatbelt and moved toward the loo. I’m not an eye witness to what happened behind the curtain that cordons off the passenger area from the washroom and pantry, but I did, as did some others, hear an animated exchange between an agitated folk music lover and a determined cabin crew, at the end of which the former returned to my side, distinctly betraying that to attain earthly solace he’d have to literally descend to earth.

In short, he returned un-loo-ed. I suppressed a smile, albeit not too convincingly, at the fact that another Vistarian had been through similar discomfiture as mine, only worse. His earplugs were no longer an appendix to the ears; and I believe his concentration was directed at walking out of the plane without leaving behind a damp trail.
Post, post script: I volunteered a suggestion to the Vistara corporation that henceforth whilst all their aircrafts should carry a full fuel load, their pilots and other cockpit crew should be on a light payload and fly only with empty bladders. This is under serious consideration.

(The full fuel load has relevance to my return flight by Jetair, but I’ll spare my Rotarian friends that narrative for now and venture another post later, if I still have friends after they’ve read this one).

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