On the uncouth Indian airline passenger, and a wedding…

Posted: March 2, 2013 in Flying
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It is time institutes that groom youngsters to become airline crew also start a course on basic etiquettes for airline passengers. We must be among the most uncouth, illiterate passengers anywhere and could do with some basic training on how to behave once inside an airliner.

On both Indigo flights, to and from Kolkata, the people who travelled by them made we wonder whether we really deserve to fly. Most passengers are mentally still in the passenger train age! I read an update on Facebook from a friend, Huned Contractor, who asked why Indian flyers take a little walk down the aisle and go to the bathroom after the ‘fasten your seat belt’ indicator has blinked on.

I guess it has a lot to do with the fact that money may bring you luxury, it doesn’t necessarily breed class. It’s the typical Indian attitude – “I am paying for the flight so I have the right to treat the services and people at my disposal like dirt.” It is like the rich, but uncouth Indian who checks into hotels, uses foul language and shouts at staff if he finds something amiss in the room. There were times, during my stint at a hotel, when I felt my sticking my middle finger into a guest’s face who misbehaved!

I was astonished to see how many people popped out of their seats to take a leak the minute stewardess announced that we were about to land. If they held on for two hours couldn’t they hold on for another 15 minutes? But, no, they had to rush off and queue up before the toilets, hopping from one foot to another, till they were told to get back to their seats. When we were kids, we were told to go to the loo before getting into bed. I guess some people just haven’t outgrown that.

Then, when the ‘switch off electronic devices ‘ sign came on, I saw people merrily chatting on their mobiles, even after the stewardess asked them to shut it off. And lastly there is a rush for the exit as soon as the aircraft taxies to a stop. Most people who travel by air either have their drivers or family pick them up or take a pre-paid taxi. Luggage is usually travelling on the conveyor belt by the time we reach the arrival lounge. So what is the tearing hurry? I guess that is the train passenger’s mentality that still hasn’t been conditioned to fly. Take the way in which passengers get into the airport bus that ferries them to the aircraft. They’ll all crowd around the entrance instead of making place for the others who are getting in – like they might get left behind!

I remember, this Sikh gentleman once on a flight from Pune to Delhi who was up and standing near the front exit even as the plane’s wheels touched the tarmac. The air hostess marched up to him and sternly ordered him back to his seat. He stood his ground, till she raised her voice. No male likes being ticked off by a woman in public, so he slid back in his seat! But the minute the aircraft stopped he jumped up and dashed off towards the rear exit!

So are the institutes listening? Please teach us how to behave on an airplane!

I was in Kolkata on a three-day break  to attend a student’s wedding. I try to avoid weddings. Even the ones which my wife drags me to, I go with great reluctance, because firstly, I get bored out of my skull and secondly the food at most Maharashtrian weddings is standard – not that I have anything against it, actually I quite relish the ‘Masala bhaat’ – but the rest of the stuff is too bland for my tastes! And then making small talk with people who I hardly know is a bit much.

However, in the present case, I went because the student threatened to lynch me if I didn’t attend. I know she didn’t mean it, but when someone asks me with such ‘sincerity’, I don’t like to act pricey. She was also among my brighter students who was genuinely interested in pursuing journalism as a career. I guess I owed her, at least, that much.

There is another student who is mad at me because I didn’t show up for her wedding in January. In her case, there were extraneous circumstances related to work which stopped me. But then who asks, why! They let itchy fingers do the talking on a social networking platform. And I am not going to reply. Also, I honestly don’t remember whether she even sent me an invite for the wedding, although I did see it put up on Facebook.

As for Kolkata, just briefly, the city has improved from the last time I was there over two decades ago, for the wedding of a friend, who said she didn’t think I cared enough to show up! I did meet some Bengalis who didn’t have too many nice things to say about Mamata Banerjee. They were shocked when I said I was sorry for her, because she was up against all the male chauvinists in the Left Front! I then added that the Leftists were still smarting at the thrashing they got at the hustings. I just love getting under people’s skin! She might not last another term but then neither have the Leftists done much for the State in all those years of systematic rigging that kept them in power.

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