Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Being an Indian brings out a lot of emotions in me - pride, sense of responsibility, hope, even frustration at times. I never thought shame would one day get included in that list.

A few days ago - we were on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Delhi (yes people we're back in India - for the 2 week long Eid holidays). The flight was full of desi-bhais (fellow Indians). Even before the flight took off - the air-hostesses were seen looking hassled as passenger upon passenger demanded blankets. O sure nothing wrong with asking for blankets - you're cold, you wanna snooze off - you need a blanket. But do you need 2??? One that you sneak into your hand luggage to take home as a souvenir. And I'm told the airline allows to take one blanket off the flight - as part of their customer service stuff. And still you want 2. Come to think of it - I'm sure the airline staff has no option but to smile beatifically as passenger after passenger walks off with the said blankets. Might as well - call it a gift.

Since its the month of Ramazan - the staff asks you if you want to eat on flight or want a take-away. If you're fasting they give you a pack of dry lunch. And yet the man in the seat next to hubby - pulled out a plastic bag and emptied the contents of the food tray into the bag - to take home. And food included some dal, Chicken and rice with kheer as a sweet dish. Why? I seriously dont know.
The man behind me asked for a take-away. When the steward returned with his take-away box, he asked for another. He explained to the steward in really broken English, that the take-away box contained inadequate amounts of food and he needed more. He continued to pester the steward till the man told him that they had a veg box left. Was he still interested? Sure he was. Then he gloated to all the men seated next to him that 'maangne se milta hai' (if you ask - you'll get it).

No, none of this caused shame. I oscillated between despair and frustration for my fellow desis.

The shame happens now.
The captain announced that we would land in 30 mins. Like bullet out of gun, the man across the aisle jumped out and got his suitcase down. When I stared, he told me - 'time bachta hai' (you save time if you have your stuff in your hands). Of course the air-hostess gave him an earful and demanded that he return the bag to the over-head bin. To which he says ' theek hai - khud rakh do' (fine keep it yourself). So I leaned across and explained to him that it was his bag - he had to do it. Suddenly all the men around me, (apart from the airhostesses, there were just 5 other women on the flight - I counted) started having a loud, free for all debate about keeping the bag back. 10 rows away a man got up and yelled 'abbe rakh de - kaahe paresaan kar raha hai' (come on - put it back dont be a nuisance). Man agreed - order was restored.

The plane touched down and was still taxing when all the seat-belts opened loudly and suddenly all the men were up on their feet, opening the over-head bins, taking out their bags. Whats the fucking hurry, I thought. You anyways have to wait - they will have the business class disembark first. The steward politely announced in English -asking people to remained seated. No body bothered. And the plane is still moving. Suddenly a loud, shrill announcement happens in Hindi - and really rudely the stewardess asks passengers to get back to their seats "fauran" she said. Immediately. 'Abhi plane ruka nahin hai - jab aap se kaha jaayega tab apni seats chodiye' (The plane hasnt stopped yet - leave your seats when we ask you to).It kind of sobers these mad idiots and they scramble back to their seats, laughing - as one laughs at a mad professor. Still a couple of men continue to get their stuff down. Stewards, physically get them down. Only then do they remain seated.

Finally plane halts - and like bullets these men are out of their seats. Fearing for our safety I remain seated. The air-bridge gets connected. 2 men stand at the window and loudly yell at everyone 'abhi bridge lag raha hai - bus bhi aa gayi hai. shayad bus se le jaayenge. abee hume kahe khada kar rakha hai - bhai jaldi utaro'. (the bridge is getting set. the bus is here too - maybe they'll take us by bus. why the hell are we still made to stand here - get us off quickly). I sink deeper and deeper into my seat. I could have well been an the Delhi- Patna Express - given the mentality of the crowd.
When the crowd thins off I manage to get up and move towards hubby's seat (last min reservations meant - we were in different rows) - he's slumped in his seat too. I see a man ahead of him - open the bin and take out our bag - and he moves towards the exit. 'Hey' hubby runs after him - 'thats my bag'. 'O is it' - he queries and turns towards a man at the rear - 'Sajju which one is yours?'. We move off.
There is no stewardess standing to wish us good-bye at the door. Thank God I thought - how would I ever meet her eye after all this.

Immigration queue - there is man actually putting people in queues, for there are enough people wanting to jump the line. And all those early birds who ran off the plane are waiting for others to fill the Immigration forms for them. O wow - I thought - they cant even fill the forms. We're waiting in the line - and the man who took off with our bag is behind us. The agent waves off one passenger and before we can move, this man has shot off. I yelled. the man manning the queues, yelled at him too, both of us gave him an earful. Smilingly he tells me - 'hume laga - aap bad nahin rahe ho - hum hi jaaye' (I thought you werent moving - so let me take your place). 'Hum yahan kya prabhu bhajan ke liye khade hain?' I screamed. Suddenly all around me people are saying 'Chodiye behenji' (let it be sister). Sister? Who me???

Anyways we finally left the airport.

Deeply ashamed of our fellow-citizens.

"Its no wonder", hubby summed it up well, "why air-hostesses look towards Indians like we're puke or worse. We probably deserve it."

Why us, God? Why us???


At 8:39 AM, Anonymous aargee said...

oh!thats terrible..even I come across such stuffs in the flight and share with HD...but we really can't help it..can we? I feel even the educated lots behave barbaric sometimes.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Lavs said...

This reminds me about our flight back to India from Singapore. That particular flight was filled with Indians who did petty jobs-the labour class. As airlines offer free liquor, they were gleefully asking for re-fills. I pity those poor air hostesses.

At 10:02 AM, Blogger DotMom said...

I feel your pain. I have no clue why we don't have a basic civic sense.

At 1:51 PM, Blogger Fuzzylogic said...

I had a similar experience on the Emirates flight from Dubai to Bangalore.Desi People ordering around air hostess rudely,talking way too loud while people were trying to sleep,trying to get off the luggage before the landing..I cringed throughout the flight thinking why people lack basic manners at times. The worst was the bathroom. A lady took her kid into the bathroom and the aftermath was disastrous,toilet paper strew on the floor,on the counter,hair everwhere,water still in the basin..that was a nightmare!Honestly I felt so ashamed.

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Kodi's Mom said...

you think it is the nature of the crowd though? hate to stereotype, but I would expect the majority of desis in saudi-india flights to be laborers, I think thát's proven also in that they can't fill out their own forms.
they may be traveling by air but they probably treat it like bus travel. or mumbai train.
I feel kinda sad for them.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Tharini said...

Your post hit a chord. Have you ever noticed a journey back home from here in the States....during teh first leg of the journey, from US to some European halt, Indian passengers just like their european/American counterparts, wait until the plane stops and then get their stuff, and move forward in a civil fashion, giving way to others before them.

The very same passengers, who travel on for the next leg, from Europe to India, exhibit the same hurried tendency to get up and get thier stuff be4 everyone else. I have ALWAYS noticed this.

This kind of behavior on the Gulf flights doesn't surprise me. Come to think of it, most of these people are labourers or lower strata workers, and they have this basic survival instinct in them that just takes over I guess.

I remember having filled plenty of forms for some of my co passengers who couldn't read/write.

At 6:16 PM, Blogger GettingThereNow said...

I share the shame. I have seen this behaviour on flights home myself. What is worse is that the stewards and stewardesses then treat ALL Indians with the same contempt and that hurts because we personally didn't behave that way to deserve that treatment.

At 12:56 AM, Blogger Itchingtowrite said...

oye, delhi patna kyon bola!!!
i suspect lavs & i wer on teh same s'pore flight!! awful naa but all these people behaving so..
btw u hav been awarded. pls accept

At 2:07 AM, Blogger Timepass said...

Once my husband was travelling to the middle east with a connecting flight to the UK. The air hostess was offering cool drinks to passengers and there was this guy sitting next to him, probably first time air traveller who instead of taking one glass took the whole tray from the airhostess!!

At 4:42 AM, Blogger artnavy said...

that is awful

it is really almost as bad on the Spore flights- and Little India in Spore is known for the filth

At 7:25 AM, Blogger Gauri said...

I can feel your pain and do share the sentiment of shame that this evokes.
Aside of the behaviour that you mentioned - a lot many times I;ve seen Indian men getting sozzled to their gills on flights and many of them loudly state that since alcohol is being served free of cost, might as well down as much as we can.
On many a flights I;ve seen our fellow citizens sneak cans of soft drinks from the trolley and slip it into their bags. Spoons, forks etc soon follow.
Cheap thrills ? I know not.
Am I ashamed. Such times, yes !!!

At 12:30 PM, Blogger How do we know said...


At 2:16 AM, Blogger Usha said...

Vey sad. I have had similar experiences and felt anger and shame. I even noticed that the Emirates flight I took from Dubai this time seemed more rundown than the once I have taken before. perhaps they feel this is enough for this sector.
I think it is time the aircrafts had a lock for the overhead bins which open only when it is time to deplane.

At 6:23 AM, Blogger Poppins said...

Oh yes Oh yes I am so with you, what is the business of taking the luggae 30 mins before as if we are in a freakin' bus? Never got it..

Shame Shame Shame

At 2:23 AM, Blogger Khushi said...


At 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The root cause is education. Unless we imbibe cleanliness and ethics and teach people personal responsibilities, these acts will continue. Probably they should teach right from KG level. Also airhostess should have announced in Hindi when clearly all morons are acting up and speaking in Hindi. Maybe they did not understand english and behaving badly. Education will only remove all evils.


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