Snacks on a plane

The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a daze, with time spent mostly in airports, cars, board games and killing zombies with Gatling pea shooters. Since the number of things that transpired far exceed my threshold for the composition of a sensible narrative, I have decided to dispense with trivialities such as time, space and vibrating strings. The following is a pseudo-fake account of the last couple of weeks.

Chennai to Toronto

It started with a suit, or to be precise, the lack of one. I walked up with my usual practised smile to the check-in counter, after carefully selecting the right check-in clerk. Personally the method I use involves picking the clerk who has neither just arrived at the counter nor has spent hours dealing with passengers insisting on checking in the questionably packed 45 kg cardboard box containing a brand new Sumeet mixie. The key is to pick up some one who has dealt with 3-5 customers prior to yourself. Why this elaborate process, you might ask. Maximizing probability of free upgrade to business class, I might answer.

You see, when Orville and Wilbur Wright achieved temporary airborne-ness at the turn of the century, little did they know that a few generations later, Deep Vein Thrombosis (or Economy Class Syndrome) would be the primary concern of frequent flyers. But I digress. Where were we? Yes, in the Etihad airways check-in counter at Anna International Airport. I walked up confidently, with my small check-in baggage, telling the girl at the counter that I “just” had one bag to check-in, to subtly hint that I deeply care for her daily struggle with Sumeet mixies and Lalitha Wet Grinders bound for Chicago and Toronto. I then nonchalantly handed over my 3-booklet passport and asked if a free upgrade was well.. on the cards. I added a smile that prematurely announced my immense gratitude at her yet-to-be-displayed generosity.

She fell for it. Well, she almost did. If this was the social equivalent of a bear trap, she seemed to have the keys to wriggle free. She said – “Sir, I am willing to upgrade you but we have a strict formals only dress code at Etihad.” Apparently, my Wrangler jeans and fake Lacoste t-shirt from Tirupur did not cut it as far as Etihad was concerned.

So I spent the next 18 hours as a node in a hexagonal close packing lattice structure frequently making ways for nodes that wished to visit the restroom .

But as is usually the case, I had interesting neighbours. When not watching award winning German art movies on the personal entertainment system, I was watching the heated exchange between my Modi-supporting, Tambram-pride showing, Congress-hating, Vegetarian terrorist neighbour and the foul-mouthed, Syrian flight attendant, sorry..Stewardess. No wait, was it supposed to be the other way around?

My neighbour, let’s call him (since I do not recall his name) Sikkil Ramavaidyanathan for simplicity’s sake. He had some extreme views on where this country was headed and why drastic intervention (generally involving forced exodus of muslims) was required. As the Alfredo pasta and White wine settled in, I wasn’t actually listening to him, but mostly imagining what he said. I imagined that he was Neobram, part of a futuristic cult movement that sought to take Tambrams who had gone soft, back to their superior Aryan roots. I imagined Swastika tattoos, Mass veda chanting, Meditation (and concentration) camps, Skinheads (with kudumi of couse) and self-flagellation, in the form of Poonals made from Maanja kayaru and glass pieces. Sieg Heil Ramavaidyanathan.  But as soon as the wine wore off, I chastised myself on entertaining such unfair metaphors.

But anyway, back to the moment, he was demanding vegetarian food, and the flight attendant counter-offered vegetarian animals, such as hens and cows, as food. Apparently, the management at Etihad had the habit of answering the question – “Are you vegetarian?” with “Yes, We only eat vegetarians, as that conforms to the definition of Halal meat”, and therefore were generally unwilling to believe that people could starve themselves of animal protein and still live to pick fights with flight attendants. As offers and counter-offers flew, my neighbour eventually settled for a salad. It had cucumbers, pinapples, olives, parsley and to top it all off, a fillet of smoked cod. Vaidya muttered a curse that would have mostly been an extended beep on American daytime television.

We then started speaking about general gilma like democracy, and somehow that  led to Suu-kyi and that led to Myanmar, and eventually, the subject, for some strange reason, turned to the immoral vendors in Burma bazaar. Our man felt that the vile flith being hawked by the (obviously non-Hindu) smugglers there was spoiling our youth. He was referring to ubiquitous “Sir. Do you want Matter?” offers for videos that featured men and women generally attempting to follow the Biblical diktat to “be fruitful and multiply”. Matter-videos are the basest of evil, he declared. After all, what can be worse than arming a 17 year old with knowledge he should only learn as a crash course a few minutes before his wedding’s first-night?

I then suggested a counter-business model that could balance this wholesale destruction of our city’s youth. If matter videos spoil, wouldn’t anti-matter videos enrich? My idea was to mass produce devotional (anti-matter) DVDs and make them available for an even lower price. Surely, the rich, textured world of myth, lore and bhakthi will pwn matter of all kind. He looked at me quizzically to check if I was being sarcastic, but then I usually save my most earnest expressions for making the most ridiculous of suggestions.

Toronto

I reached Toronto, and spent a boring couple of days mostly cooped up inside my hotel room playing Plants and Zombies and once in a while, trying out various transitions (Wipe left, Blinds down, Spiral etc) for the presentation I had to make to a customer. Nothing exciting, except that I did visit Hotel Saravanaa Bhavan this time, at Mississauga (pronounced Mrs. Ogre) and for $7.50, confirmed that the sambar there tastes the same as the one in KK Nagar. There is Six Sigma, and then there is the Six Saravana (a.k.a Aaru Mugam) methodology, that ensures Sambar similarity at the molecular level. I was impressed. When I walked into the Pearson International Airport to catch my flight back, I was dressed in a suit, as I did not intend on sparing any effort to have my free upgrade. I got my upgrade, and soon enough, I was sipping on Champagne, munching on Mushroom kebab and playing around with the seat controls to see if I could get myself a full-body massage.

Chennai

The return trip was mostly uneventful. At Abu Dhabi, we were all tested for Swine Flu. I noticed a smirk on most of the Arabs’ faces, almost as if to say that their casual curse “These Dirty Pigs from the West..” had suddenly taken on a rather literal meaning. For the first time in the world, Asian countries were screening people coming from First world countries like Canada and the US. They did a pretty good job though. There was this big scanner that produced an IR image of all passengers filing through the arrival gate, and anyone with a reddish throat or chest area was held for further analysis (or something to that effect).

Chennai airport, on the other hand, used an even more powerful scanning method. The Form. We were all given one that we had to fill, and the questions on that form would have certainly shaken the strands of DNA in the H1N1 virus with the deepest of fears.

1. Have you visited countries that are infected with H1N1?
2. Do you have fever or cold now?
3. Have you had fever or cold in the last 10 days?
4. Have you interacted with people who have had fever or cold in the last 10 days?
5. Have you had symptoms of flu?
6. If yes, is it H1N1?

Question 6 essentially sealed the deal for me.

I answered no to everything except 1 and handed it to the doctor in charge, who had temporarily assigned IR-scanning responsibilities to his eyes. He eyed me for a few seconds, rubber stamped me swine-flu free, and let me go.

51 Comments

Leave a Comment

  1. Nice post. I wish I could figure out how to get upgrades. Everytime I try and put on my best smiles and try my best, but usually all my efforts end with the line “Sorry sir, no upgrades possible.”

    I haven’t tried suits though. Maybe you could write a more detailed post on the art of identifying the upgrade bakra?

  2. I did not get an upgrade. What I got was 800 euros to travel in next day’s flight. Too tempting! But amma ehdo naal paathu ticket book pannadhu naala, strict NO! 😐

  3. “Meditation (and concentration) camps, Skinheads (with kudumi of couse)” made me LOL.

    What’s unfortunate is that some local travel agents don’t ask people if they want to reserve a special veg meal on their overseas flight. Lots of people who have flown only in India think the only options for inflight meals are “Veg” or “Chicken,” and end up getting a rude surprise.

  4. I just love your Gilma and Matter. Sure, antiMatter pwns all Matter. “crash course before first night”, LOL. As usual, i bow down to thee.

  5. 🙂 – myanmar => burma bazaar, “dirty pigs from the west” – many good ones there!

    Strict formal dress for an upgrade? wtf? There goes my chance for getting an upgrade on that airline.

    Arun

  6. U are the best. Btw if they wear poonal with maanja kayaru their upper body will be ranagalam.

    Are they using form to check swine flu, holy cow.

  7. Lol, enjoyed this! Especially the maanja poonals. U think Etihad stewardesses are a grumpy bunch? You really have to travel more Indian Airlines. They make Etihad airhostesses seem like Mary Poppins.

  8. “Sikkil Ramavaidyanathan for simplicity’s sake”, how much more simple could it get anyway?

    “Mississauga (pronounced Mrs. Ogre)”, may be you should give us some pronunciation lessons. I find this really interesting and extremely easy to get. I am sure there are ppl out there wondering why the west is so fond of using so many ‘s’ in the same word. Ok, i know only one other: mississippi. I bet I got that wrong.

    Excellent read, as usual.

  9. Ah, I remember the “member of the in-flight crew” who offered me a vegetarian breakfast of cheese omlette, and with a face intended to convey fake sorriness, said “it has cheese though”.

  10. Lol! Very well written! Amused by the matter and anti-matter comparison, and that futuristic cult movement was super funny. Kalakkal!

  11. I gotta work on the upgrade technique harder – u have inspired me! I gave up after a few attempts and have started to focus on somehow getting the exit row seats. those sure all the next best thing to business class.

  12. You should have answered no to everything and said yes to H1N1. That would have called for some good fun at the airport. 😀

  13. Nice blog,but have never got an upgrade so far in my 10 years of travel.Will try etihad as per the advise given.Also all fake Lacoste are not Made in Tirupur.They are made in Chennai also.So please dont generalise.

    1. I had no idea I was generalizing. I was referring rather specifically to my shirt, which does happen to be from Tirupur, because that’s where I bought it. I am sure they are made in many other places, but I don’t quite understand where the “all fake Lacoste” part came from

  14. ROFLMAO …
    There is a good probability of you having Swine flu ( aFter reading ur twit update ) … 😉
    What next ?? Chennai Live to ‘ A Big mention in Sun News’ ( Tamilnatu valibaruku Panri Kaichal, Aiyago .. ) to ‘A small mention in NDTV’ ( Barkha – ” Before proceeding to stop the buck, lemme report that a Swine Flu case has been reported in Chennai .. )
    Just kidding, Take care, TCS needs you !! 🙂
    Our health officials are really brainy 😉

    Cheers 🙂

  15. New to your blog 🙂 good that I’ve found your blog through an online acquaintance.. Its hilarious and had lighter moments reading this post 🙂 I read your election poster post also.. Already there were so many comments so thought will leave that comment also here…
    Post was too hilarious that tears rolled down from my eyes lol!!! I am the new follower of this blog 🙂

  16. Brilliant stuff. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. ‘The form’ was exceptional. Unfortunately, I dont get the Tamil stuff. No doubt, the fun of reading your posts would have been doubled.

  17. transilation 🙂

    1. Have you visited countries that are infected with H1N1?
    பன்றிக் காய்ச்சல் இருந்த நாடுகளுக்கு சென்று வந்தீர்களா?
    2. Do you have fever or cold now?
    இப்பொழுது உங்களுக்கு காய்ச்சல் அல்லது சளி இருக்கிறதா?
    3. Have you had fever or cold in the last 10 days?
    கடந்த பத்து நாட்களில் உங்களுக்கு காய்ச்சல் அல்லது சளி இருந்ததா ?
    4. Have you interacted with people who have had fever or cold in the last 10 days?
    கடந்த பத்து நாட்களில் காய்ச்சல் அல்லது சளி இருந்தவர்களோடு பழகிநீர்களா?
    5. Have you had symptoms of flu?
    சளியின் அறிகுறி உங்களுக்கு இருக்கிறதா ?
    6. If yes, is it H1N1?
    அப்படி இருந்தால், அது பன்றிக் காய்ச்சல்தானா?

  18. So, you have status in Etihad then? If it were only being dressed in formal (aka business casuals) clothes, I’d have got any number of upgrades by now.

    I do have gold on Lufthansa, and that ensures me 6 or 7 out of 10 op-ups on MAA-FRA / FRA-MAA, rather less on FRA-USA-FRA flights.

    They dont particularly care if you’re dressed in an old tshirt and shorts, given that its a 2 AM flight and everybody is dressed the same way. Status, and then flight being overbooked in Y, lightly loaded in J / F is what counts for an upgrade.

  19. Oh .. and if I meet that kind of tambram skinhead, my favorite pastime is to first introduce myself, establish impeccable iyer credentials, and then dig into a steak. Or if on an india route where beef and pork are off the airline menu, whatever else – usually chicken or fish.

    And then drop a carefully chosen comment or two about how modi should be tried for genocide.

    The ensuing reaction you’ll get is .. entertaining, I must say.

  20. Ah that form ! 😀

    For all you know that would be a cut & paste from a form issuing you a licence to drive a car. or use the loo. Or whatever.

    Where you casually look around and mark in the negative except for ‘are you an Indian national’ !

    That you double tick. underline. And make a hole. In that space !!!

  21. Awesome… Hilarious…
    “I noticed a smirk on most of the Arabs’ faces, almost as if to say that their casual curse “These Dirty Pigs from the West..” had suddenly taken on a rather literal meaning. For the first time in the world, Asian countries were screening people coming from First world countries like Canada and the US.” – ROTFL.
    I had a similar experience in Dubai and Hyderabad recently, and I was literally laughing out loud while filling out “The Form”. To make it funnier, I filled up “The Form” for a few hyderabadis arriving from Dubai, who could neither read or write English.
    Am a new reader to your blog, but it is seriously funny….

  22. segsay post! neobram stuff was semma range. and i heard you say that joke about asian countries screening westerners for swine flu on your radio show (that i listened to in the only fifteen minutes i happened to be in india on a sunday afternoon in the last year)

    and you should have probably said:-
    six face (aka saravana)
    your version le ennamo idikkithu..

  23. 1. “So I spent the next 18 hours as a node in a hexagonal close packing lattice structure frequently making ways for nodes that wished to visit the restroom ”
    Very few BE’s remember Mst Sci, or can recollect it so precisely.
    2. Not only tambrams,many non-veg programmers from a neighbouring state, and generally other states, are Modi-lovers and Cong-haters. All spout almost the same cliches and arguments , and pooh-pooh the census .
    3. S.and W. Indian non-veggies are uncomfortable and intolerant towards vegetarianism. But some of them have had a bad experience with veggie roommates — “dont use the same vessel for meat”, disgusted expressions, comments , etc
    4. But if u are a non-fussy, normal, veggie, they say “u have become a non-veg, the chicken/fish essence was absorbed by your potato piece “

    1. Very true. Modi-love is a pan-Indian phenomenon, sort of like how a certain section of the US actually likes Bill O’Reilly. On the veg-nonveg issue, I think the intolerance towards non-veg is a uniquely Indian phenomenon, and I dont believe intolerance towards vegetarianism came first. It is probably a reaction to vegetarians’ fussiness.

  24. “…..he was demanding vegetarian food, and the flight attendant counter-offered vegetarian animals, such as hens and cows, as food “
    That’s precisely the bong philosophy of vegetarianism !
    Enjoyed 🙂

  25. > “…..he was demanding vegetarian food, and the flight attendant counter-offered
    > vegetarian animals, such as hens and cows, as food “

    As my brit friend is very fond of telling me … Vegetables are what the food eats.

  26. int…was wonderin wat dey do 4 scanning…since its been a year here. wont b surprised if dey dont let me in. heard da tracks, gud1s.

      1. Haha, thanks for teaching a lesson. I hate (h8??) writin lik dis.

        Nice blog.

        After all, what can be worse than arming a 17 year old with knowledge he should only learn as a crash course a few minutes before his wedding’s first-night, ten years later?

  27. 🙂
    you are way out of my league or else would have approached you to become the chief adviser on the board of a SPEG (single person’s empowerment group) that I am hoping to start in my next birth since it is becoming too difficult to hold on in this one and help us combat terrorism towards singles, esply in Modi mentality ridden spaces

    thanks for always making us smile no bloody matter what
    Nabina

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