Saturday, August 7, 2010

London to Mumbai

I had occasion to return to the UK for a week at the end of June this year. The events of the journey back to Thailand have given me enough material for a few posts so lets start with London to Mumbai.
                       My good friend Mark was kind enough to drive me up to Heathrow from Ramsgate in Kent. We said our farewells outside Terminal 4 just after 7am on a bright but fresh sunday morning. I made my way inside the building and headed for the Jetairways check-in. From some distance away i recognized the 70+ members of a Taiwanese school gymnastic team decked out,as they were, in their track suited red and white livery. By pure coincidence they had been on my inbound flight a week before. The leader of their party had just handed in two tall stacks of passports and wiped out the services of 3 of the 4 check-in desks in use. I took my place in the zig-zag of waiting passengers and waited patiently.
                       Just then i glanced over my shoulder and saw a portly Indian gentleman approaching with a dozen or so members of his family and a large wagon train of baggage. He, apparently, was not prepared to wait like everyone else and,with his family in tow, marched straight to the front and barged in at the last available desk. His baggage train completely log jammed the area leaving the staff with just one alternative. Namely,to check him and his family in so that they could get things moving again. It was one of the most bare faced, liberty taking cases of shoving in i had ever seen. There was mild uproar from the other outflanked passengers but i found it quite amusing. I would even go as far as to say that i harboured a quiet admiration for the fellow.
                              Some 2 hours hence i boarded the aircraft to discover that i was actually seated next to him and his wife. I nodded curtly to them as i stowed my shoulder bag and dropped into the aisle seat. The first of the 2 in-flight meals was served shortly after take off. A very tasty vegetable curry that i washed down with cold mineral water and then tried to make myself as comfortable as possible for the next 9 hours. Sleep was out of the question as it always is for me on flights.
                             I decided to forgo the second meal for no other reason than i just wasn't hungry. The Indian gentleman in the window seat devoured his meal with relish. His wife, next to me, just moved her food around with a plastic spoon but consumed very little.   Then it happened!
                           I was caught completely off guard, as anyone would be. In one swift movement he leaned across, flipped my folding table down, slid his wifes tray of leftovers onto it and slid his own tray onto his wifes table. He then stowed his own table away and nestled back in his seat.  I think the modern term is "gobsmacked". This mans audacity knew no bounds. My gaze passed between him and the pile of debris in front of me several times before he registered my concern. "It's of no matter, the attendant will be along momentarily", he said in a lilting up and down the scale tone. All the while doing that side to side head wobble that accompanies so much conversation on the Indian sub-continent. I wanted to think of something smart or clever to say but the best i could conjour up was to inform him that he had 3 seconds to fold his table down and take his tray back or i would be dropping it straight into his lap. He took back the tray but still avoided using his own table by balancing both trays in front of his long suffering wife. Unfortunately for her the attendant did not happen along "momentarily" and she was stuck holding the 2 tiers of rubbish while her husband snored gently in the unencumbered window seat.
                         We touched down in Mumbai nearly 30 minutes late on a runway lashed by monsoon rains. I decided that, as i had a few hours to kill in transit, i was in no rush . My friend in the window seat, however, was much more eager to disembark. I waited until everyone behind us had passed along the fuselage before i rose to retrieve my small bag from overhead. The Indian gentleman, for once in his life, had to wait his turn and there was nothing he could do about it.
                       I was a little annoyed at myself for behaving in such a childish and petty manor as i skipped across the puddles to the already overcrowded bus. But i already had other things on my mind. I was preparing myself mentally for the chaos of the upcoming security check.


  1. Ain't travellin' fun....!?
    I'm enjoying your account of your journey. It's many years since I last travelled by air and you're making me feel pleased that's the case.

    All the best, Boonsong

  2. Ah, the joys of long distance air travel. Still, it sounds like you kept your equanimity, which is always easier to do when one is returning to Paradise. I look forward to reading about the Mumbai to Bangkok leg!

  3. Ha ha great yarn Tom. I have the pleasure of flying with jet in a couple of weeks, so hope I don't meet the same guy.... it's good to prepare for such characters by reading this post ;) Cheers.

  4. Tom, you should be forgiven for your last actions...perhaps it's just what this gentleman needed. For some, the concept of queuing and social considerations are very foreign...and seem to surface often while travelling.

  5. Hi guys. Thanks for checking in.
    I don't know why but i just seem to be a magnet for situations like this. I don't really mind too much as it makes life and my travels interesting. The gentleman in question has probably told all his friends about the rude Englishman he met on his flight home. It just makes the world go round.