>> We are at the security check at Mumbai International Airport to catch a flight to Montreal via Frankfurt. It is 1 am. Outside there has been chaos and cacophony as departing passengers, sundry bystanders, airport personnel and all the flotsam and jetsam that comprises Indian travel — jostles for elbow room on the narrow strip of pavement that makes for the departure gate. Inside is only relatively better. The airport looks badly in need of an overhaul, but the queues are a bit more orderly and the staff divested of its usual agro. And then suddenly as we wait our turn at the handbag X-ray an unexpected ray of light: the grim officer manning the desk breaks out into a huge smile, leaps to his feet and bounds up to shake the hand of the guy ahead of us. “Sir!” he exclaims displaying a lot of teeth as a crowd gathers around. “Sir, which is your next film? Is it with Salman bhai?” We glance at the person these words are addressed to. Besides looking like a swarthy fresh faced 20 something, he appears unfamiliar and embarrassed “No it’s with... mumble mumble,” he replies. Who was that, we ask the officer whose smile vanishes the moment the gent passes through the gate. “No clue,” he replies. “Some actor-shactor’. Ah Bollywood. How do we love thee! Let us count the ways.
Business class morgue
>> In contrast to the chaos of the airport and its entrance, the Lufthansa’s Business lounge is morgue-like in its silence. Rows and rows of bleary eyed passengers staring at a bank of TV sets on mute, or at computer screens or cell phones.
The refreshment counter holds no joy either: Sula’s Dindori, chicken sandwiches, spirits and tepid espresso are on offer. We rifle through the magazine racks, most display German titles. Perhaps, they ought to have switched the configuration: German wines and Indian periodicals would make a better combination, we think.
Kissa Kursi Ka
>> What is it about our luck that nine times out of 10 we find ourselves in a dud seat? This one has a window, all right, and one that’s supposed to recline. And our fellow passenger appears pleasant enough (that is what we see of him besides eye mask and blanket) but the buttons are stuck! At first, gently and discreetly and then with more frantic urgency we attempt to program the seat for sleep mode. Nada.
Various air hostesses appear, wring their hands and offer assistance. Finally, the settings are reprogrammed. And some manner of recline occurs. But only a camel could sleep on this. “It’s not really very comfortable to sleep on,” one hapless hostess confides in a moment of rare candour. “I just prefer the seating mode personally.” Come back Jet Airways! All is forgiven!
Travel diary unlimited
>> We write this at Frankfurt airport on a five-hour stop over. The same silence reverberates in Lufthansa’s lounge here too. But because of clever design (imaginative seating, natural light mixed with thoughtful interiors) the effect is not as stupefying as the Mumbai version.
Five hours away from IPL scams, political grandstanding and sectarian violence. No gesticulating news anchors, coverage of Bollywood’s Cannes outing or pious pontificating from pulpits of power. Onwards and upwards gentle reader. For the next two weeks: Malavika’s Montréal, New York and San Francisco. Uncovering the highs and lows and all that occurs in between. Watch this space!
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