If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

A memorable journey (with Deepika)

[I am sure that in school, you wrote an essay on this topic. I did, a number of times. Here is the last piece I will ever write with this heading.]

One of my most memorable journeys has happened just today. No, I didn’t go to see the sun rising on the Kanchenjunga, nor did I see any canyon, nor the Taj. I didn’t even drive through a fascinating countryside in the fading light of a dipping sun. I just took a flight from Kolkata and came to our second home in Bengaluru.

Let me begin at the beginning. If you are a frequent flier through the Kolkata airport, you would know that most of their trolleys are physically challenged. So the first stroke of good luck was that I discovered one that had all the four wheels.

As I was approaching the tail of a longish queue at the Jet Airways counter, a young girl who was womanning the farthest counter – which no one seemed to have noticed – came out from behind her desk and asked me and a few others to move to her counter. She needn’t have. I felt she was not just doing a job, she was actually “serving” people. If all the employees in the service sectors believed that they were in the business of serving, life would be so much better! It is a shame that I didn’t read her name tag.

There was no queue at the security check, and unlike a few other times, I didn’t forget to collect my laptop on the other side. I bought a handful of magazines and newspapers and settled down in a cosy chair. As I was debating with myself whether I should buy a coffee for a hundred bucks, I was stunned and mesmerised. Deepika Padukone was pulling a trolley-bag and was walking right in front of me! She was in a striped top, black jeans, and a light blue jacket casually thrown around her shoulders. As I watched her carefully, trying my best to look disinterested, my blood pressure rose ... and then fell. I realised she was actually not the diva. But she could have been Deepika’s twin sister lost in a fairground. Or at least, she was an excellent carbon copy of the beauty, taken when the carbon paper was fresh and new.

On the plane, a had an aisle seat and was watching the Bengali mom seating next to me combing the hair of her twelve-year old son. As she was going through the procedure, she loudly complained that the boy hadn’t even learned to comb his hair. (How on earth would he, with such a loving mother? No wonder lots of Bong boys never grow up! They just move from under their mother’s pallu to their wife’s, and the two women fight over their possession till the cows come home.)

And then, Deepika Padukone boarded the aircraft. She walked straight towards me, smiled and said, ‘Sir, I think you are in my seat.’ I had noticed that my seat number was 16 D, but somehow, it had become 14 D in my pickled brain. I always mix up numbers and dates and names and faces – my students have some entertainment on the side as I regularly call Bipasha Vishakha and Soumen Soumitro. Anyways, for a change, I thanked my dysfunctional memory as I got to get a million-dollar smile thanks to it. The flight took off before time.

The food was good. Jet Airways goes out of its way to cater to the food preferences of their finicky customers. Besides the usual veg and non-veg fare, they had low-fat, gluten-free, and Jain meals. And the two stewards, Subhashish and Saif who served us were exceedingly polite and helpful, like their colleague at the check-in counter.

It's common knowledge that the quality of service is inversely proportional to the size of an organisation. Of all the airlines I have flown, British Airways perhaps has the snootiest air-hostesses. At home, Indigo was super when they started. But as the airline grew bigger, the smile on the faces of their employees became shorter and shorter, until it vanished completely. Anyway, coming back to today, during the two-hour flight, Saif and Subhashish continuously moved up and down the aisle, bringing a paper to someone, a coke to another and so on, with a professional but genuine smile on their faces all the time. And the pleasant experience didn’t end there.

My bag was the first to come out on the conveyor belt and as is usual at the Bangalore Airport, I got a taxi without any hassle. But the icing on the cake was the unjammed roads – I covered the distance of forty kilometres in an hour, something that you usually do in your dreams in Bengaluru.

My stars chose to shine brightly on me yesterday. I ought to have bought a lottery ticket after reaching home.

Bengaluru / Tuesday, 08 August 2016

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