Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Ranting Indian

So after an extremely hectic day and four hours of sleep I woke up next morning, only to grudgingly get ready for an even more hectic day. I swore under my breath, fully capitalizing on my limited gaali vocabulary, as I bathed. Three dress changes, two re-doings of hair, numerous futile attempts to make my eyes look less red and puffy and a bite of a chocolate later I was speeding away towards the domestic airport-again.

Later that afternoon I was walking up the road reflecting the happenings of the day. Yes, it had been satisfactory. And yet I was indifferent, maybe a little sad too, owing to a day before's debacle. But it was over. End of the mad journeys . I was so happy to walk alone, in an unknown city on a deserted road. It was extremely peaceful. But all these lazy thoughts were interrupted by an auto-rickshaw that pulled by. The man offered me a ride till the gate since he too was going there. No charge. Now that is a sort of thing that makes one wary, not happy. After all Mumbai is a big, bad city and auto-wallahs are actually wolves dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood's grandmas. Not quite so. I hopped in and as promised was dropped at the gate. Yes, without charge.

I had it all planned. The three hours were neatly charted in my mind. Agatha Christie and random roaming about the shops and I'll be done. Except..

" What do you mean a delay of three hours? Back to the old malpractices, are we?"  thundered the middle-aged, pot-bellied man.Slightly balding. This man, in front of me, had the same flight number on his boarding card as I would get in a couple of minutes( that frankly felt like hours). Oh darn! My flight has been delayed, thought I. That disrupts the plan. Ugh.
Meanwhile the shouting continued. " How can a flight that takes less than an hour be delayed for three hours? You people have no respect for the passengers' time. What? I don't care whether you sent me one sms or one thousand. It's doesn't matter. Why do I care that this sort of thing never happens with your airlines, it's happening to me now. Now, shift me to another flight that leaves early. WHY should I pay for another ticket? You made the mistake, you should correct it. It's not my problem. Call your supervisor. I can't see her coming. Are you lying? You are her superior? What's all this bullshit? Oh, you bloody well be sorry. But I don't need your apologies, I need a new flight. Why should I try to understand. FINE I'll wait!  But I will report this. I will file a complaint. I won't let you go away with it so easily". On this threatening note the man finally stepped aside to reveal a much annoyed lady sitting behind the desk and an exasperated one rushing elsewhere. The lady almost stifled a scream when she looked at my flight number. Maybe she was gearing up for another outburst from yet another cantankerous passenger. Which is why she was visibly pleased when I didn't turn out to be one.

Now six hours can be tedious. Even when you do all sorts of things like-reading, watching tv, changing your clothes for the heck of it, doing your hair, redoing your hair, scrubbing your face, getting some caffeine into your system, some more reading, observing the people, hogging at KFC, checking out an expensive set of pearls at a la-di-da jewelery store, going to the handbag store next and bookstore after that, taking more than your usual time in the restroom, walking all over the place. You can do all this and still you'll find some idle time to do nothing. As the boarding time drew closer, I did few of the above mentioned things again, found a nice seat, closed my eyes and waited for the announcement. Aaah...I was going in a trance.. relaxing, peaceful....noisy . Wait..Noisy?
There was someone shouting. Near the departure gate. That voice was familiar.Oh yes! That complaining man again. "But look at the time" I said to myself. "Did I fall asleep or something? It is well past the boarding time" I panicked. It wasn't. Apparently there was some more delay, and man was beside himself with rage.
" First you delay it for three hours. Then you don't put me on another flight. Now you're telling me that there is more delay"
"Yes Sir, I quite understand, but..."
"We PAY for it. Pay for the bloody ticket. Ha ya Na?"
"Sir, please listen to.."
"Tell me Ha ya na?"
"HA YA NA? Yes or No?"
" That is true sir, but.."
"Then! Still you treat us like dogs. Telling us when to get on a flight. I will NEVER travel in this airlines. And I will tell everyone I can to do the same. You are unprofessional. Irresponsible. No respect for passengers. Inefficient. Worst treatment. I will tell everyone. You should be sued."
The guy on the receiving end was twice this man's height and ten times as fit. Someone who'd have any day beaten the rudeness out of this guy in a regular roadside brawl. But at that moment his hands were tied and he could do nothing better than to digest the diatribe with dignity.
Finally half an hour later, I fastened my seat-belt and took out my book. The plot was thickening. I was reading intently when...
"What the...oh crap!" thought I. The rude guy was seated in the adjacent row. The air-hostess came running
"Yes Sir?"
"Shouldn't the flight be taking off for us to reach Ahmedabad?"
"There is heavy air-traffic. We'll take off as soon as we get the signal"
I knew what was coming. I knew I wouldn't be able to read even a word from then on. I was right.
"WHAAAAAT? More delay? Are you kidding me? This is the limit. The limit I tell you"
The air hostess quite taken aback replied " Sir.please try to understand.."
"Try to understand what exactly? That's what you people have been telling me since the afternoon. Unprofessional jerks. That's what you people are. How much time?"
" 20-25 mins" she replied hesitatingly, unable to believe that somebody can be so rude.
The man grunted and she left. Thirty more minutes passed without us moving and as expected..
"Yes Sir?" said a new air hostess. Clearly the old one didn't want to come back
"That other girl said 25 minutes. It is 35 minutes now. Why are we not moving?"
"Sir, the air traffic..'
"Don't give me all that crap. When will we take off? Let me see the pilot"
"Sir the Captain said.."
"I don't want to listen to you (getting up) Take me to the pilot.."
At that moment the the plane moved towards the runway. Ten odd minutes later, it came to a halt.
"Yes sir?" The first air-hostess was back. This time stony-faced.
"I want to get out of this flight. It is unlikely that it will fly tonight"
"Sir we were eleventh in number. Now we are fourth. A little more time sir"
"A little more time? Do you even wear a watch? I should've been at home four hours ago. But where am I? Stuck in this immobile plane. No no, get me out. Now"
"That is not possible sir. We'll be taking off any minute now. Please bear with us. Thank You"
The air hostess left as fast as she could with the man shouting after her. Ten more minutes later we finally took off. All was well. But Murphy doesn't like well. Which is why....
"Yes sir?" said the exasperated air hostess
"Where is the food? I'm hungry. You make us wait for ages to get on this flight. Then it doesn't take off. And now there's no food. Why is this airline even functioning?"
"The food trolley will come shortly, sir"
"Wait. Where are the headphones? I can't find any?"
"There aren't any headphones sir. This flight doesn't have a screen, as you can see"
"Of course it doesn't. Why should it? Because how else will it accomplish its mission of being completely bogus. You should get an award for this. The worst airlines award. Huh"
" Sorry for the inconvenience, sir". But she didn't look sorry. If anything, she looked murderous.
As promised the food trolley arrived after a few minutes.A pleasantly smiling air-hostess was pushing it while asking everyone-"Would you like to buy something to eat?" She slowly approached the rude man and put her extra-fake-smile-mask on.
"So you did manage to bring the food before we landed. Feather in your hat. What all are you giving me?"
"You get to choose, sir. There's the menu"
"Hmm..Ok. Give me a chicken sandwich, a mexican wrap, this salad thingy and coffee"
(Handed over the food) "That'll be five hundred and fifty rupees sir".The man looked at her as if she was mad.
"I am supposed to PAY for all this? Do you think I'm a first time traveler? An Idiot?"
I suspect she certainly agreed with the Idiot part, but refrained from saying yes. She then calmly replied
" Sir, your airfare is not inclusive of food charges. That used to happen earlier. Now you have to buy your food. It is so in all private airlines."
" Which is why I won't be travelling in one after this fiasco. Take the money and get me a complaint form. And please don't tell me I have to buy that too".
"I'll do that, sir"
The poor air-hostess brought a booklet type form and handed it over with a pleasant (fake) smile, probably all the time wishing to kick his ass. Respect.
"This space is too little for my complaints. Get me another form". She pursed her lips and got another form. The man started working on his vituperative feedback form with relish. The air hostess walked away with supreme indifference. Again, Respect.
Finally the flight landed and while getting down the rude guy (who was ahead of me in the queue.Ugh) handed over two feedback forms, now filled with bitter words, and said "Make sure you give them to the right people. I will also mail and call the concerned authorities to report this ill-treatment, so don't think you can throw that away".
"We don't intend to do any of that, sir. Your feedback is very valuable for us and all your complaints will be addressed. Thank You for flying with us."

The rude man went away grunting.. And I was left to ponder about the crassness that the Indian service sector has to put up with to match up to the global standards. The ranting Indian is everywhere around us. Sometimes, even within us.


Pallavi S said...

Excellent post,as usual. My favorite part? Respect.....Respect.I cannot believe such a person can actually exist.Whatever happened to the Indian Adjusted?

Anonymous said...

My guess is that this man is no bigshot, which is why he enjoys establishing his superiority over organizations that have an elitist image-just to dominate people from upper echelon. He wouldn't have spoken like this to a TC of a train!

Anonymous said...

I agree...the pot half-filled is more eager to shell out water...really respect to the ppl of this profession...