I write to you following a conversation I have just had with one of my grandchildren. I call him Arun. But his real name is some modern confusion that his parents found on the Internet. Aryamaan or Antenna or Aquarium or something like that. I only call him Arun. Because at most I have 10 good years left on this earth and I can’t waste eight of those trying to address him or his sister Shamiana.
So Arun came running a few minutes ago and showed me a WhatsApp video of a passenger being dragged off a plane in the United States. In the video you can see that he has been hurt quite severely. Poor fellow.
“Can you believe this?” Arun asked me.
“Keep quiet,” I told him, “and look at all the other passengers. Look at how they are sitting with so much discipline!”
Arun grabbed his phone and went away complaining that I lacked humanity for other people. As if he has been building free hospitals for the downtrodden with his bare hands since the age of 6.
Sir/madam, if there is any aspect of human life in which I would sanction the use of excessive force, it is air travel. From the very moment you step into an airport you come face to face with the very worst examples of humanity.
Some months ago I had the opportunity to take a short flight from Chennai to Bengaluru for a family function. First I had to show my passport and ticket to enter the airport. Then I had to show my ticket but not passport to stand in a line. At the end of the line a third fellow wanted to see my passport and ticket to give me a boarding pass. Then a fourth policeman wanted to see boarding pass but not passport, and my ticket he treated with contempt. And then I told Mrs. Mathrubootham that she can go to Kochi by herself, I am going back home because even Veerappan was not investigated so much.
But she persuaded me and I proceeded to the departure hall. There I approached a pleasant young lady in a modest shop and purchased two vegetarian samosas and two cups of tea. For this I paid so much money that I told my wife that we will share one samosa and keep the other one in bank locker in case of any family emergency. Shameless black-marketing.
And finally I met the worst of the worst: other passengers. Sir/madam, never in my life have I met a group of people dedicated to the act of doing the exact opposite of what they are told. Ask them to stand up and they will sit down. Ask them to sit down and they will stand up. Ask for only families to board, and every single bachelor will run. Ask them to keep boarding pass ready and they will hold in their hands every piece of paper from their life including passport, ticket, PAN Card, Aadhaar card, marriage certificate, Padayappa matinee ticket, but not boarding pass.
Things only got worse on the flight. One young couple sitting in front of me, perhaps on honeymoon, were behaving as if they are one of those insects that come out in the rainy season and have only fifteen minutes to produce children before dying. My wife spent the entire flight reading the air-sickness bag.
Finally, when I reached Kochi the airline informed me that my bag was still in Chennai. It is OK, I said, I will buy a whole new wardrobe after selling this samosa.
Sir/madam, therefore you will understand why I am not entirely against better discipline in the field of air travel. Of course there should be no violence or dragging or bleeding and all that. Maybe just a little bit in case of emergency.
Yours in exasperation,