Friday, August 5, 2016
Indicative photo of Julia Roberts. Source: internet
This was a few years back… …
I was away from the scorching heat of Delhi in June for10 days leading a delegation to an international conference at Birmingham. All good things come to an end rather too soon.The pleasant weather affected my sense of time too, and what was jealously called a long jaunt by friendly colleagues back home, alas had ended very soon. It was with a nagging sense of nostalgia that our group left for the Birmingham airport to take the flight back home early at 7 a.m. on that beautiful June morning.
It was only on reaching the airport that I discovered that we would be traveling to Zurich by an airline whose name I had not heard previously- ‘Cross Airways’. Of course I was cross with myself for not having ensured that I traveled by some renowned airline. That would have given me some comfort and kept my nerves a bit calmer against the terrible fear of flying that I have. After exchanging the fistful of small change for a slim chocolate bar, I asked the shop assistant about the airline that I was to fly. I got a rather soothing reply that the Cross Airlines was a subsidiary of the famous ‘Swissair’. This bit of information and a few bites of the wonderful bitter chocolate made me feel better. Just then the announcement requested us to proceed towards the gate for taking a coach to board the plane.
It turned out to be a cute little plane with four rows of seats- two each on either side of the aisle. I don’t think the capacity of the plane exceeded 50 passengers. I hardly took notice of the two airhostesses and slumped in my window seat in the last row of the plane. The fear of flying was back in full form and I was becoming nervous. Obviously the mild tranquilizer taken before starting for the airport was mild indeed.
I fastened my seatbelt and had a look around.
It was then that I noticed her for the first time. She was the airhostess who had started distributing some eau-de-cologne tissues and some toffees, starting from the middle of the plane and was moving towards the end. She was serving the passengers in the second row when it happened. The passenger told her something and she blushed. Her cheeks became red and she murmured something. I strained my ears every bit but could not understand a word.
Suddenly I noticed to my horror that the passenger who had made her blush was a member of our delegation. I had met him for the first time just before leaving India and the balding gentleman in his late fifties had appeared to me to be – well, a gentleman. It was clear to me that the old rascal had tried to make a pass at that sweet little hostess who would a have been young enough to be his daughter. I almost swooned at the very thought of this erupting into an unsavory incident marring the image of our delegation. I had half a mind to go up to my colleague and give him a piece of my mind but somehow restrained myself.
In the meantime the poor hostess had continued her drill and was serving the rows ahead of me. When she politely brought the tray near me I told her in my best French that I wanted ear plugs or some cotton for stuffing my ears since my ears have excruciating pain if I don’t plug them during the plane rides. And then it happened again. She blushed. Her pinks cheeks became red and the gaze of her clear blue eyes dropped towards the ground. That was the most beautiful blush I have seen in my life!
But alas, instead of enjoying the sight, I was stunned at its happening. It must have been something that I had said, I thought. I quickly repeated the sentence in my mind but could not find anything offensive. I kicked myself for trying to impress her with my far from perfect knowledge of French. I should have stuck to my Babu English in Panjabi accent. I did not know what to do and the time seemed to stand still. And then a sweet murmur left her lips, ‘Sorry Sir, but we don’t have ear plugs’. By that time the blush had slowly evaporated and her cheeks had regained their pink colour. And then she was gone. I strained my eyes following her. She moved towards the front of the aircraft and started talking to the other air hostess, who was tall and had a pleasant face with long sturdy legs and a gait that disclosed her interest in sports.
The little one returned a little later. She blushed and handed me a small vial with some liquid and again apologized for not having any earplugs in stock and advised me to use the liquid instead. Thereafter she went to attend to an elderly passenger across the aisle. I started fiddling with the vial, frankly being in two minds.
I searched for my reading glasses to decipher the instructions printed in small print on the vial . But very soon she came back. She blushed again and apologized- this time for not having explained to me that the liquid was to be put in the nose and not in the ears. While I was still trying to recover from the last blush, the Captain of the plane was on the air informing that we were about to land at the Zurich airport.
The landing was slow and smooth. The aircraft came to a halt and passengers starting deplaning. My turn came at the end. Both the hostesses were standing near the gate. As I came near the gate, it happened again – yes, she blushed once again and apologized for the inconvenience.
It was only then that I realized that I had not had any feeling of fear much less any problem with my ears during the entire plane journey!
(First published in ‘SunTimes’, Bhubaneshwar on November 21, 1996 and subsequently on August 6, 2012 on my website at http://www.fiftyplustravels.com/?p=2588)