June 21, 2013

India Diaries – 11:34am

Assigned a much-coveted leg-space-seat on the PIA plane to Mumbai, I find myself sitting next to a member of the crew. I’m in a conversational mood, and I ask him about his life-in-transit. As government employees (believe it or not, PIA staff apparently fall under the Ministry of Defense), crew members have a carte blanche as far as international travel is concerned. Armed (pun intended) with a little piece of paper in lieu of a visa, these lucky people can spend the time-between-flights (anywhere from two to four days) happily tourist-ing exotic destinations. As we speak my new friend has just returned from Belgium (and before that Manchester) and two days later is heading to Paris. That said, strangely he’s never been to Mumbai city.

When asked it turns Pakistani plane crew is treated like lepers in this part of the world. They are greeted at the door of the plane by police officers mandated to prevent them from stepping beyond the narrow confines of the terminal. Apparently, they need special permission (almost like a kind of visa) even to visit the duty-free. Interesting stuff, I suppose those of us who have (finally) received permission (even though it’s the kind that comes with mandatory and frequent visits to ‘report’ to a police station) to visit the other side of the border should count our blessings. Honestly, it never ceases to amaze me how deeply the political rift that separated two halves of a whole has manifested itself.

In other news, I comment to my-friend-of-the-crew that the emergency door (that we are sitting next to) seems to be held together by what suspiciously looks like masking tape. He examines it for minute, laughs and confirms my suspicion. Turns out this is not as it is ‘supposed to be’, but he imagines that they needed something to seal the door with but (in the case of emergency) something that could be easily removed when it has to be opened. Fun-fact, that. We move on to discuss other life-threatening adventures when the plane begins to taxi even faster and my seat-mate opens the windows to let in the glaring sunlight. Even as my eyes water a little in protest, I ask him if this is even necessary. In all seriousness he informs me that it’s essential because this is one way they would be able to tell if the wing is on fire. Naturally.

And to think I've always tried to avoid those adventure-trips where the thrill merely comes from climbing the side of an active volcano, threshing through ice aided only by some sort of primitive ice-axe type thing. Pfft. Compared to this ride, that stuff is a walk in the park! :P

 Oh-well. Survival (and the India-trip) will just seem all that much sweeter if and when this flight actually lands.

(and in case anyone is still wondering, it did)

1 comment:

How do we know said...

u r in India Xeb? We should at least talk on the phone, i have liked ur blog a lot. i am at kijaana@gmail.com. mail me if u'd like and we can exchange numbers.