The monsoon is a terrible time to fly. One whiff of a cloud and the airplane begins to rise and fall like an irregular heartbeat. At moments like these you look to the bright interiors for cheer, or to fresh-faced airhostesses who smile benignly. These things reassure me greatly. So when I stepped into an Air India plane two nights ago for a two-hour flight and saw the stern lady at the door, I considered cancelling my ticket.
Our nerves were shot by the time we landed. Everytime an airhostess walked by I would sit straight with my arms where she could see them. Sometimes they would inspect us as they walked by like examiners in a hall. It felt like the worst moments of school. When I tried sleeping, one stood by me in the aisle and yelled at my wife, "Is he your husband? Is he your husband? Is he your husband? Is he asleep?" It was so strange. This profession is supposed to be lucrative and exciting and dreamy. We know it isn't so, but it's supposed to seem this way. If I had a kid who wanted to be an airhostess, I'd take her on a few round trips on this airline, and that'd straighten her out. When the seatbelt lights came on mid-flight and the plane began to shudder, the frown on their faces sunk deeper, and I grew more worried. And then the pilot's voice came over the intercom, "We are in bad weather." That was it. Five words, he was done, we were done for. Some sweated profusely because the air conditioners were switched off. A stale smell developed. Then the plane landed with a thud, one set of wheels at a time. An airhostess said, "We hope you will fly with Air India again," to which a man at the back yelled, "Hopes!"