India · Poetry & Shorts · Travel Writing

Delhi Cancelled


The countdown to go home in the last week of December started sometime in mid-november. I got my leave approved, booked discounted airtickets and finished shopping for the gifts. Dear family – here i come!
Unfortunately Chennai to Jaipur does not merit a direct flight – heck, it does not even merit a daily direct train !! And for that matter – the city of Jaipur is not generally very well connected to Chennai. Who would want to go there anyways? Except, maybe people who work in Chennai and belong to Jaipur. Note to self: Talk to this airline’s Chairman- I think we atleast one common interest.
My plan was to leave on the evening of the 23rd Dec – fly to Delhi at 8:30 pm and hop aboard one of the numerous buses that ply between Delhi and Jaipur and further into the desert state of Rajasthan.
So here i was, all set to leave – bags packed, dressed up for an 8 hour journey when i recieved a text message on the mobile phone:
“Dear JetAirways customer, your flight no 824 to delhi has been delayed and the ETD is now 10:15 pm.” Switch on the telly. Seems that the whole world is delayed due to the fog in delhi ! Thats no big deal – I’ll rest for a while and then leave.
9:30 pm – Reach Kamraj domestic airport entrance. Am paying off the autorickshawwallah when I get another SMS: “Dear JetAirways customer, your flight no 824 to delhi has been delayed and the ETD is now 11:00 pm.”
Airport is a mess – messier than usual. Think colicy babies, irate yuppies, people with too much baggage. Ugh!
Friendly person on Jet airways check in counter decides to do me a favour – “If you could just speak to my supervisor, she can book you into a flight which is leaving in 5 minutes as there have been some last minute cancellations”
Yay !!
Rush to another counter near the security gate where Not-so friendly supervisor is sitting punching keys on her computer.
Share space with irate yuppie (big square watch and gelled hair, eyes red due to drink and/or work), wealthy corporate type frequent flyer (who comes in from behind – says something in a gruff voice and is let ahead of me), and mother with a very young, very sick looking child. No wonder supervisor is not-so friendly.
‘Well, i was sent ahead by … ”
Supervisor does not listen. I wait.
Supervisor does not listen. I wait some more.
Then i give up and demand to be heard .
Bad move.
“Sorry sir, there seems to have been a miscommunication … ” I dont bother for her to even finish her sentence. I rush back to the same check in counter. Friendly person was profusely apologetic, rather unnecessarily so.
Got the boarding pass – and a long wait.
“Dinner is being served for the benefit of all Jet Airways passengers travelling on flight 824 to Delhi at the Taj lounge”
Amble to the Taj Lounge.
Hullo, this doesn’t look like the ‘Taj Lounge’ – more like a buffet spread in a punjabi wedding near midnight – when only the bride, groom and their close family members are still in attendance. So much for my hard earned money.
I get a lot of salad – which, thank god, is fresh. And a lot of stale cheese sandwiches (god is not always kind). Washed down with airport water. The ground staff does little but smile weakly.
I fear a long wait – and listen to some music that says…
“Sir are you going to Delhi?”
Funny music.
Tap on the shoulder with the line being repeated.
Look around – a memeber of the ground staff wants to know if I am travelling to Delhi on 824. Why yes, i am.
“In that case, pls proceed for security check”
And why was that not displayed?
But i dont have enough time to wait for an answer – rush to the security.
Finally, on board, Take off – .. ahh, a sense of relief … home is just a few
hours away.
Its an hour past midnight, food has been served, consumed and people are sleeping, or sleeping while listening to music, or sleeping with their eyes open and hey, I am sleepy too when a voice booms – “Ladies and Gentlemen, I understand that it’s a
rather odd time to make such an announcement”
You bet it is – I don’t want your standard weather update and if we’re flying over sirpur kagaznagar and how comfortable the passengers are inside the craft while outside it’s cold as hell. Look at your watch, dude – it’s meant for keeping track of the time. And right now, your watch should tell you that it’s time for me to sleep and for you to get me to Delhi.
“Delhi Airport has been closed for all take off and landings till further
announcement due to severe fog. We’re over nagpur and since we’re closer to Chennai we would be heading back.”
No, i didnt hear that correctly – what was that?
“Regret the inconvenience caused, on arrival in Chennai, please contact the ground staff for assistance”
Contact the ground staff? No, I need to contact you-the pilot, like, right now!
There are options, my man! Jaipur is just south of Delhi and a short drive away -let’s all land there and take the passengers by coach. I will ,ofcourse, jump ship the moment you let me deplane in my city – and save the bus fare home. How devlishly clever..if you would only listen – o captain, my captain.
The thought remains in my head.
We’re turning around …
The loss of hope and the onset of depression. I leave my seat and go to the
restroom.
I try to stretch on the last row – darn aircraft is not designed properly. Doesn’t allow six footers to stretch. And we’re going back! This is bad – this is very bad. I look pale – short and pretty air hostess comes around.
“Sir, can i get you something to drink?”
No, I dont need anything to drink. I need the pilot to take the aircraft to Jaipur. I need help. My short and pretty angel – help me now!
I try some ice-breakers.
“So what’s your name?”
I half expected to hear – Mia Wallace – but miss short and pretty is not a big fan of Tarantino’s.
Miss short and pretty, who equally detests the prospect of turning back, sympathizes, fusses around me a bit but doesn’t really help. Rules are rules – the ground staff only can help you now.
We fly back – ‘dark and difficult times lie ahead’ – is what I’m thinking .. the hour lasts forever.
Arrghhh ……
Landing, halt and the parting shot from the airline …
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Kamraj domestic aiport, Chennai. We hope you had a pleasant flight. Thank you for flying with us and we hope to be of service again”
I cant believe my ears !
Its 2 AM.
(to be continued..)

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