It takes around five hours to Hong Kong from Delhi and this information was communicated by the small monitor embedded in the seat of the passenger sitting in front of me. The Sardarji (followers of Sikhism who wear a turban) sitting next to me was a British citizen and was too big for his economy class seat. The air hostess had to vex him twice to make sure that he puts on his seat belt. As we waited for the takeoff, the captain announced that the flight would be delayed by few minutes as a passenger required some medical attention. At this, Sardarji got quite perturbed and after few authentically Indian vituperative epithets in British accent, narrated an incident:
"They would have thrown him out in US. Once, I had this swelling in my toe, and requested for some medical attention only to have been given the option of going out."
The 'take off experience' wasn't as religious as the one on my last international flight (read Bangladesh in Retrospective-I).However, I was edgy enough to concentrate on the monitor which displayed the route map and also informed about the altitude, tail wind speed, etc. while the other passengers nonchalantly watched the umpteen channels available on their respective monitors. A confabulation with Sardarji ensued soon:
S-So, where're you going?
D- I 'm a law student. Am going to participate in a moot court competition to be held in Australia.
S- Where in Australia?
S-Why do you want to study law? (Then followed certain imputations on our system)
D-(Trying to defend myself)...Well, you cannot debase the entire profession just because of a handful of miscreants. (And in an extra-defensive move)In any case, I want to become a law teacher (thinking that it would be too much for Sardarji)
S-(Even before a second had elapsed) How will you have the conscious to teach something you know wouldn't be realized?
D-(Taken aback...with that sinking feeling) Well, not always...you see...
S-(Cuts me short) How long will you be there?
D-(with that 'just got screwed feeling) A Week.
A long silence follows as Sardarji dozes off and lies like a mountain between my window seat and the loo where I needed to go for quite some time now. I gather the courage to wake him up and squeeze my way into the aisle. I come back in roughly five minutes only to find him lying like a log on his seat. The lady standing in queue for the loo cannot hold back her smile as she watches my emphatic efforts to awaken Sardarji go up in smoke. He finally allows me to squeeze my way back.
The captain suddenly interrupts the passengers' in their in-flight entertainment and a thousand things cross my mind before he finally speaks, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. Sorry to disturb you in your in-flight entertainment. If you could look to your left, we have a beautiful sight...the Himalaya Mountains...and we’ll be flying past the Mt. Everest in about five minutes...enjoy your flight. Thank you for flying with Cathay Pacific."
I immediately glance to my left and mutter God knows what all words to myself...at some distance, the snow laden peaks emerge out of an even cloud cover that stretches below on both sides of the aircraft and brightly shine in the afternoon sunlight against a spotless blue sky...I am left pondering on my providence.
After some time, as the aircraft starts to descend, I check my laptop bag to make sure that my passport and tickets are in place. The aircraft touches down on a landing strip few meters away from the South China Sea while I am left wondering as to how could the sea which was visible till the last moment, suddenly vanish. The sea green coloured water reappears as I look beyond the airport compound through my window. As I get ready to disembark from the aircraft, I hear the chief air hostess say, "Thank you for flying with Cathay Pacific. Have a nice stay at Hong Kong."