Travelling in India is stressful, especially when you take a flight and the airline keeps delaying the departure time, and you have to adjust your adrenaline rush.
“Let’s get to the airport two hours before departure. I don’t want any stress,” said my wife.
It is 1am. My alarm had gone off a few minutes ago. It seemed like I had just laid down to sleep, which is true, as I was watching a very engrossing Netflix TV series till 12.30.
This time I was prepared for air travel. I had showered and shaved at 9pm and I was dressed, but my wife would not allow me to wear my shoes in bed, so that took off a minute or two from my tight schedule, still all I had to do was to rinse my mouth and sleepwalk to the door.
At the lift to go down to our car, my wife said, “The airline has sent a message.”
“What does it say?” I said sleepily, but with my pupils abnormally dilated.
“Let’s check it on our way to the airport,” she said.
It is not just the passengers, but everyone associated with air travel tend to look like zombies during the early morning flights. Our driver looked like he had undergone the Chinese water torture, where they blindfold you and drip one drop of water at a time, on your forehead. (Funnily, there is a similar coconut oil drip on the forehead, at the ayurvedic retreats in Kerala state, which is supposed to relax you).
After reading a blog about long-distance air travel and what five things you need to make the trip comfortable, I was prepared. I got myself a neck pillow from a Japanese store in Bengaluru. (The shop is like the dollar store in Canada where you get crazy things that nobody needs, but with Japanese brand names).
The neck pillow is like a giant pretzel that you put around your neck and you look like those guys who come out of hospital after they had a neck sprain.
The blogger said the other thing you need especially on long-haul flights is a foldable foot rest. You take it out of your backpack (that’s another travelling thing I bought and now I don’t need any fancy baggage) and place it near your feet, so your feet are elevated and you do not die of bubbles in your blood stream.
(The other advice is to download the movies, TV serials, music you like, on to your phone or iPad and buy snacks from the corner grocery store before the flight).
“The flight’s going to be an hour late,” said my wife in the car, reading the message. “They have a technical problem.” Like politicians, the air travel industry has its own doublespeak. “Technical problem could mean anything,” I said sleepily.
After we checked in our luggage and got our boarding pass (Air India still has the smiling, mustachioed Maharajah as the mascot on the boarding pass and thankfully, not a smiling politician), another message came on my wife’s phone: “We are experiencing a further 30-minute delay.”
This went on till it was a three-hour delay and it was panic time as our connecting flight was at noon.
“Quick, cancel the onward flight,” I told my wife and she brought out her laptop. But airlines do not allow you to make cancellations online, only by phone, which is impossible.
Air travel in India is undergoing massive turbulence, with one airline going broke and the national carrier haemorrhaging money, pilots in short supply, and on top of that, passengers must pay extra for comfortable seats.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.