The Western world has a long way to go when it comes to hospitality. I’m sitting at the Business Lounge at Terminal 1 at Frankfurt, on my way back to Delhi from a 10 days long work trip to Chicago. While I booked myself on Lufthansa, my trip back is on United, where business class is comparable at best to King Fisher Business class, which isn’t great if you’re doing 20 hours. Of course, if I was travelling on my own money, I’d be doing coach on Etihaad Airways!! But since the firm is paying for this trip, I have the luxury of cribbing. Its not the width of the seats or the degree to which the bed flattens. The service sucks! Yes, 10 days in the US, and I use the word ‘sucks’.
I’ve been to the UK and USA several times in the last few years, so many times I’ve lost count. Pretty fortunate, me! I love the Western world, though a little less than my Indian world. I’m always trying to justify that there isn’t really a clash of the 2 worlds. If you make the effort to tap into the place and the people, you’ll find the worlds are not so incompatible. Having said that, some differences remain, not universally, but based on which world you’re closer to.
I reached Chicago O’Hare airport well in time to avoid a flight fiasco like last time. I decided to put my feet up in the lounge next to the window, so the warmth of the gracious Chicago sun could fall on my face. I guess the heat got to me after a while so I got up to walk around. In any case, I needed to find a pharmacy. Of course, with little luck with the pharmacy, and little time left for my flight to take off, I headed towards the boarding gate. I had one person ahead of me when I started feeling dizzy. I knew the feeling. I had it before. I was going to faint in about 120 seconds. I started looking around for a place to sit, but every time I’d inch towards what I thought I saw with my blurred eyes, it would disappear. It didn’t help that the Indian uncle ahead of me left his bag unattended, sparking of emergency alarms that made my 120 seconds tizzy worse.
When my eyes opened, I was still at that awful waiting lounge. There was an Indian gentleman holding my hand, feeling my pulse. He wore the uniform of a paramedic. A Rakesh-Roshan-with-hair lookalike. The attendants around me didn’t stop cackling, and even contemplating not letting me get on the plane. I could hear them all saying ‘what’s going on’ and just that, several times. The paramedic knew I would be fine. He assured me the flight would wait a bit but I should take my time to get up. He asked me if I had eaten, whether I had slept enough and if I had been sick recently, none of which happened, I replied, still not completely well. Then, he held my hand and pressed it gently, asking me very softly, almost deliberately inaudible to anyone else, if it could be because I might be having my period. He asked the attendants to step back, and walked me to the plane, up to my seat 15A. He didn’t say much, just stood there for about 5 minutes. I think I slept off some time then.
I’ve always loved the Americans I know (I still do), but today, the only reaction I found genuine, dignified and humane, was the Indian’s. I guess some differences will remain.
I have a 4 hour stop over at Frankfurt. I’m listening to Rehna Tu, and wondering when the jinx will finish.