TRAVEL TRAVAILS by Maya Chandrasekaran
You know what Ive always wished scientists would invent? - a molecular transference machine, something like they have in Star Trek. You know, where, if you want to travel from place to another, you just say, "Beam me up, Scottie," and bingo, one minute youre in Bangalore, and the next youre in Melbourne. Yes, thats my kind of travel, where you dont have to stand in long queues and be barked at by short - tempered customs officials; or sit in a stuffy airport lounge, waiting for a plane thats only five hours late.
But, grouches apart, air travel does throw up (pun intended) some unusual situations. I must tell you about this one : We were all sitting in a lounge waiting to board the plane, when the entire flight crew, smartly dressed, and very supercilious looking, marched past us to the gate that lead to the plane. They did not deign to look at any of us, and we, in our turn, gazed in awe at these superior beings. Then, five minutes later, they walked back with considerably less bounce in their strides, and decidedly sheepish looks on their faces - it appeared that no one had told them that the plane they were to be crewing hadnt even arrived yet!
Another phenomenon that Ive noticed is that the moment it is announced that passengers can board the plane, everyone rushes forward frantically. I mean, whats the rush? Its not like the person who goes first gets the best seat. Linked to this is the phenomenon that occurs when the plane lands. Even before the wheels touch the ground, people are jumping up with their hand - luggage and elbowing their way to the plane doors. How they expect to get out when the steps havent arrived, I dont know. Maybe theyll jump?!
Theres nothing that pains an Indian more than travelling under his travel allowance. Hes given a travel allowance of say, twenty kgs. And hes determined to get his moneys worth. Consequently, youll see any number of people travelling with packages of assorted shapes and sizes.
And air travel brings you in contact with some of the nicest people like : the little kid behind you, who alternately kicks your seat and throws food at you; or the man in front of you, whos drunk on complimentary booze one hour into the flight; or the couple next to you who insist on keeping the overhead lights on all night! And dont you just hate it when youve been travelling all night (and let me tell you, no matter what they say in all those airline ads, those seats were made with anything but comfort in mind), youre grimy and achy, the kid behind you chatted for five hours, non - stop, and the flight attendant passes by and says brightly, "Good morning!" Good?! Whats so good about it?
OK, you dont fancy air travel, but travelling by train isnt such a good idea, unless of course, you enjoy arriving late all the time. The Railway Board should be sued for misrepresentation. "Express," indeed! And then of course, there are chances that the tracks may be under water, railway workers may be on strike, or the train may be derailed, or a plane might fall on the train!
But, I must admit, train travel has one advantage over plane travel - you get to see some decent scenery along the way.
Finally, theres bus travel. Lets see, you have a choice between hard, lumpy seats, harder, lumpier seats and hardest, lumpiest seats. Dont be fooled by names, either. Whoever called them luxury buses had a sick sense of humour. One other delight of bus travel is that you get to watch loud, violent, gory movies to your hearts delight (courtesy of the VCR Bus). And hey, if the print is back, or the picture shakes a lot, dont worry, the bus also shakes in perfect sync with the movie.
So, have you finally decided how youre going to travel on your next holiday? Hey! Thats a good idea - lets all just stay home!