If there ever was a contest for people who get to sit with worst possible travel mates while flying, I will win the first three positions in that contest, without doubt. On a recent trip to Quetta, I specifically asked for a window seat while checking in. I had not slept the night before and was looking forward for some shut-eye. When I boarded the plane, the gentleman sitting next to my seat looked like the heavy weight version of Hamid Karzai. He was about 188 cms, must have weighed over 300 lbs and with his Karzai like silk robe (in mustard colour) and huge headgear, there hardly was any room left in the adjacent seat for me, or anyone else for that matter. Seeing me trying to fit in that space, my colleague offered to swap seats with me. I readily agreed, which later proved to be one of the gravest mistakes of my life.
The seats next to mine were empty and I sent a little prayer asking God to let them remain vacant for the next hour and half, but with my luck, it was a given that I would not be spared. Within minutes, a young family of 4 occupied the two seats next to mine. There was a dad, with his son who was about 17-18 months old in another while the mother and her loud 3 years old daughter who tore a copy of Hamsafar, PIA’s in flight magazine, into smithereens within minutes, settled in next to me. I opened my copy of Morgan Spurlock’s “Where in the world is Osama Bin Laden?” that I bought from the airport bookshop. The minute that little girl saw the book, she wanted it. The mother had the audacity to ask me if I will hand my book to her daughter. Seeing what happened to the magazine, I had to be a total nut to hand that kid my book. I politely refused saying that I am reading and cannot give it to her. I then asked the flight attendant if I can change my seat but apparently, the plane was packed and there was not a single vacant seat available and I did not have the nerve to inflict my fellow passengers on anyone else.
Before the take off, the flight attendant came and asked them to split for safety reasons. There were four seats in the row and five oxygen masks, the flight attendant tried his level best to convince them to change seats because the passengers safety is his concern and in case any emergency, there will not be sufficient number of oxygen masks for the people sitting in that particular row. The woman first said that nothing will happen in a 75 minutes flight, when the flight attendant persisted that they must do what they are told, the husband left the seat with the boy and I sighed with relief, but it was extremely short-lived. The little girl started crying for her daddy and the daddy started placating the daughter from the other aisle at the top of his lungs. To tune out their combined commotion, I took my iPod out and started listening to the music. The minute that girl saw my iPod, she stopped bawling and started smiling at me. I ignored. She again said something to me and I decided to keep ignoring her, after all I had the perfect excuse. My ears were plugged in.
When mummy dearest thought her daughter was being ignored by a fellow passenger, she shook my shoulder and mouthed, “meri beti aap se kuch kehna chah rahee hai.” I had to take my ear phones out and asked her what happened. She asked if I can lend her my ipod as her daughter wanted to listen to music. Aghast that I was at the mother’s cheek, I said that it is not only rude to ask someone for their personal item, it is also unhygienic; I could have had an ear infection, would she expose her daughter to that? She looked at me for a few seconds and then told her daughter, “beta baaji ki music naheen lena, baji ke kaan kharab hain.”
Although my ears were in perfect condition (I did hear her remark despite wearing ear bugs after all ) I decided not to respond to it.
When the crew served the food, that little girl threw salt, pepper and sugar all over the place. As I am allergic to pepper, I started sneezing like crazy. When I asked the mother – as politely as I could – to control her wild child, she said, “Array bhai bachi hai, isko main kya kahoon.” I asked for a wet towel with which I covered my nose to stop sneezing. She then started screaming for coke and the mother started calling the steward as array bhai zara bachi ko coke tau day dain. The steward was at the other end of the aisle attending to other passengers but the mother couldn’t wait that long. The woman who was sitting on the other side of the disastrous mother daughter duo had to call another steward to shut them up.
To add insult to the injury, the last 20 minutes of the flight were as turbulent as any flight which eventually lands on ground can be. When I landed in Quetta, I resolved not to board another plane in my lifetime which did not even last for two days as I had to get back home.
If anyone here thinks that I could not have topped this mother daughter duo, they are so very wrong. On my way back, I sat with an aunty ji who told me her life history, including the fact that she had her first orgasm at the ripe old age of 51 when she divorced her first husband and married her stud of a second husband. She also pointed out that the first husband was a ‘Muhajir’ and the second husband was a ‘Punjabi’, perhaps implying that Muhajir men are less conversant in the ways of loving a woman properly. As I am neither a muhajir man nor a Punjabi one, I decided not to take offense or pride in it and feigned yawns. At least the aunty was decent enough not to pursue with her tales of belatedly found orgasmic delights and left me in peace.