My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
and Sumba, Indonesia
" is available at
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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Tribute to flight stewards and stewardesses

A few years back, flying used to be considered a leisure and the gatekeepers to that gilded world were the stewards and stewardess. For millions of Indians like me, who at that time still used to come out of their houses whenever they heard the roar of a flying plane, stewards and stewardesses were associated with glamour, fine cuisine, awesome looks, great English and flirtations!! Indeed, the few who had the opportunity of flying, would tell us their personal stories of lusty looks exchanged, words with double meanings spoken, and phone numbers shared. Even though the people telling us these stories were far from our idea of glamour, we started to believe that houries did exist in heaven, and wanted to be high-fliers in the literary sense.

These ideas were soon shattered when I took my first flight; all alone, surrounded by Christian nuns, terrified of the frequently shaking plane, I felt like pleading to the Indian Airlines stewardesses, “Auntie, save me”. The final nail on the coffin came when I took my first domestic flight within the USA, where stewardesses, giving nasty glances, handing over roughly a glass of coke, and asked me with contempt, “Do you want the whole can”? Petrified, I struggled to even say yes and mentally took the whole blame on me for her employer filing Chapter 11. A few minutes later she would come back with an ugly oversized trash bag commanding me with her eyes to dump my unfinished coke into the bag. I would oblige, hissing out a “Thank You”, like a Buddhist beggar who has just got American dollars from a tourist, by when she would have looked the other way. Forget flirting, I felt like asking them forgiveness for my existence.

With the appearance of low-cost airlines and rising income levels, millions of Indians have been able to fly. And after they realized that sex and flight stewardesses were parallel lines, passenger attitude to stewards and stewardesses has become “fu**** hostile”.

Indeed, nowadays, flight stewards and stewardesses have a tough job. They are the only white collar laborers who have to clean others’ toilets and clear dirty utensils while wearing make-up and tight uncomfortable uniforms at the same time. They have to make funny gestures (during security briefings) and the only intelligent conversations they can have are saying things like ‘this way to your left’, ‘veg or non-veg’, and ‘put your seat upright, please’. They are also the only white collar laborers who can’t check online matrimonial sites, stock prices, or while at work. And in flights from India going to foreign locations, they have to resist a laugh, when the passengers, leaping at their rare ability to have unlimited drinks on-board, ask for outrageous combinations (orange juice and champagne). Walking through extremely narrow alleys, hitting against adventurous passenger legs, they are typically blamed for every thing from bad food to global warming.

The way many passengers talk to them now, gives a feeling to an observer that he or she always takes the stewardesses to be dumb and inferior animals. This idea is reinforced by TV commercials of Asian airlines that invariably show their stewardesses, with big eyes, teeth showing, always moving in extreme slow-motion, expressing dumb amazement at the sight of everything around them. No wonder, the popular image of the stewardess holding a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon has been replaced by that of one holding an insect repellent above her head.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Air hostess - they don't qualify as white collar jobs. The job is equivalent to being a high priced glorified maid.