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“He’s a real-life Elvis impersonator on his off-nights,” the buxom flight attendant told Mr. Maharaja.
Zia Zaman
- tells the truth about flying in India

On an East-West flight from Delhi to some really, really small town in India, our intrepid and fearless traveler finally met his match. At an ungodly early morning hour, the bespoken suited and bespectacled hero stumbled through the various security procedures to finally get outside, into the already searing heat. Walking along he saw a plane headed to Nepal with a pack of adventurous airport staff trying to load a canoe into the hold. A canoe. On a plane that has had one too many canoes shoved inside. Thank God he’s not on that flight, he thought.

When he walked off the spongy staircase through the five-foot high doorway, he caught a glimpse of some hair through the ajar cockpit door. Thinking nothing, he installed himself in Seat 1C and waited for his sweet lime to which he was entitled for being a Maharaja, umm, in Maharaja Class. He waited for some time. The stewardess came on board and as usual, she had a classic Indian beauty spiced up with a perky Southwest Airlines temperament, if not attire. “This might not be so bad,” he thought to himself, a little subdued after having heard about the difficulty of the landing at his destination’s airport. At that moment, the airline pilot came on over the p.a. system.
“Hello, everyone.” Our hero had a strange breath of relief after hearing these words, spoken with the unmistakable accent of someone from the Southern United States.
“Ok, a Yank. Great,” he said to himself.
“I’m the captain of this flight. My name is Danny Desai,” he said cheerfully, dramatically elongating the alliteration. “Thank you, thank you very much for flying East-West Airlines,” he said as the cockpit door swung wide open revealing a man with a thick, droopy mane over which no pilot’s cap could be fit, a sequined outfit complete with captain’s stripes, and, God no, red cowboy boots. “Like, I said my name is Danny Desai, and I just want to say that if you need ANYTHING at all, feel free to ask any one of these lovely ladies who’ll be serving you today. They’ll PERK you right up.”

Our hero started to perspire. He was flying on a low-budget Indian airline, through some of the most treacherous mountain passes in the Western Himalaya, with Elvis at the yoke. He tried to meditate but was interrupted by a brief rendition of Hound Dog and a charming comment about the particular assets of one of the stewardesses. “He’s a real-life Elvis impersonator on his off-nights,” the buxom flight attendant told Mr. Maharaja.
She was blushing, in awe at having been part of the pre-flight message.
“In Delhi?” he asked.
“That’s right,” she says, putting on a terrible imitation of a Southern accent. Through the next spat of announcements, the overabundant panache of this Danny Desai started to melt away at our hero. The captain’s ability to carry a tune, roll his R’s, and poke fun at the missus, were perfectly in character. He even threw in a safety announcement, asking anyone who had brought a bomb on board to please notify one of the flight attendants, sung to the tune of Suspicious Minds.
Our hero smiled, leaned back, crossed his legs and asked for some Smirnoff to go along with his sweet lime.

(C) Zia Zaman 2001

Splitting his time between travel-fiction writing and a day-job helping Sun Microsystems dominate the world, Zia Zaman now calls Singapore home. Born in Karachi, he has lived in Montreal, Boston, London, and San Francisco. His work has appeared in local press, Chance, MCI, Novelists Abroad, Hackwriters, and other litzines.

Read "Bhutan Is and Other Shorts from Remote Asia" on An Unusual Day.

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