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The International Writers Magazine
: Hacktreks in India

Flying High with Jet Airways
Rita Sidhu

It was exciting being in Bombay, or Mumbai as it is now known. We flew from New Delhi on Jet Airways. Once we had gotten off the ground and the dusty heat of the capital had dropped away, all reminders of India being a poor, developing country dissipated in the sun. The service was better than any I had received on every other airline I had flown. Instead of the usually disappointing, tired meal selections, the food was a wonderful surprise. It had been prepared in conjunction with chefs of the top hotels.

Flying Jet was Indian hospitality distorted and filtered through commercial enterprise. Even though there was a first class section and the flight attendants wore saris, it felt like the cultural baggage had been packed away in the belly of the airplane, along with our luggage. It was like different rules applied when you were in the air above the country. No one was going to ask to carry your bags for a few rupees and no armless beggars would be coming down the aisle, their eyes pleading silently with you.

Our business completed in the city a few days later, our party made its way back to the airport via an air-conditioned cool cab, slums slipping by. We had an opportunity to wait in the exclusive Oberoi lounge. As I sat there in my comfortable seat, shielded from those who did not warrant access by a glass wall, my eyes roamed. My colleague suddenly grasped my arm in excitement and directed my attention to a large man sitting across the room. It was Adnan Sami; a famous singer I had seen on TV in India often enough. But as I was Canadian, the effect on me was muted. Not so for my Indian friends who begged me to go speak to him in my "nice Canadian accent" on their behalf. I thought to myself, why not? The worst that could happen would be he rejects me and I am humiliated in front of all these people who I am likely to never see again; could be worse. The best...well, I have a boundless imagination.

He turned out to be pleasant and accommodating. Pictures were taken and my colleagues gushed praise. Apparently he was accustomed to it. It struck me how similar stars are treated, no matter what country they are from.

It was time to board. Turned out he was on our plane, but in first class of course. That was the end of our communications. Effusive compliments would no longer do. We were about to rise back into the air-that cultural no man's land. I was pleased the short trip to the city had led to a satisfactory star sighting. It had allowed me to perform a favour for my friends. It would not have been the same to go to Bollywood for the first time without seeing at least one famous face, even if I had not recognized it.
© Rita Sidhu Oct 2004
Vancouver, BC


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