Domestic flights generally turn out to be eventless if I manage to hog both armrests. The rest is simple: I either sleep or read, provided there is no infant kicking its way to glory on the seat exactly behind me.
It was no different when I took the 5.55 AM (yes, yes, I know) GoAir flight from Kolkata to Mumbai. It was supposed to halt at Nagpur, but then, there was no point nagging about it: I managed to save money in the process.
I managed a window seat. The middle-seat was empty. The aisle seat had a woman with her infant son or daughter, who was concentrating furiously on a feeding-bottle that contained either milk or Lactogen. It was a scenario so blissful that I dozed off even before the aircraft had started to move on the ground.
A sleep on an aircraft is seldom a REM sleep, but it is still better than no sleep. I switched between sleep and semi-consciousness. I was vaguely aware of the goings-on: the arrival of the food trolley, the baby crying a bit (but not wailing), and so on.
I sensed the landing at Nagpur. Some passengers left. Some others boarded. It was like those arithmetic problems that I was too sleepy to recall.
The kind of perfume that one associates with girls woke me up from semi-slumber. It was a girl. Middle-seat. Next-to me. She was 25. Or thereabouts. Curly hair. She did not put her backpack in the overhead rack, I noticed.
Gone were the days when I used to be excited when a young girl sat next to me in an aircraft. I have certainly retained my animal magnetism, but it does not matter anymore.
I was sleepy. Baby had stopped crying. I was thirsty. Sleepy. There was still time for the second innings of the slumber.
The girl was poking me. Dream. Real. Dream. Real. Girl still poking. Dream. I woke up with a start.
She looked very, very apologetic.
Why is she poking me? And why is she apologetic about it?
My head had started to clear a bit. I realised that the mother, the father (from the other side of the aisle), and everyone within eyesight was staring at me.
Wasn't it too early in my career in the media to make everyone recognise and stare at me? But then, you never know when you become famous. It was extremely important that I kept my feet on the ground.
I realised she was about to speak.
There was a pregnant pause.
Then she spoke.
“I’m really sorry, but you’re snoring too loudly. It is annoying everyone,” she announced in a voice that was not exactly dulcet.
“I’m really sorry.”
“It’s okay. You didn’t do it intentionally.”
It took me less than a minute (by my own estimate) to fall asleep again. I woke up in time, but made sure I did not open my eyes till the aircraft landed.
I think she was exaggerating.