Tuesday, July 29, 2014


As soon as the Air India Boeing took off from the Narita Airport Terminal-2, i  looked around for my co-passengers. In-spite of stressing for an aisle seat at the ticket counter, i was given a middle seat. My natural reflex to such a disappointment would have been the rising of the middle finger but i restrained myself from doing that. After all i was in a foreign country. Like all Indians who would not give two seconds before uttering an expletive or spitting while driving when in their home town but would behave like a well groomed school kid when visiting foreign country, i too did the 'Namaste' routine to the person doing his job at the other side of the ticket desk and moved on. Sometimes i feel we act so polite as if the success of diplomacy and external affairs ministry depended on our behavior.

As i was unfastening my seat belt after the take off, i heard a deep drawl in my left ear-
Do you like  Amerikano-asked the gentleman sitting on my left in the flight from Tokyo to New Delhi.
Hearing that accent, the stereotyping bug inside me was tripped and i instantly assumed that the person would be from Italy. But no , he said he was from Turkey.
I was busy putting the earphone jack in its socket, when he repeated the question again-Do you like Americano?
Do i like America?? Off course i do. Most of my countrymen and colleagues want to settle or work there to earn in dollars.
He nodded his head as if this reason for loving America was not enough.
He touched the tip of four fingers of this both hands with the thumb and asked very slowly-Amerikano-Do you liking Amerikano?
I said excuse me..American? you mean like American food? Burger, Onion rings ? Yeah we Indians love to eat them and KFC and MCDonald is practically my residence during weekends.
He nodded his head as if he was disgusted by my love for junk food.
No No. You like Americano..Ameri..kano? This time he was pointing to the display screen in front of his seat.
Aaah..I think you are asking about American movies like Hollywood? Yeah i like Hollywood movies and specifically watch only Hollywood movies while flying. The reason was most Indians i met in air would be watching Hollywood movies and i thought that was the accepted practice. Later one of my frequent flying colleague told me that he does not watch Bollywood or any other regional Indian movie while flying because he does not want to make his co-passengers air sick with those song-and-dance routines that are quintessential part of our movies.

Still there was no change in the annoying look of the Turkish gentleman.
No No..No Hollywood. Bollywood. Americano. Amer..Kano
I was perplexed to the point that i wanted to get up and go to the toilet. It's my natural reflex when i get confused. But the occupied sign on the toilet door kept me fixed in my seat. I looked out of the window trying to find any connection between the Indian movie industry and America.
There were some like the recent Life of Pi or two decades back the guilty pleasures of watching the Amritraj brother's produced B-Grade movies. Where do i start from?
Meanwhile the Japanese lady to my right who was listening intently to this conversation ordered a beer. Maybe she got a headache. Unfortunately she wanted an Asahi but only got a Foster.She smiled back to us as if saying do not disturb me with your ruckus.
I too was thinking to order a beer, but did not do so thinking what might happen if i get drunk. I would set a bad example of an Indian in air. So i ordered a coke instead. The Indian steward smiled as if he could read the thoughts in my mind.
While i was sipping the coke, the Turkish gentleman turned on the display and with very swift moves selected Hindi movies. He scrolled through umpteenth options and as soon as he saw Ishq, his face glowed like the fake glow we see in the get-fairer-skin commercials. He selected it and it started playing. He did not put the headphone on. While i was still figuring out why on earth would a Turkish guy watch a Hindi movie, Aamir Khan made his on-screen entry and the Turkish gentleman almost jumped in his seat and exclaimed-Amerikano..Amerkano...see this Amerikano.

Ok ok cool down. So you were talking about Aamir Khan. I was astonished and humbled at the same time. The Turkish gentleman told me that he has watched every movie of Aamir Khan and he is is favorite actor. He also talked at length about his recent role in Dhoom 3. All this had woken up the Japanese lady and she kept switching her focus between the movie and our discussion. She smiled and said one word-cute.

Our discussion now shifted to Ghajni and Andaz Apna Apna and the comic timing of the actor. He said now they even get the Bollywood movies dubbed in Turkish. He told me he ran a take-away Turkish restaurant in Asakusa, Tokyo and watching Bollywood movies (specially of Aamir Khan) was his favorite past time. We were so engaged in the discussion, that we did not notice that the stewards had started serving food. I was about to open my packed food when the Turkish gentleman offered some of his food. He had specially ordered Turkish food for himself instead of the usual airline food- Doner(compressed chicken meat) filled in Pide bread and some kind of mustard sauce. It looked tempting and a welcoming change-specially after two weeks of eating only Udon. But before i could get my hands to this gastronomical delight, the experiences of travelling in Indian railways stopped me.
 Do not accept food from strangers. They might drug you and take your belongings. But then i reckoned, it will be difficult for this Turkish gentleman to get off the plane mid air, even if he was able to drug me and take my belongings. So i rejected those negative thoughts, took the food and savored every bite of  it.

Oddly enough, for the the rest of the journey all three of us watched Ishq in our respective displays.