Saturday, April 22, 2006

The f(p)light of Gulf returnees

After reading mindcurry's post , an incident I had stowed deep into my mind demanded that it be brought to light.

And it seems all such incidents happen when I am on my way back to my home , my motherland.. Well here goes ..

I was returning to kerala after an overseas assignment , and since I my flight was courtesy Qatar airways , I had to catch my connection flight to "Trivendrooom" at Doha. The halt was 5 hours long and I had a good opportunity to look at the multitude of people god had created. In spite of a mighty headache it was a good experience.

I had to board from gate no:6 , the flight was at 12:55 , well , 1 o'clock in the morning.There were a lot of tired but happy looking malayalees waiting to get back home. There were a few foreigners too . As it happens always , the no: of chairs at the waiting area were about 2% of what was actually required . So I was obliged to sit on the floor , but the spot I chose to sit turned out to be a vantage point .From where I sat , I could see the gate no:s 5 , 4, and 3 too. There were a lot of people going to Europe from there and it was nice watching them and the Qatar Airways Officials.

No one at the gates seemed bothered by the rather bulky things people took aboard ..that is , until the call for the flight to Trivandrum came. A Van Damme-ish looking guy along with a beautiful but surly faced ( shew ! ) girl were manning the counter at the gate. The passenger's ticket/boarding pass would be checked and then.. Van Damme will ask the passenger to hand over their hand baggage , lift it with a "OMFG it weighs a tonne!!!" expression and shake his head sadly. As if on cue the girl ( Van dam was assisting the girl ) would ask the passenger to "Please hand over the baggage to be send in along with the main luggage " . The passenger would try a feeble protest and will be met with stone faced stares and sad shaking of heads . Invariably the hand luggage went to the main cargo hold. I put on my best "don't bother me expression " jammed in my Mp3 player's ear buds deeper into my ears and went along casually. If my hand baggage went in along with the main luggage it would be a big problem . You see , mine was a laptop bag , but all it contained was a lot of chocolates , a few papers and a Canon Powershot for my Sister. I wanted the chocos and the cam to be intact .

Van Damme didn't even bother . I was waved through and so were all the foreigners , WHO ALL CARRIED BULKY HAND BAGGAGES which obviously were very heavy . They all had a Mohanlal style tilt to the side which they carried their bags on.Oh Come on , it was obvious that they carried a lot more than 7 kgs. It was like the Qatar airways people were bent on harassing the malayalees alone. They did leave out two couples.. Both carried babies and all the stuff associated with them . But all the rest were really unhappy by the time they were inside the gate. Most of them were dudes who toiled to make life good for the average Qatar citizen.They had a right to be treated fairly. Half of them actually didn't know what was happening. They tried a mild protest and gave up. One of them told me that this was because they knew that "resistance is futile". This has been happening for so many years that this was routine and they were kinda OK with it. I was not . Why were these people being treated without respect ? It was sick watching this thing happening.

Flipside :

As MC pointed out , they ( the "harassed" malayalees ) downed liquor like it was the last drops of water they may ever get to taste. Most of them were drunk by the time the plane touched down at TVM . Of course the dread of what the customs officials might do to their pockets had sobered them up . A couple of days after I returned I read that two of us Mallus had got drunk on an airplane , started a fight , tried grabbing an Airhostess' ass and ended up getting pummeled by the air plane security .

When I discussed this with my boss he said that "we Malayalees have to learn to behave with dignity " . He said that he had seen people getting drunk and vomiting all over the place , and the airhostesses had to clean up the vomit after them since the stench usually got a few more of the sober passengers to vomit too. The airhostesses treated you like you were muck in return. If you are from India , in economy class , you were just glorified shit for the Air line crews .

He also said that traveling by business class - even though its expensive - is better since they treat you with some respect and courtesy and you don't get embarrassed by your countryman's behavior...

We are taught to be courteous , carry ourselves with some dignity and not to indulge in alcoholism right from the school. But are we numbskulls ? What good is education to a man if his mind isn't refined ?


Mind Curry said...

aashik, it is always great to read posts based on real life experiences.

you are right about the "mallu" behavior and also the way mallus are isolated and treated badly. this is like the chicken and egg situation. i am not sure which one came first. but in all probability it started because of unruly behavior by our people. and it can change only if we change.

silverine said...

Sad but very true. There is a different perspective to this too. I have friends flying with IA and some foreign airlines and when they come down or email, the complaint is always the same..that Indian's make the worst air passengers. Mallu's I am rather 'proud' to say top the list. They even dilute Whiskey with beer to get maximum kick. There is this saying about giving and inch and people taking an yard. So if airlines allow bulky baggages then the Indian pax will bring bigger than bulky baggages. Which is why they are strict with Indians. It is discriminatory, but then such attitudes have an origin in our behaviour itself.

Good one.

Sarah said...

My best friend is a Malaysian Chinese. She used to work an air hostess. She always tried to avoid HK - Mumbai sector..two reasons..for her sanity and for saving her butt from unwanted massage, she always said, Indian male passengers are the worst... and I think there is some truth there..

Babin said...

GOod post aashik. Enjoyed reading about both side of the problem. Like Newton said everything has a equal and opposite reaction, rt:)

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Shinu Mathew said...

Good post Aashik,
It is true that in most walks of life, "pravasi Malayalee" is treated with contempt. Back home he is just a bunch of Dirhams or other currencies. As soon as one touch down at his homeland, poeple crowd him. Right from the Airport to house and till his vacation is over. Just for the crumbs.
And he is not helping his case either. by this drunken behaviour or boisterous ways. It may be the suuden trasition from labour camps and frghtful conditions to the comfort of Air Condition :D
Good one but love to see more from you guys.

Jiby said...

great post, aashik

i have also been unhappy with the apathy with which indians are treated in the asian air sector. our people keep forgetting courtesies like speaking in low voices, saying thanks and drinking moderately...none of this is goin to change...i saw even young educated guys my age boozing all the way from tvm in a flight i took.

i follow the gandhian method...pocket the indifference we get and dont show resentment, coz another indians behavior may be the reason for it.

Vinod/Kakka said...

I have travelled through the Gulf and through Srilankan. Srilankan is good in that they are not discriminatory at all.
BTW, about hand baggage: In a US-EU sector, I have seen airlines ask passengers to check in what is usually allowed as handbaggage. I guess it depends on how full the flight is.
About discrimination: A Gulf employee returning to Kerala does not usually have much choice in which airline he flies, it is either the cheapest one, or the one that his employee finds him seats on. Other people have choice, and maybe that adds in to the discrimination factor.
After seeing the discrimination, I will never fly Kuwait or Gulf Air again. Srilankan was good, and so was Emirates.
About check in staff: The rudest are the ones in Trivandrum. Regardless of what airline you are flying.

Anonymous said...

Check thi out, my experience...

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