Saturday, January 1, 2011

Chance Encounters

How often it happens that you do something totally out of the ordinary, something straight out of a movie or a novel and later reminisce what it could have been all about?

August 11, 2010
Raipur, Chattisgarh

I had to catch a flight from Raipur to New Delhi. Having nothing much to do in the city; I decided to go to the airport early and park myself there. Raipur Airport is a small airport with few flights but on that day there was only flight out of Raipur in the evening. Just a Kingfisher flight, just the dead looking Kingfisher baggage handlers and ticketing staff and equally weary travelers. What a boring airport, I thought to myself.

Curiosity will always kill the cat…I gave my bags for X-ray checking and went on the other side to see the x-ray images. Just then a ground officer from Kingfisher comes along and asks, “Sir, did you get your boarding pass”? I replied without looking back, “I will once I get this bag checked”. She said,”very well sir, but what are you looking at?” And then I told her I was looking at the X-ray display and wondering how could the airline personnel make out the difference between things. To me they were blotches of blue, green and orange colors. I could see a lot of stuff but how do they find minute things hidden between sheets of cloth or in a zip pouch?
She laughed. And it was an unusual laugh for an airline employee. It wasn’t the forced smile or the smirk-laden laugh that the profession taught her. And it was then when I saw her properly for the first time.

Tall, dusky, hazel-brown eyes, crisp Kingfisher uniform with a pearl necklace and a pony tail. She was by far the best airline operative I had met. She told how they were trained to spot the differences and how it becomes second nature to them.
Since I had time on my hands before the flight and even she didn’t have much work to do as the airport was almost empty, we sat down and started talking. She asked me what I was doing in Raipur and where was I going next. I told her about how I got fed up of my job and was going home after resigning. She started ranting about her job, how she’s stuck at this lousy airport and how she’d love to operate out of a bigger airport.

I couldn’t stop my from commenting, “But J(her name), you look really very good…you should be a flight stewardess. Isn’t that what you actually trained in aviation school?” She was taken aback and asked, “How do you know my name?” I replied, “Ms. J R…your ID tag says it all.”I had read her ID while talking to her.

She told me how her height is a little more than required and how she might skip this company to work for some other airline as a ground staff.
We talked about a variety of stuff related to airlines, thanks to my habit of picking up stupid knowledge from all over the world we discussed on CAT – III ILS, training, rowdy passengers, eve teasing, life of a flight attendant and that of a ground crew, job satisfaction in the industry and then our generation as a whole.
Soon it was time for my flight; I got up to go…

I wanted to keep her contact number or something, but then it dawned on me that this was just a chance encounter, nothing more nothing less. I gave her my face book and orkut ID and asked her to get in touch is she felt like and left for the departure lounge and finally to the boarding gate. While I was going, a couple of Kingfisher ground crew and ticketing staff looked at me with a mixed feeling of contempt and awe (I don’t know the reason whatsoever) and finally when I was at the gate...the lady said, “Sir, J said Bye…”

And that was it…a chance encounter.

August mid month, 2010.

I had to get my NSR (National Skills Registry) done so I went to Noida to get the thing sorted out. It is a pretty simple procedure wherein you apply online and then go along with the application number to any NSDL center and get your biometric information uploaded and you get your IT PIN generated.

It was a routine day at the NSDL center in Sec 18, Noida. Lots of people getting their PAN, GIR, NSR and other stuff done. There was this cute looking girl who was getting down fingerprints from people for their NSR. Finally my turn came and we started from my left hand. She had taken only maybe two fingerprints when an elderly man in his 60s came barging in and started shouting on the girl…you don’t have the manners to call up your clients when something goes amiss…you don’t know how to behave with a retired person…I’ll complain about you and all sort of harsh words.

The girl was stunned and finally managed to utter the words…”I will surely get your job done. Please don’t shout at me.” The man left in a huff and puff and everyone went back to their work. She started taking finger prints again but she just couldn’t get my finger on the right spot on the scanner. I looked at her and saw these big lakes of tears welling up in her eyes. Without thinking much, I asked her,”mere baad aur kitne logo ka NSR banana hai aapko? (After me, how many more NSRs do you have to make?)” She lookd beyond me and said, “abhi koi nahi hai line mei”. I asked her would she like to talk about the old man scolding her. And she said…”nahi, aapse baat karna thik nahi lagega. (It won’t be professional to talk to you)”

I said,”aap waise bhi abhi apna kaam thik se nahi kar pa rahi hain. Bahar chaliye, thoda man halka kijiye fir kaam. (In anycase, you can’t do your job properly right now. Come outside, relax a bit then work)”I took her out for an Ice-Tea(my favorite cold beverage) at McD’s and there I tried explaining to her how she shouldn’t take such things too seriously. That old man was a customer and customers shout. But there’s no need to take it personally as he is shouting at the position not you as a person. She told me how every other day some customer or the other would misbehave and she has to endure as they are customers but today she just felt really bad. “Mai unki poti ki umr ki hogi.Aise koi apni bacchi ko daantega?(I must be his grand-daughter’s age, does someone scold his grandchild like this?)”, she asked.

I said, “yeh kyo nahi samajhti ki har din ek aise customer jhelne se aapka test ho raha hai. Aur aap accha kar rahi hain.(Why don’t you think this way that everyday you are giving a test and faring well in the test)”

Soon she was smiling again and I felt now it was time to go back and get the work done. We went back, she happily took my fingerprints and my biometric information was entered in no time. As I rose up to leave, I saw a speck of tear on her cheek. Instinctively, I moved forward and wiped clean her cheek with my hand. She smiled again. And I left without saying anything…

I could have asked for her name, I could have asked for her number, maybe she might have given her contact as well. She might go home happy, thinking that she met a nice person and might as well tell this story to her friends. But asking her number would reduce the whole serendipity of the event to a normal incidence. Guy helping girl, getting her number and then the same story continues…

I felt this way, it would stay in memory longer…helping an unknown person without any motive and feeling nice about it…it was a chance encounter…