Sunday, September 06, 2009

A Familiar Face

The long haul from Delhi to Trivandrum was – and still is – one of the most exhausting domestic flights one can think of. In the pre-liberalisation days when aircrafts were in short supply, Indian Airlines was liberal with hops between stops. This one hopped three times – at Bombay, Goa and Cochin – which stretched the flight by two hours.

As the time of departure from Delhi is 0530 hours one had to wake up at 0345 to make it to the Palam airport in time. This can be a punishment on a wintry morning, but then it was all part of the job.

It was an Airbus 300AB – the one that seats eight abreast. ‘Seat No 1H please, if you can,’ I asked. The girl at the counter looked first looked at the bleary-eyed, sleep-deficient me. Then she scanned the passenger manifest – top to bottom and bottom to top. After ensuring that no exalted personage was booked by that flight, she smiled at me and allotted me the window seat reserved for VVIPs.

I dozed till the security call was made, went through the procedure like a zombie and again dozed for a while as I waited for the boarding announcement. The flight would be delayed by two hours because of the fog, announced a deadened voiced through the public address system.

Deliverance came at 0715. Dumping my bag in the stow overhead, I slumped into the seat and promptly fell asleep. I did not forget to ask the petite airhostess not to wake me up for toffees, cotton wool, tea or breakfast.

The next thing I knew was that we were in Dabolim Airport, Goa. I had not known that Santa Cruz in Bombay had come and gone! The aircraft was disgorging holiday-makers who were disembarking in great hurry unusual for a holiday. I looked out. There was a lot of activity on the ground too.

I must have nodded off again for a while. When I ‘came to’, the passengers bound for Cochin and Trivandrum were walking along the tarmac towards the aircraft. Trailing them was a man with curly, salt-and-pepper hair. Dark glasses. I was sure I knew him. Aged about forty years, he wore a pair of ice-blue jeans and white cotton kurta. I could not place him, but I was sure I had seen him somewhere.

He was the last to climb the step-ladder. I was still solving the riddle when he came and occupied the seat next to me. I wracked my brain. No luck.

Finally, after the flight was again airborne, I ventured to ask my neighbour, ‘Excuse me, but haven’t we met somewhere?’

The gentleman looked up from the paperback he was reading, regarded me carefully and replied in a rich baritone, ‘No, sir, I don’t think so.’

Then it dawned on me. The owner of the voice was Naseeruddeen Shah.

PS: For the information of those (like me) who are not clued in on film personalities, Naseeruddeen Shah is a National award-winning actor and director. In 2003, the Government of India honoured him with the Padma Bhushan for his contributions towards Indian Cinema.


A Stoic said...

Happens to people all the time...

Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

You were at least better than my friend Raji (Rajalaxmi). She was in a first class "coupe" meant for two persons along with an impressive and rather well-built lady. The lady under ref showed some recently taken pictures of herself performing on a stage. The photos didn't ring a bell in poor Raji's mind. In desperation, her companion introduced herself: "I am Usha Iyer." (She was not an Uthup at the time.)

Raji didn't quite catch her in the clanking of the train. She asked, "I beg your pardon, Usha Who?"

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

my son had a somewhat similar experience. he met some one who looked familiar at the khar gymkhana club where he used to go for cricket the question have i seen you, the boy answred "No. you must be thinking of my father. i'm suppod to resemble him - he's nasrudin shah"

do check this out: