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I believe there are about 40 million people on earth who are descended from Genghis Khan. Every time I have to take an early morning flight, I become convinced that I am one of them. The ferocity with which I want to kick the daylights out of every individual who crosses my path can come only from such an exalted lineage. From the cab driver who gets grunted at; to the fellow passengers in the queue ahead at security who I dream of murdering slowly in their sleep; to the policeman who gets a dirty glare for feeling my butt, all human beings are equally abhorred during these traumatic periods.
However, none gets the brunt of my ire as much as the Despicable Encroacher of the Arm Rest (hereinafter referred to as DEAR). It is he who breaks the sacred gentleman’s unsaid agreement of sharing the armrest fairly and squarely. Like the constitution of the United Kingdom that is unwritten, but robust thanks to centuries of legal precedents, the ‘Covenant of the Economy Class Armrests’ states that the ones with longer arms should stretch their arms out and rest their elbows lightly on the farther half of the armrest while the ones with shorter arms have to snuggle their elbows in closer to the seat. While doing this, all precaution must be taken by both parties to ensure that contact between the two is minimised.
All fine so far. Almost all civilised human beings follow this. However, the DEAR is not civilised by any stretch of imagination. He sits upon the middle seat as if it were the iron throne of the Seven Kingdoms. With his left elbow, he takes full control over the entire territory of his left armrest and with his right elbow, he actually pushes out the unobtrusively placed elbow of the right side passenger by employing the sinister tactic of placing his elbow right at the edge and then proceeding to viciously shove out the co-passengers elbow. Then he looks blankly ahead and picks his nose in a nonchalant fashion.
It was two weeks back that I came across the worst of DEARs. As, prescribed by Murphy’s law, the passengers in the middle and window seats made their appearance well after I (the aisle-seater) had sat down. Being a courteous and well brought-up individual (even though the heir of Genghis), I politely got up and let DEAR and his wife move in. I gave them a full 30 seconds to settle down before plonking down. I sat back, heaved a sigh of contentment and placed the right elbow on the right armrest. Then I slowly started the process of snuggling my left elbow unobtrusively to the rearmost point of the left armrest, preparing the deploy the standard operating procedure of sliding it in further and further till it encountered human flesh. And then… I sat bolt upright!!
The blighter, who was a clear six inches taller than me -and hence possessing longer arms – had occupied the territory. I shook my head in exasperation. Another example that civilisation was falling apart. Resigned to my fate of having to lean my elbows far out – and thereby permanently damaging my arm sockets – I moved my elbow to the farthest reaches of the armrest and slowly lowered it. (civilised behaviour did not permit me to look to my left. Looking directly at the co-passenger is early bad taste.) As my elbow descended, I froze!!
My elbow had yet again encountered human flesh. It struck me with sickening clarity that I was sitting next to a DEAR.
Now I had two options.
Anyone who has watched Game of Thrones can tell you that option 2 is better. Besides, I was a bit worried that he might also be a descendant of Genghis Khan and that his genes, amplified by his eagerness to impress his wife, might prompt him to get up and pound me mercilessly if I deployed Option 1.
I have gone through many harrowing experiences in my life; but the next couple of hours were as nerve wracking as any I have experienced, as I put my cunning brain to work on DEAR dislodgement. The bulletised version of my process- without going into the details of my tumultuous feelings- is given below to help others who might find themselves in the presence of a DEAR…
It was during the deep sulk phase that DEARs wife politely asked me in Hindi if she could get out to go to the loo and I instantly saw my opportunity. I went through the motions of getting up and the wife and DEAR both stood up. I quickly shoved in my elbow and pointed out that due to turbulence, the pilot had turned on the fasten seatbelt sign and she was not allowed to get out. She promptly sat down and from the ensuing agitated conversation, I understood that she was about to throw up and moreover, that neither she nor her husband had any clue about the existence of the barf bag. Then realisation dawned on me. The poor guy was no DEAR. He just had not travelled much (if at all) on flights and knew nothing of civilised behaviour on airplanes. I quietly kicked my own backside (that hurt, since the recent bout of weight-loss had left my backside lean and scrawny) for being such a judgy bastard.
I redeemed myself in the next few minutes by quickly going through a well thought-out lesson plan on the usage of barf bags. The fact that I demonstrated how to open one and how to use it- with the necessary sound effects and actions thrown in- ensured that I covered all possible learning styles. The woman and the husband were both eternally grateful.
But what changed really was my attitude. I who had triumphantly and slimily taken over the armrest earlier quickly ceded this territory. After all, how do these small things matter between gurus and shishyas. Surprisingly, the husband also seemed to have learned his lesson and refused to reclaim the territory. The woman was good enough not to barf. We finished the rest of the journey in chummy silence, interspersed with loving sidelong glances at each other (the husband and I exchanged, but I absolutely desisted from returning the wife’s loving glances!)
The thought then crossed my mind – if India and Pakistan can find grounds where we can help each other and feel grateful/content, and both vacate Kashmir and give it breathing space, much like the armrest, all three of us can hug and smooch and exchange sidelong loving glances. This is actually what a fun Game of Thrones should be.
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