The Flight to Africa

Update for 15 February 2010

The planeload of tourists was really excited – they were middle-aged Europeans wanting a break from their humdrum lifestyles and arctic cold winter. They could have got good bargains to holiday in the Mediterrenean Coasts of Spain, Italy and Greece or the Atlantic coast of Portugal, but since they were not interested in ham or bacon or PIGS meat and preferred game meat, they booked their tickets to Africa. They read up all about the Masai and the Samburu and Zulu and bought expensive DVDs from National Geographic and Discovery to be sure that they don’t snooze through the real hunt, when they are in the midst of it. They checked with their travel agent on whether the weather would be kind to their arthritis and wheezing. They were lucky; much of the places they intended to visit would have balmy sunny weather. Rains are not expected till April. So they packed their suitcases with assortment of sun block creams, sun tan lotions, brim hats, cotton scarves, insect repellants, an array of the most colourful bathing costumes and sundresses and shorts. The sunglasses would be carried in their hand-luggage, since they would need it as soon as they disembarked; it would be inappropriate and unpractical to unpack at arrival. The chartered flight took off – and the tourists rested themselves enough so that they could be well prepared for Africa, from the moment they landed. The flight touched down about 9 hours later and as it taxied to its bay and the aerobridge aligned for the passengers’ disembarkation, the excited crowds could not hold back. They rushed out of the aircraft only to be shocked. They were shocked not because of the serpentine queue leading out of the aerobridge; or the bright sunlight that shone all around the glass shielded window-panes; but because they felt cheated. They had paid for a trip to Africa, the continent teeming with wild animals, and sweeping savanna and where the Masai lived in mud huts and communities, dressed in colourful traditional attire. Here, they were ushered into an air-conditioned, modern air terminal that was at par with many international airports of their countries. The Hostess standing at the gate greeted them in English, German, French and Italian. She was smartly dressed in a skirt suit and stood behind a hoarding for a famous cold-drink. The tourists felt that they had just moved from one of their EU cities to another; and all this even without entering the city, with its well planned streets and avenues and parks and tall high rises. It took a lot of talking, cajoling and convincing to get them to believe that they were indeed in Africa, and that customs officer need not be surrounded by baboons sitting in his thatched outpost, or the bathroom was not a cluster of bushes with elephants for company to provide with running water when needed!

Touristy shock and awe was what the D Boyz exhibited when an Indian telecom company announced plans to acquire African Telecom assets. The Boyz could not fathom that the continent could offer any communication opportunities – didn’t some comics show tribesmen beating drums to convey messages across the “jungles”? So the Air was “deflateled” on D Street as high expectations crash landed by day end – and so what started with the SENSEX up 75 points, went under and finally ended 114 points down at 16038. So even if the PIGS stopped snorting and causing much mayhem across Europe, the D Boyz’ shock could not be changed. They did not even think of Europe all day today!!

This sometimes reminds me of some westerners who travel into Mumbai and the first thing they look for are snake charmers, Kings riding elephants, naked fakirs sleeping on a bed of nails and the tiger hunt! Barring the last one, not much can been seen in Mumbai these days, right Mr K___? (pronounced from the epiglottis).


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