Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Power Play: Rules of the Game

It was the transit of the International Airport at Colombo. She was waiting for her turn to be called for the flight to Cochin. It was a long and tedious day after hours of flying and waiting. She was in her early thirties, tall, dark and beautiful. She tried to focus on the Grisham novel at hand, having an eye on her baggage. It was then that she was drawn towards the sudden hustle.

The flight to Chennai had been announced some time back. Chennai being her home town, she was thinking about her plans to meet her friends and relatives there as the announcement was made. So, she turned to look at the scurrying Airport official as he whizzed past her, commenting to his colleague: “The flight to Chennai was supposed to have left half an hour back; what the heck are they still doing?”

Her eyes fell on a group of five people – three men and two women – at the far end of the lounge, towards whom the officer was rushing with his colleague. It wasn’t exactly clear as to what they were doing there, but she could make out that they were in a hurry – and that they weren’t very comfortable in doing whatever they were doing. She felt that it was not a normal scene in an airport. She put Grisham aside, got up, pulled her trolley bag and started strolling towards the commotion there.

The officer had reached the gang of five and he was telling something – and he was clearly tense, as he was pointing towards his watch. The bearded man in the group seemed apologetic of something and was handling the officer, while another man was rushing things up.

As she walked closer, pacing slightly, she could see cartons of a popular brand of cigarettes being opened by the rest of the gang. They were being taken off the carton and were repacked – in 8 or 9 suitcases that were with the gang. She could see that the packets were covered in cloth and were distributed equally in all the suitcases. It was a lot of cigarettes. What were they up to?

As she walked faster towards them, the colleague of the airport officer noted her attention towards the scene. He turned around immediately and started pacing towards her. She knew that he was walking towards her. She wondered if she should act as if she was casually browsing through the lounge, but couldn’t really make her mind up. By then, he had arrived.

“Yes, ma’am, what can I do for you?”

“Well, nothing, I was just killing time strolling around and . . .”

“Would you please be seated in the designated areas? It would be better if you could oblige!”

His voice bordered on intimidation. It was almost a stern order. She could see from his badge that he belonged to Airline X-Air that she used to fly frequently in. And he was standing in such a way that he blocked her view of the commotion at the other end. Still, she could see that the unpacking and repacking were all but done by then and one of the women was now carrying the empty cartons towards the rest room. They were smugglers!

The woman came back, joined the rest of the gang that was now heading towards the Gate. And they left to board the Chennai bound flight, which was actually delayed, as she could see now, to take these smugglers in!

“Would you get to your seat ma’am?”

Her thoughts were interrupted by the impatient voice of the officer. The other officer who was with the gang was accosting her now. And she wanted no trouble in foreign soil. She turned back and walked silently back to the lounge. She could hear the two officers discussing something behind her back.

As she got back to where she was seated, still in shock at the cold blooded smuggling of cigarettes, with two abettors of X-Air, she felt more disturbed as a scene ran through her mind now.

It was at her port of origin the day before, in the Middle East, that she saw a man pleading with an officer of X-Air at the baggage check-in counter. She was awaiting her turn then as the man, obviously from the working class, and apparently getting back to India on his holiday, was pleading to take a small pack along with his baggage.

The officers at the counter were ruthless.

“This weighs more than what you can carry, my friend. Rules are rules! You either pay for your excess baggage or drop the bag here and proceed!”

After almost a quarter of an hour of argument in vain, the man took the bag back, walked with dejection written all over his face, with drooping shoulders, towards the garbage bin near her. He dropped the bag in the bin and went to the baggage counter, got his boarding pass and proceeded without looking back.

Curiously, she peeped into the garbage bin to see what he had dropped. And in the bin, she could see a father’s love, a husband’s affection, a part of a poor man’s dream. There were sweets and savouries and snacks almost filling the garbage sack.

As she looked for the man again, he was ambling with his hand baggage towards the security checks. And she could almost hear him desperately trying to invent a consolation for his family and kids as to why he couldn’t care to buy a single sweet or chocolate for them, getting back home after years of sacrifice!


krish said...

Based on actual incidents at Colombo Airport and an Airport at one of the Gulf Countries, in the Middle East.

Anonymous said...


Good or bad is relative. So going on that scale, smuggling may be bad for some and carrying extra baggage may be bad for others and both may be bad for most!

Now, we all want to stop activities like smuggling etc., to tarnish the bliss of this world. Agreed. So, what happened in the first part of your narration is very much a point of concern!

But in the later part,I quite disagree with you on two things-

1. His disappointment is very much the result of his own negligience towards his social responsibilities and moral ethics. I suppose if he is flying, he would be responsible enough to understand the baggage limits and stick to it! He should not have carried excess baggage in the first place. Simplest of reasons being, imagine if every passenger, in the name of having a doting family treated sweets and asavouries as not something a part of extra baggage but an allowance that should be made on emotional grounds!!!

2.//getting back home after years of sacrifice!//

Sacrifice???? Well, choice is the word! If he chose to work abroad say for career sake or monetary gains or whatever be the reason, you cant call it sacrifice for him being away. He made the choice. Who asked him to? It was his call on it! So years of sacrifice is not even a ground for him to earn a sympathetic feeling in this case.
Talk of warheroes, military men, firemen etc., who go away from family for a greater purpose. But not the ones who go for individualistic gains and for the sake of the very same family on whose name you think consolation and sacrifice are bestfits!

Nonetheless, this was an interesting observation!!!!!

Did your friend not think of calling the emergency number in the first case? anonymous calls are allowed and she could have alerted in time! Oh well! Talk the talk and not walk the talk is a very sad state of affairs these days!


Anonymous said...

*smuggling etc., THAT tarnish the bliss

krish said...

Well S,

This is a narration. There is no justification done to *any* aspect described in this, no conclusions arrived at. And this has purely been portrayed from the view point of a character who experienced two contrasting aspects of behaviour from the same party.

So, I dont quite see how you could disagree with me when I have taken no position at all!

Getting to the last word in the post, yes, I did use the word "Sacrifice". Again, the situation here is entirely subjective. I have NOT called the action a sacrifice; it was a description of the emotions that ran in the mind of the person on his way back home. Subjectively, any person has the right to feel, justifiably, any act a sacrifice. And the position of the man has been described from the view point of the character - the woman. Again, I think you would understand, it is entirely subjective.

The whole episode has been a narration from the perspective of a character in the post. My definition of the word "Sacrifice" may or may not be much different from what you find here; the point is, there is no scope for me to define things in this particular post in *my* terms.

"Did your friend not think of calling the emergency number in the first case? "

If you read the first comment, I have made it very clear that all of these is *BASED* on actual incidents. I have not portrayed things as they happened. The entire post is just to bring into focus, the contrasting ways of life and how rules are not objective at all. Rules have been broken in the first case and in the second, they have been hard and fast, with no emotions attached whatsoever.

This is a real incident adapted for the post. What has been narrated is not all that happened. And whether the woman used the emergency numbers or not is out of context as far as this post is concerned. She may have - she may have not; but that just is not the focus of the post.

"Talk the talk and not walk the talk is a very sad state of affairs these days!"

I would definitely be pleased if you can explain what you meant by that. And I really do wonder if you still have to say something on that after all the explanations that I have given you about the context and scope of the post. If you do, please shoot.

Winnie the poohi said...

Sigh. Once in a while such incidents touch our conscience but we forget it.. that makes me hate such stories.. as they make us face a bitter truth whih we dont want to.. that we are bunch of losers and would never care to actually fight against injustice.

I know lame reason to hate reality.. escapism.. but then thats what makes me look at the future n still b hopeful