It was a morning flight departing New Delhi at 7.00am. I had originally booked for an Air India flight but changed it to Spice flight as there was a strike threat by Air India staff, which was not unusual. Kingfisher flights were in total disarray.Vijay Mallya was finally succeeding in squandering away completely the immense fortune built up by his father from his liquor business.
The Spice flight, after a stop at Hyderabad, was supposed to reach Kochi. by around 11.00am. Normally, no free food is served on Spice flights and I was not expecting any breakfast to be served. So I decided to get some shut-eye to compensate for the sleep lost due to the hassles of early rising to catch the morning flight.I was in a pleasant REM stage of sleep with the alpha waves swirling around the frontal-central location of the brain indicating a semi-arousal state when the plane touched down at Hyderabad airport.
It was a smooth landing but nevertheless the slight bump when the wheels of the aircraft touched down on the runway brought me to the world of Vaisvanara.. I surveyed the interior of the aircraft through half opened eyes, decided that everything was as it should be and once again surrendered my brain to the soothing, redolent alpha rhythms.
The Caucasian pilot on loan from one of the CIS countries had a dazed look on his face and hurriedly started taxiing the plane to get it airborne. The cabin crew flopped down on their flight stations unable to fully fathom the magnitude of the task accomplished or fearfully anticipating the challenges ahead. Finally to the accompaniment of 'swaamiye saranamayyappa' shouted in unison, we were air borne.
After the aircraft was in flight for some time, and the ayyappans had their fill of the morning sun, the cumulus clouds, the ground far below etc., they gave their undivided attention to fiddling with the overhead switches. Soon one of them found out that a touch on one of them made a lamp to light up followed by a 'twim' sound and what more, brought one of the cabin crew hurrying. Information of the great discovery soon travelled to the ayyappans sitting in the front row to the back row and lights started lighting up sporadically everywhere accompanied by 'twim' sounds.
In the 'Close Encounter of the Third Kind' an electrician driving his jeep through a lonely stretch of road sees an UFO. He also hears 'a five-tone musical phrase in a major scale' accompanied by flashing lights. The situation was not much different now. Lights began flashing almost non stop followed by the sound and it was a 'Close Encounter of the Ayyappan Kind' .The flashing lights and sounds soon assumed a fractal pattern. The whole atmosphere became a bit psychedelic.
Meanwhile, one of the ayyappans found out that bottled mineral water is available free of charge. That speeded up the light-sound show and the cabin crew soon ran out of mineral water bottles stocked for the flight. For a time they tried ignoring the lights and sound summons but soon realised that they were fighting a loosing battle. They had to dip into the stock of mineral water bottles stocked for subsequent flights but still was not able to satiate the never ending demand. The Ayyappans collected and stocked enough drinking water for the arduous climb ahead and more.
It was the Guruswami's turn now. The plethora of 'rudraksha' 'thulasi' 'bead' maalas adorning his neck amply proclaimed his status to the whole world. If that were not enough, he frequently conversed in English with the flight crew and gave immediate translation in Telugu for the benefit of his flock. He had that smug ' Been there, Done that ' look on his face. He got into action by pulling out a full plastic sack which was thrust under the seat. With the fully laden sack he strode purposefully to the front row and opening the sack invited the ayyappans sitting on the front row to help themselves. A variety of eatables came out of the bag and he proceeded from row to row until he reached the last row near the tail. Even then the bag was only half empty. The cabin crew watched in dismay. Guruswami gave them a meaningful look which seemed to say: ' Doesn't matter if Spice does not serve any food. We have our own'. In one final act of utmost temerity he invited a passing crew to take a handful from the bag. The girl's face reddened, not out of bashfulness, I suspect.
The plane was finally shouted down at Kochi airport by the Ayappans, not too late. Apparently, they had decided , no doubt on the omniscient, omnipotent Guruswami's instructions, to disembark only after the other passengers had left. He was standing near the exit when I slowly manoeuvred my way through the milling cape buffaloes. He looked up when I reached him.
I could not resist a parting shot; 'Have a nice day' I said and hurried out before he could say 'You too'.