Having recently come off a 27-hour flight sleeping, waking, eating, halfway around the world got me thinking of all the entertaining sleeping experiences I have had on flights. (No, this is not about the mile high club. Please remember you are reading a column written by a man who was once voted the most dull human being in South Bombay.) Let me start with the first and most vivid, one. I was fast asleep on a long haul flight to New York eight years go. Suddenly I was vigorously shaken awake by a sturdy hand on my shoulder.
"Huh, huh? Wha…wha… what?" I mumbled, half panicked, only to see a grinning face swimming a few inches away from me.
"Mr. Iyer! Ah, ha! You are Mr Iyer, no?"
"Uhm…yeah…well, yeah…" I replied, knowing this was about a role I had played a couple of years before.
"Aha! See! I knew it, I say! Shall I tell you a secret?"
Before I could answer he said, "I am also Mr. Iyer! Ha! Ha! Ha!" I watched the man go, his shoulders still shaking with laughter totally oblivious of his behavior. He had been wanting to crack this joke for years and when he got his chance, what did it matter if I was fast asleep?
Another time, I was napping on a flight from London back home. I was in that fragile phase between dozing and heavy sleep when everything hinges on having complete silence around you. I heard a low, seductive, male voice say:
"Rahulji, Rahulji. Helloooo. Helloooo Rahulji."
Having learnt my lesson from the Mr Iyer episode, this time I kept my eyes closed.
"Arre, uthiye na Rahulji. Helloooo."
I slackened the muscles in my jaw, let my mouth open slightly, as if I was in the deepest coma of sleep.
"Rahulji." Now my foot was being gently held and shaken. "Aapse kuch baatein karni thi. If you don’t mind. Waise bahot tamanna thi."
Cramps began to slowly grip my body, which was by now feeling exhausted pretending to be fast asleep. I felt like one of those children forced to hold the ‘Statue!’ pose for agonisingly long. Slowly I began to tearlessly weep for myself. All I wanted to do was sleep. And look what I got. A man trying to woo me while my body became a pillar of pain. By then a steward had understood what was happening and gently escorted my effete wooer back to his seat. I still don’t know what he looked like.
Finally, I remember boarding a flight from Bombay to Toronto. As I entered the plane, the ticket-checker looked at me, smiled a huge, thrilled smile and said, "Have a flight, Mr Bose!" I’d never been asked to consume a flight before. I wonder what it would feel like.