Flying as a senior Cabin Supervisor for 31 years I have gathered many experiences.
|I have just retired from a long flying career as a cabin crew in Air India. I thought of writing few of my striking and most valuable experiences, and share with you all. In fact there is so much that I have learnt in these humongous thirty years that books and papers and research documents on human behavior cannot teach.
When I did my masters in anthropology in the early years of 1985/86 we had a subject on Human Behavior. My professor would tell me that what you study here is but a fraction and is just a basic structure but this chapter will be taught to you by life itself. Every behavioral stimuli elucidates a different action and no two actions are similar even though the stimuli may be the same…..
That time the whole sentence went over my head at a supersonic speed and was happy that I got selected for the physical anthropology special paper. Who knew that time that the thought process that flew over my head on that day would be the main stream for me for the rest of my career and existence?
I would pen down my experiences not from the beginning but would write as and when the thoughts come to me about the experiences and the lessons that it taught me.
With this logic the later experiences come first and hence this one is from the later pages of my log.
This incident is about a year and half from present and it moved me a lot and forced me to look at life very differently.
This was a London flight and passengers were boarding. Wheelchair passengers are boarded first. A very immaculately dressed gentleman came on a wheelchair accompanied by his wife and they were seated at 3J and 3H. After he was seated the gentleman caught my arm and said ,"Son can you give me a glass of warm water/". There was something in his touch and voice that made me like him immediately. I went to the galley and got him a glass of warm water. I could have ordered my colleague to do so as I was busy with the pre-departure paperwork and the agencies waited for me to come back to them.
The doors closed and I made my welcome announcement and the aircraft was on its way to the take-off point. I went and checked the gentleman's seatbelt and came back to my location jump seat. The flight took off, a little later the seatbelt signs were switched off.
We were about to start our breakfast service when I went into the cabin to check on the passengers who would want to have breakfast. I noticed that this gentleman, his name was Parashar Patel, wanted something. His eyes were telling me that he wanted something but for some reason, he is holding back.
I went to him and kneeled in front of him and asked him ,"Uncle is it something that you want, please tell me I would be glad to help you. " I saw his wife had taken the duvet over herself and was sleeping deep. I knew he didn't want to wake her up. Mr. Patel said," actually was thinking if you could help me urinate"....... I was little perplexed, then he said that he had spine surgery and because of that his mobility is greatly reduced and restricted and that he has a urine bag attached and the bag has a small tap like rotating cock which needs to be opened. I immediately, without thinking about anything asked him, where is that rotating cock. He said,"it's near my upper right thigh. I called one of my colleague and told him to hold a blanket as a curtain and I opened his pants and reached for the rotating cock. Turned the cock and saw the relief in his eyes. The urine got collected in a pouch that was around his calf .
Now this urine bag was full so I told him that it is full and that it needs to be emptied. He said, " Let my wife wake up,she will do it " I told him, “Mr. Patel we are like your children you called me son so I too can do the same” and saying this I disengaged the pouch and drained the urine in the washroom and then again connected the pouch with the tubings. having done this I told Mr. Patel that now you can have little breakfast and then sleep through the flight and rest.
I saw tears in his eyes He just broke down and said that he traveled so many airlines in the past and never ever he had such an experience.
To me it was a lesson I would also reach his age and god knows what will be the state I need to be free of EGO and selfdom and I need to be strong, capable, and tenacious, just like Mr Patel. Mr. Patel had tremendous self-respect. I had a liking for him and some sort of a connection developed with this passenger. I cannot explain why but then this is life.
Breakfast was served and I went into the cabin engaging with various passengers that we had on that day. Did a complete round of the aircraft and when I was in the business class cabin I noticed that Mr. Patel was struggling to cut the omelet into pieces. I went to him and made small pieces of the omelet and asked him if he needs to be fed and he said no thank you I will manage from here on. Hats off to that man.
Just before landing his wife came to me in the galley and with her hands folded just started crying and said that what you have done today, no other airline has treated us so well.
I told her that she need not do so and that I have not done anything out of the way. It is the Indian value system that all of us are cognitively enriched with.
He was my father's age and had my father traveled with me that day I would have done the same thing. Come let me give you a hug you are like my mother.
The flight landed in London Heathrow and Mr. and Mrs. Patel disembarked. Both of them looked at me and the crew that was at the door and in that look, I could see that they were thanking us and blessing us from their hearts…… Sometimes silence speaks more than words.
Now we were in the transport going to the hotel when my colleague who was in the business class with me said, “Aaj apna CS, passenger ko Jadu ki jhappi de raha tha” ( Our CS was today giving magic hugs to his passengers ) I just kept quiet and maybe subconsciously prayed a little for Mr. Patel and For Me.