Saturday, March 1, 2008

The African Diaries - The Land of the Watermelon Smugglers

The Ethiopian Airlines flight to Addis Ababa and Entebbe leaves Mumbai at 5.45 am, for which you have to report at 2.45 am, which is a time for feeling like a corpse. Everyone in the airport was behaving like a zombie. A particularly petrified specimen wearing a blue coat, peaked cap and wings on his lapels was wandering around like Frankenstein's monster. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. "Tom", I whispered, "is that our pilot?". "Gotta be" he said, nonchalantly "hardly any other flights taking off at this time". I tried hard to recall the Gayatri Mantra.

The lady at check-in asked us where our visas for Uganda were, and gave us a look of intense suspicion when we told her that it was visa on arrival. I sweated a bit under the collar because I just realized that all that we had was George's unsupported word for it. For all we knew, Uganda might be more paranoid than North Korea even, and I had visions of a Tom Hanks like existence in The Terminal. Then I spied her giving the same treatment to another doofus first timer and realized that this babe was the practical joker in chief there. A lot of high fives would be exchanged behind the check-in counter once the flight had taken off.

The flight was most pleasant. The stewardess fell for my looks and kept plying me with champagne. When I had landed at Addis five hours later, I was drunk as a lord. So were Tom and George and when they kissed us good-bye (the stewardesses, that is), they told us that we had to catch another plane to Entebbe. I realized, to my horror, that I had lost all sense of direction. And further horrors, so had messrs Tom and George. We spent the next hour staggering around Addis Ababa Bole airport. Finally, a kind soul took pity on us and shoved us onto a plane he swore was going to Entebbe. Actually, the sign said Kigali but this guy told us it was the same thing.

I sat next to a kindly old white woman who said she was going to Kigali. "You mean Entebbe", I said. "Oh no, Kigali. That's the capital of Rwanda". I spent the next hour trying to convey to Tom and George that we were being hijacked to a country where the idea of an evening's entertainment is a cosy little genocide. Well, the egg was on my face, because the flight was going to Kigali via Entebbe, where we were going to be ejected from the plane and secondly, the genocide thing is history. Rwanda is now one of the most stable countries in Africa.......

(the I.S. is yelling at me to knock it off and get some zzzzzs, it is 2 a.m, we just watched Jodha Akbar, by the way, but stay tuned. I am going to reveal a lot of Africa's dark secrets)


Drenched said...

Hahahahaha!! Okay, so are the flights bad? My African dost told me that whenever she and her family used to visit India, there were wobbly seats, jammed toilets and tons of cancellations. They even came in business class once and when her mom took her seat, the backrest fell off * nearly dies laughing*. And then she once told this gem of a story. She was 15 and going alone to India from that obscure little Cam-something via Ethiopia. The flight took off from Addis Ababa (yes, my African capitals are good now. Do you where Dodoma is? *superior look*) and landed back within half an hour because an emergency exit door wasn't properly shut. Heeheehee. It makes me thank all the gods each time I travel by a safe airline.

Oh, and they tell me that if you cause false alarms such as you did on the flight to Kigali, they tie you up and feed your meat to their starving gazillions. The bones they trade with those pesky Chinese who are strutting about there these days.

I tried hard to recall the Gayatri Mantra.
I reckon you were snoring through every episode of Kyunki Saas Bhi something something.

rads said...

oooo, loving these tales, keep writing! :)

Would you be writing on JA too? Would you, could you? :)

narendra shenoy said...

@drenched - actually, the flights were superb. It was I who was wasted. Ethiopian airlines has the prettiest stewardesses - they all look like Esha Deol.
And yeah, what with the hurly burly of life, I never got my share of Kyunki Saas Bhi and its deep commentary of life, the universe and everything.

@rads - I am dying to write about JA. The IS thought it was an immortal love epic and when I suggested that my views were at variance from hers, she pronounced me a philistine of the first order. She is accurate in that assessment, of course, but I'm going to write nevertheless.

Oh, enjoyed myself thoroughly!

Drenched said...

Wait, you just said that Ethiopian airlines had pretty stewardesses and then, you went ahead and compared them to that ugly Esha Deol! The Africans ate up your sense of humour. *shakes head sadly*

Ok said...

Seriously! You are a sound egg;). I could read you instead of a Wodehouse.


PS said...

Damn. The self deprecating humor is brilliant. I wish I could take myself less seriously like you do. :(

Anyhoo, didn't even know there were flights from Mumbai to Uganda. Do people actually even fly to Uganda...from India?

narendra shenoy said...

@drenched - Yea Esha deol gives me the creeps too. I do the Ethiopian stewardesses an injustice.

@ok - a million thanks for comparing me to the Master!

@ps - it is easy to be self deprecating when one is genuinely worthless!
Oh yes! The number of Indians in Uganda is staggering!

Maddy said...

entebee- the name rings a loud bell. yup that was where the israelis came to do some hostage release sometime back..

what kind of food do you get out there, i.e after discounting the indian eateries?