Monday, September 03, 2007

JFK-LHR-JFK

I haven’t yet written anything about London. I’ll try to remedy that this week--it’ll be a nice respite from the dizzying demands of the beginning of school.

After complaining about modern travel, it’s only fair to note that, of my six round-trip flights since April, the flights on Air India from New York to London and back were the two that were almost entirely without incident.

I’d never flown Air India before, but I’ll do it again in a minute. The chief steward announced that, once we reached our cruising altitude, the crew would be serving us “a sumptuous dinner.” A phrase worth risking an airline meal for, I think.

It wasn’t quite that--the lamb curry was a touch over-microwaved--but the hot mix was a million times better than pretzels and diner came with yogurt and a yummy milky sweet dessert and really good tea. (Well, the flight continued from London to Mumbai [which, by the way, all of the Indian crew consistently called “Bombay…” C’mon! We’re trying here! It’d be like going to China and having everyone talk about Peking. {Maybe they do…} It’s disconcerting and funny.], so how could they not have good tea?)

The stewardess initially seemed to raise an eyebrow when I requested a beer, but she immediately offered a second and then also insisted I choose some water, too.

The movie was “The Year of the Dog,” an indie film about a woman whose dog dies starring Molly Shannon. It was a downer, but interesting: a good, serious movie. Imagine that.

The documentary feature was on low-cost green architecture in India.

The map charting our progress continually announced: “Physical Features Map Only. NO POLITICAL BOUNDARIES DEPICTED,” which isn’t such an issue crossing the Atlantic, but surely comes into play with that pesky border with Pakistan.

The plane was nearly empty on the way to London, so I had three seats to myself and got some real rest. The quicker-thinking Indian grandmother near me nabbed the middle five--all four feet of her--still, I could kind of lie down and I arrived in London on Sunday morning feeling almost human.

On the way home, the plane was full. I sat with a working mom from Boston and her two-year-old daughter. Father and the older girl were sitting up ahead. They were returning from a month with grandparents back in India and we had a pleasant time commiserating over travel with small children. Hers were lovely.

And the vegetarian dinner was truly sumptuous this time.

Funny to travel to London to look at the manuscript of a novel in which a character returns to London from India and thinks about how much has changed in London since his departure. What would Woolf, what would Peter Walsh, think of me--seventy years on--traveling to London on an Indian jet full of affluent Indians?

Seeing that first class is not in my future, this seems like the way to go: pay $200 less than any American carrier AND get treated like a human being.

3 comments:

genevieve said...

That sounds super. And your reflections are most apt. "Sumptuous" and "air-travel" are not two words we usually put together, are they?

JRG said...

I love Air India! In addition to being far cheaper and more hospitable than anything else associated with Heathrow, they let me change my flight one day before my scheduled departure and they did it free!

amcorrea said...

(Jotting mental note to self...)

Thanks for the wonderful tip and insight into the wheels-within-wheels nature of the reading life.