The other day, I had to accompany my friend, who lives on the 21st floor, to Delhi.
I do not know if have mentioned this before but my friend does every thing in threes. So, while we were flying in one Indian Airlines plane, tow other Indian Airlines planes accompanied us. Down below, at the Santa Cruz airport, there was some confusion, as passengers going to Calcutta, Madras, Bangalore etc. had no planes accompanied us. Down below, at the Santa Cruz airport, there was some confusion, as passengers going to Calcutta, Madras, Bangalore etc. had no planes to fly in.
My friend explained: "Ever since I had to make an emergency landing in Moscow, and be thoroughly embarrassed, I have been travelling with tow standby planes."
Once we had taken off, three air hostesses came down the aisle to serve us breakfast of puri bhaji, batata wadas and soggy omelettes, along with a toffee. My friend said: "You never know when one of the air-hostesses may fall ill or not report on duty, so I give instructions to have two spare ones, one of them from scheduled caste, of course."
"Of course," I said.
My friend, being a busy man, spent the time dictating letters to three secretaries. "You simply cannot manage with just one secretary," he told me, "unless he is somebody like Mani Shankar Aiyar. I offered him a job, but he refused since he and I did not go to the same school.
"What a shame," I said.
The pilot circled Indore three times and announced, in three different voices: "We are passing over Indore city, if you look out of the window you will see it on the right."
My friend said: "Actually, there are three pilots making the announcement. There are three pilots in this plane, and three each in the other two planes, so in all there are nine pilots."
I made quick calculations on my fingers and agreed: "Yes, there are nine pilots."
We are sitting in the fourth row. In front of us were sitting three chief minister, three home ministers, three finance ministers, and three AICC observers, all proceeding to New Delhi to see Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, who they may or may not be able to meet during the day. My friend said: "I gave them a lift, otherwise they would have been stranded."
"That is very considerate of you," I said.
The three pilots announced we were approaching New Delhi, outside temperature 32 degrees.
Just then I spotted behind me, M. J. Akbar and Aroon Purie. "What are they doing here?" I asked.
"I invited them," my friend said. "I always travel with three journalists."