Sunday, December 19, 2010

The man on the phone

I was early. All set to board the flight at Mumbai Airport. 

I bought books and got down to reading when I heard someone speak in Bengali.

I eavesdropped unintentionally. He was on the phone. Initially it was nice to hear a well-dressed, good-looking man speak in a language you find so charming. But he soon got angry and almost shouted at the person on the other end of the line, whom he referred to as Dada (colloquial term for elder brother). I can understand Bangla so it wasn't difficult to figure out that he was a businessman.

"I am talking to you on international roaming, why should I tell you who my fabricator is??? I sell unbranded stuff, you think I will get into a discussion about my suppliers with you on international roaming?? I think of you as an elder brother, so talk to me if you want to talk but not as a business associate. You have no ethics, I have no patience for you", he erupted.

"He is not an Indian, even though he looks like one", I thought to myself.

We all got back to our books and newspapers once this was over, only to be startled by another loud, "What are you doing" in Bangla. We all looked up. He had now called someone on the phone who was probably a student coz this gentleman was now scolding the other person regarding some coaching classes the boy was attending. He authoritatively degraded the whole tuitions/coaching classes fraternity and told the boy in no uncertain terms that he should only be into self-study and no tuitions. "God had given you brains, use it!" He almost barked. This time the man was more aggressive than the last call he had made.

We all got back to our books and newspapers once this was over. It was quiet for sometime before we heard  "Delhi has bomb blasts and nothing happens. What is your foot going to do to me". This time he said it in Hindi and louder than the last two times. We all looked up again. He wasn't on the phone. The person sitting across him had accidentally knocked him with his foot.

"I am sorry I hit you by mistake", the other person expressed his regret.

The loud man continued, "No problem. The whole world is burning and nobody cares. Your foot is the least of all bothers. No problem." His response was totally unlike his earlier phone conversations. We all smiled. So did the person across him. These two men exchanged a laughter.

"I have traveled so much and seen so much that these things don't bother me. I am not like one of those frogs in the well", he went onto explain himself in Hindi.

The person sitting across apologised once again and said "I am sorry but I don't understand Hindi so well".

Now the loud man lost his cool and questioned "You don't understand Hindi? You are an Indian and you don't understand Hindi? Are you a South Indian? You people I tell you! If you don't understand it, why did you laugh the first time? Were you laughing at me? Were you making fun of me? You think i am an idiot? Tell me why is it that you can't be united, at least in your language?? Your state governments are divisive. Your whole secularist attitude is rubbish. You all are so divided that nobody can bring you together" Now he was speaking in English. 

He just got up, started walking around, muttering things to himself. If you din't know about the incident, you'd think he was talking on the phone craning into the Bluetooth. He went and sat at another place and continued his grumble.

I had all my mind to interrupt and stop his barrage but I didn't.

Now when I think back, I am not sure if he really was talking on phone the first two times as well.

To see him queue up ahead of us to board the same flight made many a passengers exchange glance. He united us in his outburst. I entered the aircraft praying I didn't have a seat next to him. I was relieved to see that he was seated on 4F and me on 7C. I didn't interact with him at all and yet he left such a significant impression on me.

But the fact remains even as I write this, there walks around a highly disgruntled man. An intelligent, multilingual, well-traveled, rich businessman who is finding this world a difficult place to live in. Sometimes, the baggage we carry is way above the silly 20kgs. cut off.


  1. Everyone lives here with their own baggage of tensions and problems. what is the fun if the whole world is devoid of them?

  2. Yes and that is why I guess snap judgements are such a wrong thing to do. Am slowly realising this.

  3. That must be quite some baggage he's carrying...How can he blame everyone else when there's so much negativity and compartmentalizing mentality in him?

  4. India is indeed a difficult place to live... specially when you see skyscrapers on one side of the road and slums on the other... you reminded me of all those things about India that disturbs me :(

  5. MANY TIMES, the baggage we carry is way above the silly 20kgs cut off...
    the scene is portrayed very well...and the cut taken by you is very good Vandu!

  6. Very true. Why would he not be talking on the phone the first two times?

  7. Don't know...just thought...but maybe he was talking on the phone.

  8. That must have been a rather eventful travel experience. Loved the last few words..." Sometimes, the baggage we carry is way above the silly 20kgs. cut off" Well written.

    Reminds me of the quote.... "Worries are like birds, let them fly over you.... But do not give them a chance to build a nest on your head"

  9. that is such a beautiful quote :)

  10. You write really well!
    All the best for the contest.

  11. What an experience ! It takes all kinds to make up this world !

  12. Thank you Deboshree.

    Yes Vasu it does take all kinds :) I looked up your blog, it is taking me to the blog of someone names rohini. I don't know why.


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