Chai in a lounge

I am one of those who likes to get to airports early. And I mean seriously early. I am not a fan of stress, especially when flying - probably a result of the ‘Incident of the Missed Flight’ many years ago, I make sure I am there at least two hours before any flight and on occasion in big cities known for its busy traffic, I have even arrived three and a half hours early. What this always leaves you with is a lot of time to spend at airports, and whether it’s palatable depends on the airport you are in.

There I was in an airport a few months ago, where there was really nothing to do, or see or buy. I settled in the lounge with my book, which was unfortunately not very good and there was only an apology of a bookshop in the airport. I had put my iPad in my checked-in baggage in an effort to not stare at an electronic device for a few hours. I never listen to music, out of a pathological fear of missing some vital announcement.

I was just getting thoroughly bored, when suddenly a loud voice said, “Why is this place reserved? How can you reserve a place in the lounge?” I looked up to see a tall big man and his shorter big wife standing just at the entrance to the lounge, keen to get into a sort of semi-private area. No question, they were absolutely within their rights to demand to sit there and the hapless attendants (three of them) couldn’t say anything besides, “But sir, we were told to reserve it for a big hotel man who is travelling.”

By then everyone, bored with sitting in the hushed atmosphere, was watching, until the manager of the place ran up, shushed the warring parties and ushered the big couple to their little enclave. Great - justice had been served and all was well with the world, except that the big man then proceeded to talk to his doctor on his mobile in an even bigger voice, about gastrointestinal matters. I am quite sure all of us in the lounge would have gone to our graves happy without getting that familiar with his rather expansive stomach.

Just then Big Hotel Man arrived – big only in height, looked very European, but with an Indian name and spoke perfect Hindi as well. He didn’t look in the least bit put out that his ‘special’ place had been given out and settled down happily on the sofa next to my chair with his book and a drink. Of course, now there was a constant buzz of waiters hovering around the Big Hotel Man, with the first Big Man quite forgotten.

And then the unthinkable happened. Dubai Expat Rich Man arrived with his wife and now the waiters were completely confused which way to run. Poor chaps – if only they knew there was another Big Corporate Hotshot from Muscat pacing around, looking mildly disturbed at not being recognised.

They solved it soon. Big Hotel Man was respectfully asked whether he would meet Dubai Man and he politely said ‘sure’. The elderly Dubai Man came on over and after the initial pleasantries, he proceeded to discuss the secret(s) behind his wonderfully successful life at an increasing volume. All I can say is that he was extremely impressed with himself and that made it doubly entertaining for me.

Dubai Man suddenly remembered his wife and asked a waiter to fetch her. Dubai Wife was very elegant, gorgeous locks carefully styled to look ‘un-styled’, tastefully done bracelets with the most shockingly large diamonds, and of course, clothes that were so simple, so well cut that it could only be exclusive designer wear.

I watched her glance disdainfully around as she stood there patiently by her husband’s chair, wrinkling her nose at Short Big Wife who was (loudly, what else) recounting her tale of having spent US$9,000 at a spa for a day. Only after Dubai Man acknowledged her presence, did Dubai Wife gingerly perch on the chair to my left, at a discreet distance from her ‘superior’.

Then came the best bit: Dubai Man wanted chai and of course, someone was waiting to ask what kind of tea. Dubai Man, without turning his head away from Big Hotel Man, pointed in the direction of Dubai Wife: “She will tell you how to make it.” She proceeded to explain in a low tone – and when the waiter arrived with the paraphernalia, she jumped up to make the tea in the corner. She then walked past me very elegantly, stood quietly with the tea (and the nose – incredibly – still tilted up), waiting for her husband, who was in mid-flow, to finish his conversation.

Before I could close my mouth, which had fallen open something like five minutes back, my flight was announced. But I doubt she would have done, what I wanted to: Poured it on his head. Did I say airports could be boring? What was I thinking?

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