Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Leaves from My Japan Diary: On Board

I entered the aircraft. In a few minutes’ time, I was going to fly to the Land of the Rising Sun by Japan Airlines flight number JL472 (I also saw JO472 on my baggage). I’ve already said that I didn’t have any feeling (any feeling at all) when I was entering the plane. My mind was completely blank, overpowered by an unknown something. But thankfully I didn’t lose my sense. I was able enough to walk and talk and laugh and of course find my seats. I found it. I took out my passport and locked it safely inside my carry-on bag. After everything was over, I sat down. I was one sit away from the window. I’d have preferred sitting beside the window. But I didn’t care to choose a seat for myself. (I was misinformed by a probably misinformed friend.) To my relief, however, my roommate, the Wise Brother, was there. At least, I could chat up with someone during this 8½ -hour-long journey.

We sat there. I turned on the TV in front of me. There was no way I could be on such a long flight without chatting or “in-flight entertainment”. There were the usual precautions and warnings before the flight and I couldn’t watch the TV before takeoff. Meanwhile, our group supervisor collected the boarding-passes from us. After twenty minutes or so, the plane started rolling. The TV was available again and I switched to the takeoff channel. I watched the bird’s eye view of takeoff every time I took a flight. It was never boring to me. It didn’t fail to amuse me this time either. The plane took off and at that precise moment I became surer than ever that I was going to Nippon. I remembered all the obstacles on my way to this flight. I smiled and said to myself, “Finally!”

After about an hour of takeoff (or maybe before), I heard clicks and saw flashlights all around me. Many were taking photos. I cursed myself once again for bringing such useless batteries. It seemed that my excellent camera was no use in this trip. Many students were roaming about the cabin, going to another friend’s seat. Even the Wise Brother was going elsewhere at regular intervals. Grawp, Superstar (a new nickname for another great friend of mine in my group), Diamond, the Soft-spoken Director and the Calm Guy (all from the Saga Group) were sitting near me. Now I knew everybody and chatted up with them. I didn’t wander around as I was too tired and needed rest. I could hear cuss words uttered loudly in the plane. I was initially flummoxed to hear them on board. And when I looked I saw some Indian students from other group talking among themselves. It was slightly relaxing to see that none of my group members took part in it. I am immensely grateful to whoever decided to include me in the Saga Group (which was something like Gryffindor for me). Mind you, I am not saying that the members of other group were bad in any way. In fact, I had many great friends in the other groups as well. Most of them were very polite and well-mannered. It was just five or maybe six of the Indian students who were trying to glorify our nation (remember, we were going to represent our country?) in a plane full of passengers (not to mention the Japanese supervisors who were taking great pains to bring us to their country and consolidate the beautiful relation between Japan and India) by being foulmouthed. It was indeed disappointing to see such behaviour from a tiny number of Indian students.

However, the food served in the flight was great. Thanks to JENESYS, I was served Indian food in dinner. It was filling and I wanted to sleep at once as we were supposed to land in Narita Airport at 6:30 a.m. local time (we took off from India at about 7:45 p.m. IST). But sleep was nothing more than a distant dream. I couldn’t close my eyes. I tried to play games instead. After a while, even the game got boring. Then I tried to watch movies. Many were sleeping then.

I saw the list of movies. At first, I played The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I enjoyed it for 10 minutes or so. Then I turned it off. I hadn’t yet read Tolkien’s novel. I wanted to read the novel first. Watching the film before reading the novel always curbs the imagination of a reader. Then I tried to watch another Hollywood flick called Jumper. I was somewhat interested to see the movie as it starred Samuel L. Jackson. It was about teleportation or something. Believe me, it was the worst decision I made on board. It was such a ridiculously (forgive that) awful movie that it still pains to remember the experience.

Then without having anything to do, I switched to the channel which showed the flight-map. (I was watching it at regular intervals.) It was far more entertaining to know which country or city I was flying over (we flew over my state) or what the remaining time was or what the local times were in Japan and India.

I penned the following:

Date – ? ˜ Distance to Tokyo 3396 km
Date & Time in India – 12/5 ˜ 1124
Date & Time in Japan – 13/5 ˜ 0254

This means: it was less than four hours to Tokyo. (Sometime during the flight I changed the time of my wristwatch and set it 3½ hours ahead to keep up with the Japanese time.) A drunken co-passenger on board proved an annoyance to many. I still couldn’t sleep though I tried my best. It was no use at all. When the Wise Brother left his seat for a while, I tried to look outside. The moon looked beautiful. When I was trying to have a quiet sleep, I became merely drowsy. I soon realised that it’d be a sleep-deprived flight for me and I couldn’t see myself sleeping in Japan anytime soon as we were reaching there early in the morning.

Sooner than I imagined, a ray of sunlight entered the cabin. I realised (and the TV screen in front of me confirmed this) that in next to no time we’ll be in Japan. Everyone started waking up. I was ready.

I could see nothing from the windows. The sky was clouded. Droplets of water formed outside the window. The aircraft was descending. At long last, I could see a glimpse of Japan. As time went on, I could see many other planes at Narita airport.

Then, finally, I could hear the wheels of the plane hitting the ground with a thud.

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