In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus advises his disciples that “at a public function, never sit down in the best place, lest your host come up to you and say, ‘Get up and let this very important person sit here instead', and then you will have to shamefacedly get up and take a lower seat. Instead, wherever you are invited, always go and sit at the lowest place, so that your host may come up to you and say, ‘Friend, go up higher' and you can get up proudly, and everybody can see how you are honoured”.
I've taken this little bit of scripture totally to heart and in all my years as a corporate rat, always dreamed that one day, an angel from the HR department will come up to me and say, “Enough of all this cramped, stinky, buying-your-own-chicken-sandwich-and-instant-coffee sort of economy air travel! You are now enough of a big shot to travel business class!”
But it never happened. I was always, always, just one designation away from being entitled to it. And every time I got a promotion, business class entitlement got a promotion too. It continues to dangle, like Sheela ki Jawaani, just a little out of my league.
Surely if I had higher self-esteem, it wouldn't matter so much, right? But here's the thing, I don't.
I want to travel in front. I want everybody to see me travelling in front. I want to walk past the smirking, superior-looking stewardess who guards the door to the toilet in the front of the aircraft like she is St Peter guarding the Pearly gates into heaven, and use it. I want to dangle my premier boarding pass casually under the noses of all those other corporate rats I don't like, who I always manage to bump into at airport terminals (their good opinion is very important to me). I am not talking frequent flyer points and access to lounges here. I am talking Business. Class.
Why, you ask, am I so hung up on this? Because everybody is. And all those people who say you meet much more interesting people in economy, and how the only famous people they've ever managed to bump into while flying business are Govinda and a man they're pretty sure was David Headley, and how Indigo is the most on-time airline, and how if it's an early morning flight, you could be sitting next to two empty seats and could thus sleep across all three of them, which is better than flying business. All those people would rather be flying business, too.
Why everybody wants to travel business (even thin, short-legged people who don't watch movies and are on a constant diet) is a question to which I have no answer. Unless it's to do with the fact that in these dark days when all corporates claim to be so flat-structured and democratic, while actually having as many layers as laccha paranthas, it's hard to tell the big shots from the small fry. Nobody has a clue. But that's only if you're looking at the alphabet soup on their visiting cards. If we look, instead, at the alphabet soup on their boarding pass, things would get a lot clearer.
If their PNR reveals that they're travelling business class, they are officially, genuinely Important and Empowered and have the hot meal, the hot towel, the wider seat, the wider choice of magazines and movies, and the luxury BVLGARI toiletry set to prove it. Everybody else is just middle management.
So why not just (instead of all this designation mumbo-jumbo—associate VP, senior VP, Most Exalted Super Senior VP) print the class they travel at the back of the visiting card? First/ Business/ (there's even a fiendishly-named thing called Superior Economy, did you know?)/ Economy. That would clear things up admirably. Of course, it would do to the modern HR department what the coming in of hordes of American pioneers with their guns and their Bibles and their measles-tainted blankets did to the native American Indians. But who gives a damn, right?
Anuja Chauhan's third novel, Those Pricey Thakur Girls, is in stores now.