As I strolled past 26 rows to get to my seat, my soul was gifted with a new experience. I have never been on a flight where its passengers were made up of 93.2% Asians. The other 6.8% consisted of our large family (8 in all) and the Italian cabin crew. Not once have I sat and wondered what it would be like to be in an aircraft full of a particular ethnic group. It’s not something one works towards. A flight full of Nigerians is a natural and justified fear. One full of caucasians is expected when you live in the west. So I added and then crossed out ‘Aircraft full of Indians’ to my bucket list. There, done.
Mealtime was where the real trouble began. We were aware that beef wasn’t eaten in India, scratch that. Beef did not exist in India. Cows did, but their flesh did not make the shortlist of foods available to non-vegetarians. So get this; it’s okay to be vegeterian or even better, vegan. I have friends that wear that title with grave honour. But what you shall not be, my friend, is an omnivore that eats beef.
“Rice or Pasta?”
The perfectly coiffed flight-attendant offered.
“What’s the accompaniment?” I started deciding between chicken and fish while she gathered her response in her perfect little mouth.
“They are both vegetarian”
Not me, hubby. He jerked his head forward and asked her to repeat herself in the tone reserved for our teenage boys when they casually admitted to some foolishness.
“There are only vegetarian options on our Indian flights”
America, Africa, Britain… it was clear that the whole damn world had crossed this bridge with her over the years because she did not explain apologetically the way you do when you deliver important news that you don’t agree with,. No. it was robotised, devoid of emotion.
“Oh, wow”, I countered. That was my polite way of showing disapproval. ‘Oh, wow’ meant you should be ashamed of yourself. ‘Oh, wow’ whispered; the whole world has moved on, why are you still in the stone ages? ‘Oh, wow’ said how freaking dare you decide for me when I should or shouldn’t eat meat?’
“The pasta is lasagne and the rice is a vegetarian fried rice,” she rubbed it in.
With pictures of rice made yellow with turmeric, I told the whole country off by choosing pasta. There, in your face. I choose the Italian, not you. I reminded hubby that we’d had a juicy burger only hours earlier, so we can sort of travel back in time and re-live it while we ate our meatless lasagne. I didn’t say the travel back in time bit, his emotions were still raw. Meanwhile, I chuckled to myself because what they didn’t know, people, was that underneath my seat, in the cargo compartment where our 14 pieces of luggage lay, were vacuum packed frozen meat (including beef) that we, as any self- respecting African would, were sneaking into Delhi. India, we are ready for you. Bring it on.