The Man from Madras Musings grew up in an era when several aspects of life had a glamour of their own – upper class railway travel, eating out and going to the cinema being some of them. All of these have now become commonplace and, between you and MMM, rather stressful outings given the difficulties that our city’s infrastructure puts you through. MMM would like to add to the same category the strains of air travel.

When MMM was a Cherubic Child of Calcutta, he would have various relatives flying in and out and they portrayed it to him as rather pleasurable experiences. Coming to man’s estate, MMM also looked forward to being airborne but of late he views such opportunities with less enthusiasm. The first of the deterrents is an sms that is received from the airline stating our world-class airport is subject to congestion and so all passengers should better come over at least two hours before departure. Considering that most of the destinations that MMM flies to are just about a couple of hours away, this always strikes him as a preposterous demand. And it is not as though our airport offers anything by way of entertainment beyond falling ceilings, rusting railings and leaky toilet taps. MMM has tried being defiant and landed up once or twice with just an hour to spare for the flight only to be told that the counter has closed and he ought to have known better.

And so MMM does leave as early as he can. An early morning flight therefore means a sleepless night and stepping out of chez MMM just as the cat comes back and the milkman starts on his journeys. These days, the airlines ask you to print out your boarding passes at home as well and MMM strongly suspects that a day will come when they will ask you to bring your own seat. So it was that last week MMM found himself at the entrance queue to the airport, complete with boarding pass, baggage and identity card. The process of entry was taking longer than usual and on enquiry it transpired that a couple of passengers up front, man and wife, had printed their boarding passes, front and back, on the same sheet of paper. The guard at the entrance was rather taken aback and after some humming and hawing, let them through.

It was MMM’s misfortune that he had to stand behind the same couple at the baggage drop counter. The booking clerk was astounded at this frugality but having turned the sheet this way and that, took their baggage in and asked them to proceed. All hell however broke loose at the security check point where, as you know, they separate the sexes, the women being shepherded into an enclosure while the men have it all in the open. The female in the duo had made off with what MMM can only describe as the boarding pass (bp) sheet leaving the male, as it often happens, high and dry.

She managed to pass through security but when the officer in charge of the men discovered that her partner did not have his bp with him, his (by which MMM means the officer’s) bp shot up to stratospheric levels. Having counted till ten, even as the passengers behind were well into their hundreds, he politely asked the man to wait and then went off to where the woman was standing, brought back the precious sheet and, having stamped it, waved the man through.

That was not the end of the story. When it came to boarding the aircraft, as most of you will be aware, the boarding pass is torn into two, the main part being retained by the airline staff while the counterfoil is returned to the passenger. Only in this case, the sheet could not be torn as the two boarding passes, front and back, were on the same sheet of paper, the airline had to perforce retain the counterfoil of one passenger and the main part of the other. By then the other passengers had had enough. They surged ahead as one passenger, were attended to by other staffers and let into the aircraft. MMM does not know how the bp imbroglio was sorted out, but the couple did make it to the flight, without turning a hair. The satisfaction of having saved paper and, therefore, a tree amounts to much.