My name is Ramachandra Venkatanatha Rajagopuram and I live in a small town in Tamilnadu called Sriviliputtur. I recently got posted to New Delhi through a campus placement. My company insisted that I fly to Delhi from the closest airport so that I can come as soon as possible. I had never flown before, so I went to the nearest travel agent in our town, to a man called Sakti Vellu.
Vellu mentioned that a ticket from Madurai ( closest city that had an airport to my town) to New Delhi on Comevioletmasala Airlines was just Rs. 3,500 while the others charged nothing less than Rs. 7,500! I was beside myself. A saving of Rs. 4,000 even before I joined the company! I paid the money and he printed the ticket for me. I was ecstatic! I was going to New Delhi by flight!!!
I went home, started packing my bags. On the schedule day I reached the airport and saw for the first time what an airport looked like. I went to the Comevioletmasala Airlines counter and stood in the queue.
It was finally my turn and my heart was pounding in my chest. A lady was sitting behind the counter and she smiled at me and asked me for my ticket and ID. She asked me if I wanted to sit near the window or aisle or in the middle. I wanted to sit near the window obviously as I wanted to see how Madurai and Tamilnadu looks from the air. I said, "Window, please". She said, "That will be Rs. 200 sir". I was a little confused at first. I said, "I beg your pardon?" "Yes, if you want to book a window seat, you have to pay extra." Since this was my first time, I thought this was normal. But Vellu did not say anything about this! Anyway, my desire to sit in a window seat was overpowering my desire to save money. I removed the cash and gave it to her.
She then asked me if I had any check-in baggage. I did not know what it was so she explained it to me. I had two suitcases as I was going for a long time. She asked me to keep the suitcases in a belt adjacent to the counter. The LED said, 30 kgs. She then asked me to keep the second suitcase. This was 20 kgs. Amma had packed pickles, food and a lot of podis (powder to be mixed with rice) for me. The lady said, "Sir, your baggage is overweight and for every check-in baggage, we charge Rs. 500. We allow only 10 kgs per baggage in check-in luggage. We charge Rs. 150 per kg of extra weight. So, for two suitcases, it will be Rs. 1,000 and for the extra weight it will be Rs. 4,500. So totally, Rs. 5,500." I was shocked. Why didn't Vellu tell me this?
I went near the seats, opened my suitcases and looked at what I could remove. How could I remove my mother's pickles? Or the podis? The rice that she had packed for me knowing that I may or may not get rice in New Delhi. She had also packed 20 idlis for the journey. I could not remove some of the cooked food that Amma had given. How could I do that to my mother? I was in tears.
I went back to the counter. She weighed the suitcases again. It was 15 kgs and 20 kgs. So now, I had to pay only Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 2,250 which was Rs. 3,250. But, I had lost all my packed food. I was wondering how I was going to survive in Delhi without Amma's podis. Still in tears, I took the boarding pass from her and went to security.
Once I crossed security, I waited for the flight. I was very upset by now. My ticket had become Rs. 3,500 + Rs. 200 + Rs. 3,250 = Rs. 6,950 and I was feeling very hungry. I thought of the 20 idlis Amma had packed. I thought if only I could get access to the idlis. I asked the security personnel if I could access my suitcase for 2 minutes. He answered that it has gone to the aircraft and that now I will get it only in New Delhi.
Dejected, I went to a nearby eatery. I saw the eighth wonder of the world! Two idlis for Rs. 120!!! At my place, we have idlis for Rs. 2. Maybe I was not reading right. I asked the guy again. He confirmed the price. I was aghast. How can I eat this? My parents would kill me if I told them that I had not eaten the home cooked idlis and had two for Rs. 120. I drank some water and went back to my seat.
After another 45 minutes it was finally time for boarding. All the pain and suffering of the last several minutes vanished when I saw the aircraft and felt the air-conditioning. I went and sat on my seat. I was looking out of the window like a small child. The aircraft took off and it was the most awesome experience of my life. I had never seen anything like this before.
I was very happy and for a moment had forgotten all about the things that I had to throw away. But I was very hungry and thirsty. I asked air-hostess for a glass of water. She came back with a glass of water and said, "Rs. 100 please". What! Even water is charged? I could not argue as by this time I had gulped the water. I paid the money.
All the fleecing of the day came back to me. The flight was on its way but none of the scenery outside made any sense to me now. I was thinking about how unjust this entire thing was. No wonder they called it a budget airline. You had to create a separate budget to fly in this. Everything else except the ticket was extra!
By this time, I was very hungry. I saw that air-hostess were coming with a trolley with food items. I asked them what choices they had. The lady pointed to a menu in the seat pocket in front of me. The menu was extension of 8th wonder! Sandwich was Rs. 500, noodles were Rs. 400, and peanuts were Rs. 200! Peanuts! I looked for the least expensive item. It was bottled water for Rs. 100. I thought to myself. Maybe if I have some more water, my hunger may subside.
Good idea. So I bought a bottle of water and gulped it down. My hunger was satiated slightly and since this was going to be a long flight I had to have maybe another bottle after an hour. I tried to sleep but could not get any sleep. My stomach was churning and rumbling. I called for another bottle of water. Another Rs. 100. I had given up by now. I was just worried that I should have enough money when I landed in New Delhi for the taxi till I reached the guest house.
All this water had put immense pressure on my bladder. I rushed to the toilet. Much relieved, I washed my hands and came out. An air-hostess was waiting outside for me. "Sir, did you pee or poo?" I could not believe it! Was it customary to share what we did inside the toilet with the air-hostesses? I did not know. The people in the front row were all staring at me, waiting for me to answer. I fumbled, "Pee". "Rs. 400 sir", she said. What! You cannot even pee for free (that rhymed, btw)? I looked at the people sitting in the front rows. They had an expression that meant, pay up or you may be thrown out of the aircraft.
I quickly gave her the money and went back to my seat. My fellow passenger commented, "Good you did not say poo, as it is Rs. 800. In my previous flight I went for a poo but paid for a pee! He he he. They can't check." I tried to smile. I wanted to wring Vellu's neck. The fellow passenger continued. "Good you did not bring your own food as eating your own food is charged Rs. 500. And drinking your own water is Rs. 100."
While all this was happening, I noticed an infant a couple of seats behind me. The baby was crying intermittently and I couldn't help but notice that one of the air-hostesses was coming back again and again to their seat. I assumed it must be to help them out. I mentioned to my co-passenger, "It is very kind of them to help the mother of the baby." He retorted, "They are not helping, every time, the baby cries, they are charging the parents Rs. 200. It is called 'cry fee'."
By this time, the captain announced that we were descending into New Delhi and that we had to fasten our seat belts. I looked at the seat belt with love and affection. It was the only item in this aircraft for which I had not paid anything extra. I caressed it and lovingly looked at it. My eyes welled up again but I controlled myself immediately. I made sure that the air-hostesses did not see me in tears, lest I had to shell out another Rs. 200 for my tears!
I totalled the expenses for the day. Rs. 3,500 (ticket) + Rs. 200 (window seat) + Rs. 3,250 (extra baggage) + Rs. 100 (glass of water) + Rs. 200 (two bottles of water) + Rs. 400 (pee fee) = Rs. 7,650. This was greater than the ticket of the fully-paid airline!
The voice inside the aircraft thanked me for flying Comevioletmasala Airlines even though we had the choice of flying other airlines. I swore never to fly Comevioletmasala Airlines again.
I went to the baggage carousel to claim my suitcases. I was stopped by a ground staff of Comevioletmasala Airlines. "Sir, if you want to claim your baggage, it is Rs. 500 per baggage. If you don't want it and if we need to keep it in our warehouse, it is Rs. 600 per baggage, per day. What would you like to do?"
K Narsimhan is a Director at Commit and can be reached at @narssimhan
The views expressed are the authors personal view and not of the organisation.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Please do not consider it to be genuine and true.