KIRAN RAO BATNI writes from Bangalore: I flew Lufthansa from Dallas to Bangalore last weekend, having to stop by in Frankfurt to switch planes.
I usually can’t sleep on flights, but because of a week filled with tiring back-to-back meetings and because of going through hell in the absolute worst seat on the previous flight from Dallas to Frankfurt (the trishanku seat at the back, neither aisle nor window, which won’t even lean back an inch because of the wall, sandwiched between two fat American women carefully appointed by fate), I must have dozed off for about 45 minutes from boarding to takeoff.
I woke up after I guess the very cells and molecules inside me were dislodged from their normal locations, when I thought I heard an announcement detailing the safety features of the aircraft, the journey time, the course of the plane, and stuff like that in Kannada.
At first, I didn’t believe it.
I’ve had these dreams of Kannada making it to the skies and stuff, and I dismissed this off as one of those stupid dreams. But no, the announcement continued for about 30 seconds and ended with the usual courtesies, enough for even my jetlagged brain to distinguish dream from reality.
It was real.
Yes, on 30 March 2008, the Lufthansa plane from Frankfurt to Bangalore created history by making an announcement in Kannada on the land of Albert Einstein, Adolf Hitler and Steffi Graf.
Just to make sure, I checked with the girl in the next seat (if you’re wondering what happened to the two fat American women, you’re jetlagged, dude!) if she had heard an announcement in a strange language other than German, English and Hindi.
Yes, she had heard that strange tongue too!
(Now the fact that she happened to be a Kannadati from Bangalore who for the rest of the flight talked to me in English while I persisted in Kannada shall form, as time permits, the story of another churumuri story.)
However, after the plane landed in Bangalore, when I wanted it and was fully awake to listen to it, the announcement in Kannada did not come. Before I got down from the plane, and as people were disembarking, I interviewed a relatively free stewardess as to what sequence of events had culminated in the Kannada announcement during takeoff and what in its absence after landing.
At first, the lady persisted that no second Indian language had been used on the plane. But I told her how I couldn’t have missed it, how pinching myself is a good test, and how the girl next to me had heard it too. Then she checked with an Indian colleague of hers who confirmed my sanity in front of German women.
It turned out that Amrut Badami, a Lufthansa flight attendant who is Kannadiga by birth and apparently continuation, finds it prudent to always announce in Kannada on flights to Bangalore, for the very same reason why anybody makes any announcement on a plane: so that people understand the safety features of the plane, where the plane is going, and stuff like that.
It met this fellow and thanked him near the mosquito-ridden immigration desk.
Lufthansa is obliged to make announcements only in German, English and Hindi on flights to India. Now I’ll leave it to the elite forum of churumuri readers to decide whether announcements in Kannada should become mandatory, and if four languages are one too many, whether Hindi or German should be dropped on flights to Bangalore.