Wednesday 24 May 2017 News Updated at 11:05 AM IST
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Written in the skies - Deccan Herald
Written in the skies
Revathi Sivakumar,
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Welcome on Board by Vinamra Longani is quite a pacy, pleasant read. It is just the simple, young-adult sort of story collection that makes you loosen up and almost trawl your earlier years. The prose is pretty straightforward and many times mundane, yet it sparks some attention as it makes you fly through some interesting experiences.

By the end of the book, though you wouldn't expect it, you feel quite heartened to have met diverse passengers through a decade of someone's career, 30,000 miles over the earth. It is not a deep book, and it even makes some banal philosophical conclusions. But still, you could label it a 'fun' trail.

At first, the 'self-confessed AvGeek's' profession of a flight attendant doesn't really strike you as geeky or high-profile, or even interesting, as you assume that he would just go through a routine drill of checking out settings and layouts at different shifts. Still, you stumble across some exotic descriptions of people and places that make you begin to think he's having a pretty 'cool' time.

Longani confesses that he became a flight attendant by accident, yet got so enamoured that his descriptions come across as fresh and even pretty happy, spurting forward with quick rushes at times. It reflects not so much the zest and joie de vivre of the profession itself, but his attitude. You soon realise that some of the experiences are even incredible, though many are simple and unexceptionable - such as one snooty woman demanding a lot of attention. Yet, the experiencing of every moment, client, day and task makes his diary memorable. It is not just the 'what' of every scene, but the 'how' that make the stories stick to the reader's mind.

In the very first chapter, Vinamra Longani points out the reasons he likes his job and piles on some adjectives: "funny, stupid, charming, charismatic, hot, uber-cool, not so cool, and those who think they are cool - I have seen them all. It's always the people who make, or rarely break, my day."

A number of stock attractions are stacked in his chapters. The author's yen for whisky, sex and camaraderie gets a lot of space, along with a typically youthful interest in his experiences. He fills his tales with a number of personal as well as other people's narrow misses and escapades - most of them from characters who are crude but afford hilarious comic relief. They inject a bright, energetic feel into the scenes that flash by like a slideshow.

The tales are thus of prime importance for the young, enthusiastic and eager crowd that loves to laugh and finds everything funny. For instance, one baby is tucked to sleep in a hatrack. There are many open sexual exchanges on the flight as well as in hotel rooms. The crew is a mix of characters that drinks a lot and takes you back to your college hostel days.
The setting of the book is already laid, with the author adjusting what he wants to direct his book towards. But Vinamra Longani is very upfront about his passengers, frankly calling them whatever he thinks they are - exotic, arrogant, cheeky, lusty, demanding... No allusions and hints, but on-your-face bluntness and ebullience make the stories vivid, sensual and diverse.

The plot of every chapter is wild and forms the key attraction of the book. One French woman who proclaims that she is a great Hare Krishna devotee is chanting mantras, but suddenly becomes a 'bitch' who slaps her co-passengers. Another big fat man hogs so much food that's served on the plane on the first day of his flight that he becomes a victim of 'trapped wind' and nearly passes out, until the author is forced to walk him around to release the wind. A murderer travels companionably next to Longani's chair, until the plane is stopped and an entire police force enters the airplane to nab the culprit. There are so many riveting twists that you begin to wonder whether the author has gone through them all, or picked a few from his colleagues, or even made them up!

The language is banal but captures the rhythms of the Indian youth conversations today: "The chap really got on my nerves after that. Instead of apologising for his shocking behaviour, he continued to act like a total arsehole." Subtlety is not his forte. Ebullience is.
Interestingly, the book also contains the prosaic, rather mundane and long-winded moralising that fits well with the new-age moksha generation.

For instance: "As much as this job is about fun and glamour, it is also about touching and being touched magically by some people - those who stay in our memories forever; who, without saying a word, teach life lessons which no education in the world can; and people who face life and its adversities, overcoming challenges every day."

But ultimately, you feel quite welcome when you climb into Welcome on Board. If you are looking for a quick dip and some light moments, then you wouldn't be wasting your time with this flight attendant's book.