Watching planes going and coming outside the Brussels airport window captivates me, primarily because of the different airlines and logos on the decorated tails of the jets, symbols of far-away countries, some never seen in the U.S., certainly in Oklahoma. They are as many as the languages spoken aboard.
On the short-range jets, like those flown by Southwest, There’s the green shamrock of Aerlingus, the white cross on red of Swissair, the green and orange triangle of Italia. I saw Air Brussels, Finaire, Adria, Air Baltic, Hungarian Airways and some I can’t describe or translate. The big boys also arrive and depart, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore, British airways, and a few familiar ones from America.
Among the big boys I spotted this round gold and brown tail symbol of Jet Airways, my flight to Chennai, India.
While I’m waiting, watching people, many of them Indians in various styles of dress from traditional to western, I listen to the languages. I notice that the adults shift in between English and another language, but they always speak fast. I learned in India that they speak so quickly sometimes that even though it’s English, I can’t understand.
But behind me, I hear two little girls chattering away, in English. No accent at all—they could be my granddaughters Erin and Abby playing, giggling, teasing each other, playing with coloring books and make believe. When I turn around, I see they’re Indian.
One of the first lessons from India…the younger they are, the more “American” English they speak. I asked about this, and some of the university students—who often speak up to five languages—said it was increased western influence, a la TV, Internet, etc.
Aboard the Airbus 330, the change is dramatic. It’s a brand new aircraft. Exit signs are in English and Hindu. The plane is less than half full…I can have the four center seats to myself for the 10 hours flight.
As soon as you get on board and the doors are shut, the flight attendants move through the cabin, delivering each passenger, with tongs, a warm towel to wash your face and neck.
Frankly, the attendants are stunning. They wear gold Nehru jackets over a black blouse and pants, contrasting with the jacket. Their dark complexioned skin and raven black hair—usually up in a pony tail or on the back of their heads--, frames immaculate makeup and red lipstick framing glowing white smiles. Their English is flawless, and their almond eyes always make eye contact. Their nametags display exotic names.
Relaxing background music fills the cabin. The pilot comes on the speaker in an Indian accent makes announcements an Indian tongue—probably Tamil, then English and perhaps Dutch. The seats carry the same color motif with maroon and tan upholstery with the light tan interior. Each seat has a matching blanket and pillow.
The safety instructions appear on the interactive TV screen on the back of the seat in front of me. No irritating voices here. Instead, tasteful animated characters act them all out.
Everything is so civilized and polite. I settle into my seat, and before we’re airborne, they come collect the towels.
Ahead, 10 hours away…India.