Butter Chicken in Bratislava

Back in the day when your humble servant was but a wee lad, we lived in France with one extended family to visit in the United States and another in India. That made for a lot of intercontinental travel, and since we didn’t have much money, we tended to go for long stays and travel by the cheapest means possible. The result is that I achieved a lot of early experience flying on disreputable airlines. In 1973, my dad took me for my first visit back to India; Iraqi Airways was our carrier. Twelve years later, I traveled solo on Syrian Airlines. There were some sinister looking Syrian security personnel watching us as we boarded in Paris and aboard the plane. But that probably helped keep us safe. At the layover in Damascus airport I remember big empty halls and lots of pictures of Hafez al-Assad.

But the single worst passenger experience was circa 1978, on Aeroflot. Flying from Paris to Moscow was no big deal; a relatively modern aircraft, on time, quick. There was enough business, cultural and diplomatic activity between the Soviet Union and Western Europe to warrant decent service. The Moscow-Delhi leg was another story. Almost everyone on the plane was someone trying to get to India cheap — mainly backpackers and families like us — and our comfort and care were not major corporate priorities. That Ilyushin was one loud-ass aircraft and falling apart inside and out. The food was unspeakable, but the flight was long, and people ate. Mass nausea ensued, and long lines began to form in the aisles toward the rear of the plane. As I recall, we were sitting back there and the aromas were quickly getting nasty.

Amid this scene, the air hostesses, who had until then treated us with glacial Slavic/Soviet neglect, suddenly ran down the aisles toward the back, agitation on their faces, and yelled to the people in line:

“You sit! You sit! Pilot say, airplane TEEPING!”

Ah, travel tales. Well, this joyous experience is what comes to my mind as I learn from the BBC, through a kind tipster on the News tab, that

An Indian-born businessman has purchased a private central European airline for an undisclosed amount.

Harjinder Singh Sidhu, who lives in UK and is a British passport holder, bought Air Slovakia, a small privately owned airline based in the capital, Bratislava last week, it has emerged.

His son, Riqbal ‘Rocky’ Singh, told the BBC News website that his father wants to transform the 60-employee Air Slovakia into a “Punjabi experience”.

airslovak.jpg

Air Slovakia, which boasts three aircraft and 60 employees, has to have the weirdest route map in the world. According to the airline website, itself an interesting specimen of the genre, it operates flights between Bratislava, the Slovakian capital, and Birmingham, Milan, Tel Aviv, Cyprus, and… Amritsar. The BBC article suggests that there are plans to serve various Western European airports, including Stansted. But make no mistake, Air Slovakia is now a Punjabi airline.

“The bulk of our passengers are from Punjab and Punjabis from Europe. So we want to brand Air Slovakia as an airline with Punjabi ambience and flavour. Our stewards, airhostesses will be from Punjab as also the in-flight food,” Mr Singh, who is a director at the airline, said.

But what does Mr Singh say about an airline catering to passengers from Punjab still being named Air Slovakia?

“The airline will have a second name of sorts when it comes to India. All tickets to and from India will be sold under a Punjabi name which will also be branded on the planes,” Mr Singh said.

In other words, if you’re in India and looking for that cheap fare to the UK, beware. Some snazzy sounding new airline offering unbeatable prices out of Amritsar might turn out to be this:

Airline passenger websites do not report a very happy experience of travelling on Air Slovakia so far.

“My advice would be not to travel on Air Slovakia, very poor service, very cramped, not enough leg room, staff rude, food poor.. Air Slovakia leave you stranded and offer you no help,” complains a passenger on one website.

I’d also recommend checking the aircraft registration papers and security records. No knock on the Slovakians, but several Eastern European countries have become known as easy places to get aircraft papers with minimal or no inspection.

But Mr. Singh promises that the old days are gone for good. He says service under the new all-Punjabi concept has already improved. (Needless to say, if any Mutineers have experienced this airline, we’d love to hear from you.) And the website is even doing its own job promoting India as a destination:

India will sideswipe you with its size, clamour and diversity – but if you enjoy delving into convoluted cosmologies and thrive on sensual overload, then it is one of the most intricate and rewarding dramas unfolding on earth, and you’ll quickly develop an abiding passion for it.

Nothing in the country is ever quite predictable; the only thing to expect is the unexpected, which comes in many forms and will always want to sit next to you. India is a litmus test for many travellers – some are only too happy to leave, while others stay for a lifetime.

Well, when I fly, I don’t like my litmus test to come and sit next to me — been there, done that, and I know it’s nasty. But still, let’s hand it to Mr. Singh for his bold, counter-intuitive business play. The brother seems optimistic about his chances of making a buck:

What is also unclear is how Air Slovakia was faring financially when the Singhs took it over.

“Let us say it is about to enter puberty. It needs some tender love and care,” says Mr Singh with a flourish.

117 thoughts on “Butter Chicken in Bratislava

  1. For the record, I’d be extremely uncomfortable travelling on an airline where all the flight attendants are sexily attired young things or eating at a restaurants with waitresses like that. If that means I’m not manly enough or a prude, fine that’s what I am.

  2. For the record, I’d be extremely uncomfortable travelling on an airline where all the flight attendants are sexily attired young things or eating at a restaurants with waitresses like that. If that means I’m not manly enough or a prude, fine that’s what I am.

    I suggest never visiting the mutiny-cave in North Dakota. Abhi wears nothing but miniskirts …

  3. Why mutiny cave, ennis:-). you obviously didn’t come to LA meetup. The meetup photos were doctored later to show pants and lungis. The LA mutineer crowd was actually entirely in miniskirts. Hey, we’re in girrrlie man state…

  4. But I find air hostesses over 30 especially attractive…

    Hear hear. Many women over 40 are hot too. And Dharma Queen, I do see your point about appreciative vs. dehumanizing.

  5. I fell in love with a Spanish air hostess once – she must have been 40something, on a flight to Madrid.

    Give it up for MILF sensual older air hostesses!

  6. Not that there’s anything wrong with younger ones, just in case that my appreciation of MILF sensual thirty/fortysomething air hostesses can be implied as disparaging them by ommission.

    Give it up for nubile younger air hostesses too!

  7. DQ I think your point is right on. Sexy is good, dehumanizing is bad.

    Also, I wanted to go back in regards to the other discussion on sexual harrasement and ethnicity, I think that was actually a good discussion. As a man of color, it’s hard to seperate out the stereotyping and stigmatization of men of color which is without basis and the misogyny that works itself out in multiple cultures. I still maintain the easy link between “macho” and misogyny” is colorized and made into a working class and ethnic stigma that leaves more affluent and whiter sections of our society blameless and contributes to racism. However, patriarchy is probably at play in my defense of punjabi men. Still, as a punjabi man it’s difficult to see our culture derided by unfair generalizations that actually play into the established dichotomy in US culture; namely working class men and men of color on one side and affluent white men on another. How easily Punjabi culture in the discussion is fit into the “gangsta” slot.

    Also I saw a guy in a car this weekend harrasing a woman waiting for the bus. It was disturbing and I admit I could not do much about it. I thought about honking my horn, but feared violence would ensue. Sad, but true

  8. People are going to skewer me for this…but I still want to post it anyway…there are some tricks to picking up airhostesses (obviously, like any other pick-up, you can’t force it, it only works if she digs you in the first place)…first of all, if at all possible upgrade to business class (granted it can be crazy expensive), you get lots of privacy and can really spend a lot of time chatting with them…a lot of the hotter ones are in business class anyway. Secondly, most flight crew on international flights get 2 days to rest before their next flight…and they’ll be put up at 4/5 star hotels in that city. For example, if you take KLM to Delhi, all those Dutch air hostesses will be in the Maurya Sheraton for 2 days. They tend to get bored on those layovers, they just sit poolside most of the time, so if you offer to take them around, meet up, etc. often they’ll take you up on that offer. Again, I can’t emphasize enough, this works if and ONLY IF you impressed them during the flight and they liked you. OK, let the skewering begin – I get the feeling DesiDawg is about to attack!

  9. there are some tricks to picking up airhostesses

    your hints can be summarized as get in business class and impress them. a bit more specific pl if your going to post something like that…

  10. Also I saw a guy in a car this weekend harrasing a woman waiting for the bus. It was disturbing and I admit I could not do much about it. I thought about honking my horn, but feared violence would ensue. Sad, but true

    This happened to me in NYC once…I saw 4 white guys harrassing this Indian dude with his white girlfriend…they didn’t touch him, but they kept getting in his face and challenging him to do something about it. He ignored them. I kept watching to see if things got physical (thank God they didn’t) but I didn’t jump in because I didn’t relish being beaten up by 4 white guys. Eventually they left.

  11. This happened to me in NYC once…I saw 4 white guys harrassing this Indian dude with his white girlfriend…they didn’t touch him, but they kept getting in his face and challenging him to do something about it. He ignored them. I kept watching to see if things got physical (thank God they didn’t) but I didn’t jump in because I didn’t relish being beaten up by 4 white guys. Eventually they left.

    Thats exactly how I felt, watching to see if it got worse and hoping it didn’t.

  12. There’s all the difference in the world if I say: ‘Jet Airways pilots are really fit and good in bed’ and saying ‘I wouldn’t ever screw an Air India pilot older than thirty, they’re all fat, plus their penises are small’.

    Ha! Ha! Ha!

    We laugh because it’s funny, and we laugh because it’s true.

    Dharma Queen, I love you.

    And how come all the rickshaw wallas in India are not tall, buff, young, handsome men with kundis like Brad Pitt?

    Can you imagine riding on the back of such a rickshaw? I’d definetly be giving out tips. Oh well, the way it is now, I save money.

  13. And how come all the rickshaw wallas in India are not tall, buff, young, handsome men with kundis like Brad Pitt?

    Maybe because they are born to emaciated, malnourished, anemic mothers, and then grow up with very poor nutritional inputs (including very little protein) and healthcare; in addition to working like slaves right from childhood (instead of playing around like wealtheir kids). No one is going to end up tall and buff after that…they are totally stunted.

  14. Similarly, maybe the over 30, over-weight women working on airlines described by Ananda above are that way because;

    1. time waits for nobody (though in America most consider 30′s and 40′s to still be young)

    2. due to their constant travelling and having to eat out, as well as the high stress of having to work full time to support their children, these women put on weight.

    But guess what? They are still working….

    I’d still like to see more hot hunks when I’m in India though…. just being honest. It is what we girls think about like every 30 seconds or so, whether we say so or not, or whether particular cultures/societies like it or not. Oh well, not all men are blessed like the Arabians in that department.

    Right back atcha guys…..

  15. I love this you guys. Made a great start to my day on the net.

    Doing my bit to keep Indian tradition alive here in the UK anyway. My Asian grooms love it. Why is this site called Butter chicken in Bratislava by the way? I had an au pair from Bratislava and she had never heard of butter chicken.