6.45 am. Mumbai domestic airport. The flight to Hyderabad is now delayed by 25 minutes. It is raining heavily and the passengers, most of whom are on their way to Hyderabad for a day trip on work or business, are getting restless. When some of them insist on knowing the reasons for the delay, the air hostesses roll out a standard and automatic response: “ATC has not yet given us clearance for take-off”.
The reason for the delay in take-off is finally understood at around 7.00 am, when about 15–20 new passengers enter the plane. It is quite evident from the tags on their hand baggage that they have arrived on an international flight from a gulf country and this flight to Hyderabad is a connecting flight for them. These passengers, all Indians, probably work in the gulf region and are on their way to home (Hyderabad) for the Ramadan holidays. As soon as the new passengers are in, the plane doors are shut, the air hostesses get busy closing the overhead luggage racks, remind passengers to wear their seat belts, switch off their mobile phones, etc. The captain’s announcement also comes on to welcome the passengers and give the flight details.
Soon all the passengers are seated and buckled to their seats. Except one. He is one of the new arrivals, and boarding pass in hand, he is looking for his seat, any seat, an empty seat. He is a dazed looking, middle-aged man, a little dishevelled and frayed shirt cuffs. One of the air hostesses tells him firmly, “Sir, please take your seat.”