Scenes from the Asian road – 2

Shanghai. My flight to Hong Kong is delayed considerably. (I discover later that this has occurred because the Chinese Air Force has suddenly closed the airspace for an exercise and that it is not uncommon.) Finally a boarding call is given to a gate downstairs from the busy main departure area, empty of all but my fellow passengers and the airline staff. A Chinese family is at the departure desk yelling at the staff and refusing to be placated.

A bus arrives to ferry passengers out to wherever our plane is parked. The family rushes towards the long line that has already formed at the check-in door. The bus is soon full and the family will have to wait for the next bus.

At this point a young man from the family becomes hysterical and attacks a male staff member, pulling his hair and slamming his head against a glass partition. Other passengers finally intervene and I look around for a security guard. Oddly, for any international airport and especially for China, there are none. When a second bus arrives, all of the family are allowed to board.

When I board the plane, I find myself seated across the aisle from the angry young man. I stow my gear and make my way back up the aisle to a steward. I describe briefly what has occurred on the ground and ask why the man has been allowed to board after assaulting one of their staff. She shrugs and her face says ‘it’s no big deal’. I return to my seat and the man glares at me for the whole flight.

Mumbai. We are returning from a delightful restaurant lunch, driven by an Indian colleague, in her own car. Our animated conversation is interrupted by a policeman at the side of the roadway motioning her to pull over. She is informed that she has exceeded the speed limit and she should step out of the car to show her licence.

Mumbai traffic is such that exceeding the speed limit is about as likely as the sighting of a unicorn. However she steps out of the car, taking her purse, and plays the game. After returning to the car she advises that she has paid the requisite bribe and the matter will be forgotten. She says normally she would challenge such behaviour but we are already late for our next appointment.

Hong Kong. A rare night on the road without companions and I consult a local guidebook for a promising restaurant nearby that offers a brief European break from the regular Asian fare in my travels. Entering, I have an immediate sense of having accidentally nailed the right place and the owner is delighted to have an Australian guest, having worked in Sydney for some years.

An excellent complementary Australian red is delivered to the table with the menu. I opt for the pate as an entrée. When it arrives the toast is arrayed on a bed of rusty barbed wire, in homage to the millennial trend at the time of unusual forms of food presentation. I politely summon the owner and tell him I’m not that homesick.

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