That Time I Could Relate To Sudha Murthy

Sorry to take a break from my travel anecdotes from my recent trip, but I came across an article and I just couldn’t wait to share a similar story. Just last week as I was browsing through LinkedIn, an article caught my eye. More specifically, what caught my eyes was the sentence “When Sudha Murthy was told to stand in the Cattle Class line” or something similar. At the time I didn’t know who Sudha Murthy was (please pardon my ignorance), but just by reading that title I immediately knew what this article was going to be about.

For those who don’t know, Sudha Murthy, is the Chairperson of Infosys Foundation. This particular excerpt that the article talks about, is actually from her book, Three Thousand Stitches: Ordinary People, Extraordinary People. She narrates about the time she was flying from London to Bengaluru and was awaiting the announcement for boarding. Long story short, some entitled passengers in the Business Class queue assumed that she would have been travelling in Economy Class however was trying to make use of the shorter queue in Business Class and make her way to board the aircraft sooner. Whilst there was no reason as to why she was demanded to stand in the Economy Class line and referred to as ‘Cattle Class’ people, she attributes it to the other passengers’ misconception, that she was in typical Indian attire.

I find this absolutely appalling and in fact I’ve been in the same position, though my story isn’t as extreme as hers. I’d just moved to Sydney and it was the very first time I was going back home to New Zealand. Though I had only been in Sydney 6-weeks at that point, there’s a certain joy in going home and the start of your holidays. Besides I was heading to Queenstown, in two days' time, how could I not be excited?! As a gesture, my brother had upgraded my seat on my flight to Auckland to Business Class on the Emirates A380. Usually when I’m travelling, I prefer wearing a lose t-shirt and my jeans. I feel the most comfortable in that and I think for me it’s the perfect flying attire.

I arrived at my gate at the airport eagerly waiting to board. I was too excited about going home. Sure, I don’t travel on Business Class that often and I was excited about that, but like I said before, there’s just a natural high about going home when you’ve moved to another country. The time to board, listed on our boarding passes had passed and everyone looked quizzical as we weren’t sure what was going on. Slowly we were given the news that our flight had been delayed. Regardless boarding time came around soon enough. I slowly made my way towards the Business Class line.

Suddenly, I get a whiff of really strong cologne and a lady dressed in some designer outfit with a bag to match comes up to me. She asks, “Do you know if the boarding has begun yet.” I just give a nod to suggest that I’m not too sure. She then proceeds to look me up and down very explicitly. I’m not sure what prompted her to say the following sentence but here it is, “This is the Business Class line, you need to go stand in that line over there.” I knew she was in a rush to board, I’m just not sure why. She’s on Business Class any way so she gets priority boarding. But she had a point to prove. As soon as she said what she said, without thinking twice I said, “I’m on business class too”. She then hurried off.

I decided to keep an eye on her the entire time till we boarded. She proceeded to then act dumb and push through people to make her way to the front of the line. My question is, how do you define whether someone is travelling in Business Class or Economy? Secondly, is it really that important? As humans we have the tendency to make ourselves feel superior to others and go to extreme lengths to do so and not to mention the hierarchical society that we live in. I personally think that if you can afford to buy an aeroplane ticket to go to any destination, you are the luckiest person in the world. It means you can afford to travel and go to new places and learn about new cultures. Why does it matter, which class you travel in? Sure, Business and First Class comes with a lot of pampering, but it doesn’t make you any less of a human being if you’re travelling in Economy. We go around telling people that judging another human being is wrong because you don’t know their story, yet I feel like we do exactly that. I’m guessing this lady saw a young girl in average costing clothes and made the assumption that I don’t have enough money to be possibly travelling on Business Class, because then how is she superior to me? But is it really that big a deal? You may be a millionaire, but that doesn’t mean I can’t travel in luxury.

I genuinely think people need to stop with preconceived misconceptions and just enjoy travelling. You have something that a lot of other people yearn to have. Whether that is time, or travel, or both, or something else just enjoy the moment. If you get bumped up, great! Enjoy the luxury you get in your flight. If you don’t, doesn’t matter, say hello to the person next to you. Keep an eye out on funny things happening on the plane and make a blog out of it.

Until next time,