Thursday, April 3, 2008

Farewell to NZ Heli Pilots

Originally meant for posting on March 23rd:

We all decide to host a farewell party to the crew of the ‘Helicopter New Zealand’, Lee, Phil and Jim. They have been very friendly with all the team members and have done excellent job in ferrying load and people at Maitri as well as Larsemann Hills. They all have developed taste for Indian food and dessert. Earlier India perhaps did not figure in their scheme of places to visit, but now they think seriously about it.

The party is fixed at 6 pm on 23rd March on the open deck. Russians are also invited. Though a number of snacks are being prepared, emphasis is on the drinks. Whiskey, beer, wine are being brought out from the stores, and of course, there are fruit juice and other soft beverages. I go out in knickers and t-shirt. Some people are in their formal attire with tie on. I know for sure that the guests will come in shorts. After some time I find the wind getting colder and realize that I shall feel uncomfortable for next 3 hours in my present dress. I come back to my room and change into trousers and full sleeve warmer. People are busy getting their drinks and forming their usual groups, very predictable. At the bar I ask for red wine, but am curtly told that wine is for them. Who they? I must have rubbed the barman (Indian guy only) wrong way, and he got his chance. I settle for a beer.

I strike a conversation with Lee and Jim. I ask them what they found most interesting about Antarctica. Lee answers since he is here for the first time. Jim has come six times before and Phil three times. Lee has done lot of flying on the snow, ice and glaciers elsewhere, but he found icebergs in the Antarctic Ocean amazing. Penguins were very interesting to watch and photograph. Antarctica also gave him a chance to work together with Indian people and know a little bit about the Indian culture. I also want to know what distressed him most about Antarctica. Inspite of all its beauty, lack of greenery at such a huge continent is very depressing. I ask him what irritated him most about the Indians. He hesitates for a moment, but beer gets better of him. What annoyed him most as pilot about the Indians was nodding their heads in affirmation when their subsequent behaviour would clearly show that they didn’t understood a thing. He would explain many times the safety instructions to observe while boarding the chopper or disembarking, but they would do the same mistakes again and again. He also did not understand why they were so keen in crowding around the parked but running chopper. Such a chopper could be very dangerous. More helicopter accidents occur on the ground by its running blade than while airborne. Unlike aeroplanes. NK has had a drink too many. He is going around kissing everyone. Lee wonders about his sexual preferences. But next moment I see him getting terrified. NK is advancing towards him with outstretched hands. Lee runs and NK follows him closely shouting to stop. But Lee is younger and very agile, manages to escape. Miss N too has had her share of drinks. Indians wish to talk to her, touch her and get photographed with their arms around her. She doesn’t mind. Some of her compatriots are also enjoying. One of them wishes to have photo carrying her into his arms. She willingly obliges. Some of our guys too get bolder and do the same. Many cameras click simultaneously. Later in the evening, AL gets some sense into his head. He wants people to delete his photo from their cameras. Some oblige, some tease him and threaten to email it to his wife. He is laughing, but petrified too. I suggest him that he should tell his wife that he was provoked into a bet and he did it to win the bet. He cheers up, but is still not comfortable. Russians are real alcohol guzzlers. They top their whiskey not with water or soda, but with whiskey only. And they drink and drink. Remarkably they remain quite restrained and steady. Total alcohol consumed in four hours by 50 people: 15 bottles of whiskey, 36 cans of beer, and two bottles of wine.

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