Holy Cow….How Lufthansa saved my day
This incident happened in June 2007 when I was returning back from a business trip to the US. I was travelling by Lufthansa Airlines from Washington (Dulles Airport) to Bangalore via Frankfurt.
I normally do a web check-in atleast 24 hours before the flight and I also pre-book my meal especially when I travel to European countries or to United States. Though I am a non- vegetarian, by food habit, I strictly avoid beef as most devout Hindus do and this is the reason why I pre-book the “HNML – Hindu Non-Vegetarian” meal, which consists only of white meat (Fish or Poultry). I also ensure to check the HNML sticker on the food packet before I start my meal.
While boarding the aircraft, I was offered a better seat in the same coach, which had better leg room. I could not refuse the offer and changed my seat. I was happy, that I could spend the next 8 hours without having to strain my legs and knees. I had an American couple for company, who were travelling to some German city via Frankfurt.
Everything was smooth until it was time for lunch to be served. I woke up from deep sleep and without checking the sticker or label on the food packet; I quickly opened the same and began to eat. While eating the meat portion, I felt something was not right because the meat was not looking white. Have I eaten red meat? Have I eaten beef? I immediately looked for the label on the food packet and to my surprise the HNML sticker was missing. I was now sure that it must have been beef and raised an alarm. The American couple was surprised at my behavior and was inquisitive to know from me, as to why Hindus generally do not eat beef and what prevented us from eating cows. I promised to give them the answer but not before checking the type of meat offered to me for lunch.
I pressed the Flight Attendant call button above my seat and decided not to have the next morsel until I got a confirmation on the meat type. Incidentally a lady wearing a scarf on her head, who was seated behind me, also stopped eating. She was apparently a Muslim lady and feared if the meat served to her was pork. She too wanted to get a confirmation from the flight attendant. Since lunch was being served, most of the flight attendants were extremely busy. One of them saw the glowing calling light above me and came rushing to me. How can I help you Sir, she said. I requested the flight attendant to check from the pantry, the type of Meal that was served to me since I doubted it was beef. She felt probably due to the last minute change in my seat, the meal that was meant for me must have got misplaced somewhere. However she promised to get my doubt confirmed from her senior. At the same time, the lady seated behind me also put forth a similar request to the flight attendant.
Both waited patiently for about 10 minutes. The American couple could not hide their smile seeing our plight. Suddenly the senior flight attendant appeared before me and exclaimed “ I have some good news for you Sir”. There was a big relief on my face but the lady behind me still had a doubt.
“It is turkey meat Sir and turkey meat is quite similar to chicken”. Technically she was right since turkey meat is classified as white meat thought it’s a different matter that I do not relish turkey meat. Now, there was a big smile on the face of the lady with the scarf. The American couple could not control their laughter and asked me the same question again.
Now somewhat relieved that I did not eat beef, I explained to them about the cow being a very holy animal to Hindus; a cow is believed to carry 33 types of Gods in its body; a cow is given the status of a “Mother” etc. The discussion went on for few hours and it was time to land at Frankfurt.
Both the flight attendant and her senior folded their hands to say “Namaste” to me while I was exiting the aircraft. I just did not have enough words to thank both of them. It is the belief and faith more than anything else and the team at Lufthansa had indeed saved my day.
Interestingly the airline’s name has a Sanskrit word in it called “Hansa”, which means a crane. The crane is also the logo of the airline. “There must be a strong connection with Indian culture” and with this thought I disembarked at Frankfurt airport, running to catch my connecting flight to Bangalore.