Rishi Piparaiya, in his book, ‘Aisle Be Damned’, quotes Paul Theroux –
“There is not much to say about most airplane journeys. Anything remarkable must be disastrous, so you define a good flight by negatives: you didn’t get hijacked, you didn’t crash, you didn’t throw up, you weren’t late, you weren’t nauseated by the food. So you’re grateful.”
I remember reading “The Old Patagonian Express”, where the quote is from, and also remember thinking how true it was. Of course, that was a long time ago, but I am still not a big fan of airlines, and would much rather take a train rather than fly. Which is why, I hesitated to read Piparaiya’s book. With a blurb that described it as “A hilarious take on just about everything associated with air travel”, I wondered if I would be able to enjoy all the talk about flying when I flew so little.
The book languished on my shelf for weeks while I read other books, the kind I normally read. And then, this last week, having finished one such book, which brought up more thoughts than I liked, I looked for something different, something lighter. And that is when I thought of this one.
I began it with grave reservations, which melted within moments, making me smile at first, and then laugh out loud. It lightened up my mood, and surprisingly soon, too!
Piparaiya begins the book with an ‘Essential Packing List’, consisting of items such as birdseed, stink bombs and parachutes. You wonder what this is all about, and then you begin to read, and explanations flow through the narrative, making you laugh. He takes us through the entire process of air travel - starting with the airport, checking in, the choice of seat, what to do during a flight, the dangers of air travel, and how to combat them, and eventually taking us through landings, clearing immigration and customs, all the way to getting back home. At a little over 200 pages, it is surprisingly exhaustive.
Considering the length of the book, and the fact that we have heard many jokes about air travel over the years, it would have been easy for the book to lose its pace midway. That it doesn’t happen, and that the book continues to engage us all the way through is a credit to Rishi Piparaiya’s sense of humour and his writing skills. He has his tongue firmly in cheek all through the book, and it is this which really makes the book a good read.
The only negative, if I can call it that, is the extensive focus on the dangers of air travel. I would agree that this is the issue that provokes the most humour, but in my opinion, it is a bit overdone. This is the only portion which gets a little too long for me. Otherwise, I enjoyed every section in the book.
One thing I appreciated about the book was the list of sources - references to the quotes, as well as the images used. Much of the material is from the internet and newspapers, but they have been put together in a manner which makes for an easy and fun read, which is to be appreciated.
Rishi Piparaiya, as head of sales and marketing for a multinational company, has a lot of frequent flier miles under his belt. He has chosen to write his first book about a topic he knows well. I am sure there are many others like him out there with experiences even more interesting, but not everyone would be able to piece those experiences and thoughts together as well as he has. It is indeed a commendable first book.
This is the kind of book you want to read, if, you, like me, need something to lighten up your mood, or if you need to have a good laugh, or, simply if you want an easy read to pass the time.
Thank you, Anjali, for sending me the book, and waiting patiently for me to read and review it!