Leaning In, Desi Style

Indian men who have finished secretly reading ‘50 shades of grey’ are now reading Sheryl Sandberg and taking her call to ‘Lean In’ rather seriously.

I discovered this when I was travelling from Mumbai to Lucknow recently. Air India has now moved its domestic counter to the International Terminal and is contributing actively to creating the only spot of chaos and utter inefficiency at the otherwise well run T2. There were crumpled baggage tags on the floor, lots of random debris everywhere and the female staff were wearing what has to be the worst uniform in the solar system. It is an incredibly bad combination of a weird sea green/ blue, dark blue and an odd brick reddish colour with some kind of paisley pattern and stripes across the entire saree. It is definitely some kind of revenge by an underpaid designer or some kind of sabotage. Those colours individually and in combination are the worst possible on an average Indian complexion.

( The other theory is that like the postal staff in Men In Black 3, all Air India staff are actually undercover aliens and hence do not want to attract attention by looking good or being efficient………)

There was even some yelling this morning. The check in counter staff was shouting for the porters to help with the bags, the trolley train guys were yelling out to passengers who were bravely attempting to queue, and then one older man came running along who looked like he was going have a heart attack, shouting for passengers for the Delhi flight whose gate was about to close.

Once that little episode was over, the rest of us continued to maintain the straggly line, patiently waiting for the counter staff to notice and acknowledge our existence………and that is when I first noticed the Sheryl fans.

Without fail, every single woman passenger was standing upright, holding on to her bag, child’s hand, trolley etc while the men were leaning in……..onto the trolley, onto the women, against the counters…..it was like an epidemic.

leaning tower

Then at the security check again I found every man trying to lean in and move ahead in the queue. The final straw was when the man standing right behind me decided that allowing a working woman to remove her laptop from the bag and put it in the tray was just too much privilege and decided to lean in, by actually putting his backpack from OVER MY SHOULDER onto the security belt!

I turned around and told him I may be a woman but I am still here and this is a queue and if you don’t want your bag dropped on the floor, you need to pick it up NOW and step back. I was cheered on by a young woman in black leather pants and a huge guitar in a box, on her way to a rock concert. We shared an exasperated shrug and then we stepped aside to give way to a pilot who needed to come ahead of us in the line because she happened to also be a woman.

As we finally made our way out of the security check I saw some more men who had taken Sheryl very seriously. The wheelchair porters were all short and weak looking men with bow legs who needed to lean in just to keep themselves moving and needed the wheelchairs more than the frail old men and women actually sitting in it.

As we finally boarded, I went to the window seat and found that the man in the middle had spread himself out using the entire armrest on my side, spread his legs till our thighs were almost touching and spent the entire take off time leaning in on me to look outside the window.

All I can hope for now is that Sheryl quickly writes another bestseller and this time calls it Standing Up Straight.

Please Sheryl, do this for your sisters in India !




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