Meet Chowdhury. The guy you should avoid travelling with on air.
It's not just that his larger-than-usual frame, sitting next to you, will squeeze you to the point of choking you. It's not just his weird tales, which will make you laugh to death. And it's not even that he will snore so loud that you will find it difficult to catch a wink.
It's because when you travel with him, you must keep your fingers crossed, praying the aircraft will not face some sort of freak accident – from something seriously fatal to an almost silly one. He is the most air accident-prone guy you will probably ever meet.
Take this for one.
Chowdhury was on a vacation to the Smokey Mountains in North Carolina. His friend had recommended this trip to the mountains not just for its breathtaking beauty, but also because you get to buy moonshine. The liquor comes in beautifully-labelled fat jars. Moonshine is banned from sale in stores.
So here Chowdhury was, with his friend and friend's wife. They were feeling fairly jolly as they got close to winding up their trip, when they found out about a chopper ride that took you around the mountains, providing a nice view of the peaks of the range.
Chowdhury in his momentary frivolity decided to take the ride and bought tickets for three. They stood in the queue for passengers and the chopper came. By the time their turn came to board, there were only two seats left.
"You go ahead," the friend's wife said, as a gesture to the longtime buddies. "I am not too keen on it. I will wait here."
Chowdhury dismissed her off: "No way. If we go, we go together."
He then turned around and told the people standing behind them: "Guys, we are taking the next flight. We will wait for the next trip."
The chopper took off in a trail of dust and disappeared around the bend in the mountains, as Chowdhury and his friends waited. About 15 minutes later, the chopper reappeared, it was coming straight towards the landing pad.
"Something is wrong with the chopper," Chowdhury held his breath. The flying machine appeared unstable, it was wobbling on its path like a dragon fly. At times, it tilted sideways.
As it reached the top of the helipad, the chopper began to spiral out of control and came hurtling to the ground with a loud crash. Its blades broke off and flew in every direction. Its tail rotor blade kept rotating, making a funny purring sound as it did so.
Chowdhury ran for his life. There was a buzz around the crash site as emergency medics rushed to pull the passengers out. Chowdhury craned his neck and had a last look at the passengers who were by that time all battered up, but still alive.
Then he sped up: "Let's get the hell outta here. Choppers suck."
But then you could take this other incident.
Chowdhury was on a flight to Kolkata and did not want to spend money on a business class seat for this short haul of a journey.
But he is an avid aircraft information guzzler and knows all about planes of various makes and models. He can lecture you for hours on end on the avionics every model uses. So he chose a seat next to the emergency exit to have more leg space.
After the plane landed safely, he was the last person to get up from his seat. By then the captain had emerged from the cockpit and was agitatedly scolding the airhostess: "Why did you forget to lock the emergency exit? You forgot to push the handle down."
"Sorry sir, it was a mistake." The airhostess confessed.
Chowdhury crashed into his seat again, his head spinning. Had the door come open in midair, he would have been the first person to be sucked out of the aircraft.
Or how about this one? Chowdhury was once again on a flight to Chittagong. A breezy half hour journey.
The plane took off smoothly and he lost sense of time as he fiddled with his laptop. Suddenly he yanked his head up from the laptop screen when an announcement aired through the PA system: "Dear passengers, this is an important announcement. We are facing some technical problems with the flight. Please pray to your Creator, the Almighty."
Suddenly all hell broke loose. People were crying in panic. One passenger decided to recite the Azan.
Chowdhury quickly opened his laptop and brought up pictures of his family – his loving wife and beautiful children. He tried hard to remember fond memories of the time he spent with them. He could remember none. His head was blank, and he was sweating profusely.
Every minute felt like hours. The chaos and hysterics of the passengers got worse. Another 45 minutes passed and then the public announcement system crackled to life again: "By the grace of the Almighty, the Creator, we are now landing."
The plane landed uneventfully. This time Chowdhury was the first person to get out. But why does Chittagong look like this? Where is this place? He asked the ground staff.
"Sylhet," came the answer.
Half an hour later, there was another announcement. The flight was now leaving for Dhaka, not Chittagong.
Chowdhury pulled his luggage out and said: "Goodbye. I am taking the bus." And the bus he took.
You could consider this one as well.
Chowdhury was flying inside Europe. He had a meeting to catch in Copenhagen.
The PA system came to life: "We are having some problems with our landing gear."
Once again, things turned crazy inside the cabin. People were crying and shouting, but no one could bring the landing gear out. So the only option was to burn fuel and prepare for a belly-landing.
Suddenly, one passenger stood up and said he was an engineer. "I know something about planes. May I have a go?"
The carpet near the wheel was rolled back and the hatchet removed. The man disappeared inside as Chowdhury and his fellow passengers cried and panicked. Once again, he found he had forgotten all the verses from the Quran he thought he knew by heart.
A little later, the man claiming to be an engineer reappeared, smiling. "It's been fixed," he announced. "The wheel got stuck to something and I managed to release it."
The plane landed in one piece and once again, Chowdhury was the first person to get out.
His stories go on like this. Some are just minor incidents like a drunk man throwing up next to him, some more serious, ready to give you goosebumps.
And he knows his life is jinxed when it comes to flying. Incidentally, Chowdhury has had a phobia of air travel from an early age, even before any of these things happened to him. He hates flying, and yet his job requires him to fly frequently.
A cursed life, that is what he calls it.
Now anyone who wants a thrilling flight should take a vacation with Chowdhury.