Suresh Menon

Friday - - Contents - Suresh Menon is a writer based in In­dia. In his youth he set out to change the world but later de­cided to leave it as it is tell us what you think, email us at fri­day@gulfnews.com

One let­ter can make a world of dif­fer­ence, says our colum­nist.

You are trav­el­ling to Granada in Spain, wake up and find your air­craft is about to land in Gre­nada in the Caribbean is­lands. Whom do you sue? Or do you say, “Thank you for the ex­tra 6,400 kilo­me­tres you let me fly free, can you take me now to Granada, please?” Some­times a vowel’s move­ment can be painful, as the US den­tist who flew those ex­tra miles dis­cov­ered. He is su­ing the air­line, but some­how I am not very san­guine about his chances.

It is a tru­ism in travel that you must choose your Granada care­fully. Be­sides the two men­tioned, there are two more in Spain (put it down to unimag­i­na­tive ge­og­ra­phy lessons in school or a love for pome­gran­ate, which in Span­ish is ‘granada’), one in north­ern South Amer­ica, three in Colom­bia, one in Mex­ico, one in Peru, one in Colorado, one in Min­nesota, and of course, the one best known to the Amer­i­cans, in Nicaragua. It al­most seems as if Granada is the McDon­ald’s of the ge­o­graph­i­cal world, with al­most one around ev­ery cor­ner.

How our den­tist fig­ured out he was go­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion seven hours af­ter he was sup­posed to land is one of those ro­man­tic air­line sto­ries that will be re­peated gen­er­a­tion af­ter gen­er­a­tion un­til ei­ther Gre­nada or Granada changes its name.

“We are headed west when we should be go­ing south,” the pas­sen­ger is re­ported to have said to him­self, speak­ing softly and clearly af­ter check­ing the elec­tronic map on the in-flight en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem. There are many morals to the story: don’t ne­glect the en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem on a flight – oc­ca­sion­ally it might bring you Se­in­feld when you want Mod­ern

Fam­ily, but it is never wrong on ge­og­ra­phy and knows its a’s from its e’s. Also, it is some­times use­ful to have a chat with a pas­sen­ger or stew­ard, ca­su­ally slip in your des­ti­na­tion, and see if he recog­nises it.

We all have our Granadas. Mine, when young, was to be ac­ci­den­tally taken to the wrong Salem.

In In­dia, this is a city some 200 kilo­me­tres from where I grew

As a child, I hoped that some­how the train to the In­dian Salem would land up in the US Salem

up in Ban­ga­lore, best known now as the place where the crick­eter Roger Binny went to school. The other Salem is in Mas­sachusetts, US, some 13,000 kilo­me­tres fur­ther away, best known for the Salem Witch Tri­als and Arthur Miller’s play The Cru­cible.

As a child, I didn’t know the de­tails. But I hoped that some­how the train to the In­dian Salem would take the wrong turn and land up in the US Salem. I wouldn’t have sued. In fact, I wouldn’t even have com­plained. I would have merely given the driver a pat on the back – some­thing the US den­tist, for some rea­son, did not think the pi­lot of his air­craft de­served.

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