The Ladies Queue at the airportI am a big fan of the Ladies queue. Not the queue for the toilets, oh no, this is a special line for ladies, so they’re not rubbing up against (and more importantly jostled) by uncouth men.

Indians are generally very polite people and they are particularly careful and polite to visiting ladies.

Although there are very notable exceptions at train stations – where fleecing visitors and pinching ladies abounds. But generally a very polite nation.

I remember going to the cinema with two pals in Kerala – both locals – the gent went to the snack counter (snacks being vital to any sort of enjoyment of anything in India), and my lovely female chum went off to get the tickets, disappearing into the ladies line, leaving me slightly adrift in the foyer. there I stood gazing at the huge ordinary line, waiting for snacks and ticket to arrive, like the hapless visitor I am – and something like 15 people must have come up to me and very carefully explained that I should be in the ladies line, as ‘rough sorts abound’ in the main line, which it looked very like I as an unknowing visitor, was foolishly about to join.

A polite nation, as I say, I can only imagine how ‘rough’ those sorts might be in a cinema queue. I like that line though ‘rough sorts abound’ – they should try the tube in London on a Monday morning. No pinching, but a great deal of barging goes on.

At the airport the ladies line has reached its apotheosis. The ladies have their own entire security set up, complete with scanner, metal detector and private booth with little curtain where you are patted down in a half hearted manner by a tired female security officer. I suspect the curtain is less from decorum but lest ‘rough sorts’ be overly inflamed by the site of ladies touching each other in the search of concealed weapons. But I could be wrong, in many ways India is a more innocent nation than many in the West.

The ladies queue almost always moves slower than the gents at the airport, as there’s a back log of ladies and usually only one listless security person, so there’s a certain bon homme if you’re lucky and a slightly edgy annoyance (and a great deal of queue jumping) if you’re not.

One time I was at the listless waving of the metal detector stage of the precedings – ensconced on a little platform in the curtained booth to make me even easier to wave the magic detector wand thing over. I was wearing my usual travelling arrangement – a salvar chemise of some sort. Baggy trousers, a long shirt and a scarf – really the most comfortable thing to wear on long flights. We’d completed formalities, and the lady was just about to stamp my boarding card, when her hand wavered… she looks me up and down, she stares. And let’s face it, in these post 9/11 days none of us want to attract the attention of security personnel at the airport, so I’m feeling slightly uncomfortable. So she stares me up and down, and then she says, very seriously…

Madam – followed by a head bobble – and I think, oh dear, that serious tone is not good.

Madam, you are looking very nice! Huge beaming smile.

It was so unexpected that it made me burst out laughing. Indian ladies are so complimentary when western ladies make an effort with Indian dress. But I wasn’t expecting it at 6am at the airport.

All part of the solidarity of the ladies queue. Long may it reign!

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