How to not Look Like a Hooligan when Traveling: The Hukmani Guide

by Rachna Hukmani 

This post was originally posted on Rachna Hukmani’s personal blog

My dad was very well traveled and did so with style. While traveling, he often got upgraded to first class just based on his facial expressions. It was quite cool to see him in action. He believed that the secret to success was looking, and acting, your best while flying, because you know, you never know who you might meet on an airplane.


He was often also mistaken for the former Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh while traveling. The picture above shows the uncanny resemblance. So, of course, he believed he owed it to the Indian public to always look his best. Sometimes people asked my dad for his autograph thinking he was the Prime Minister of India. He always graciously complied and even posed for photos and this was one of my favorite things about him. There are a lot of happy Indians out there who believe they have a photo with the Indian Prime Minister in a navy blue business suit, gray turban, and regal posture. My dad knew how to pose for a photo.

[Read Related: 5 Travel Tips for the Wanderlust Brown Girl]

He had a lot of rules for traveling like a sophisticate and not looking, or acting, like a hooligan. The common question he asked his family was, “Are you Hukmani or a hooligan?”

In light of that, I thought I’d share his travel guide with everyone, so you too can get upgraded to first class by your mere presence. His guide included an 11 step plan, as all effective guides do.

1. Never wear jeans.

Jeans are for gangsters. Never wear track pants. Track pants make you look like you have something to hide.

2. Always wear a well-fitted, structured blazer.

It makes you look distinguished and like you might have a regular tailor. It is important for people to think you have your own tailor. If someone asks you if you have a tailor, always say “yes.” (Btw, this applies generally in life too. Not just airplanes).

3. If someone asks you where you went to school, say “Oxford.”

This is vague enough for people to be impressed and not ask too many questions. If they ask you what you went to school for, say “International Business.” This makes you seem responsible and worldly.

4. As soon as you board the airplane, introduce yourself to the first flight attendant you see, shake their hand firmly, and ask for the pilot’s name.

This makes you seem like you are distinguished and well traveled in that, “Oh I travel so much the pilot is a personal friend of mine” way.

[Read Related: Travel With Family: A Wise Friend’s Advice to a Desi Nomad]

5. As soon as you board, introduce yourself to your fellow passenger and let them know you’re a light sleeper.

This makes you seem considerate and also discourages them from stealing from you. The latter is especially important if the fellow passenger is wearing jeans or track pants.

6. If seated in economy, look gracious but just a little uncomfortable as in, “I don’t really belong here but I am making the best of it.”

My dad believed this was key in getting upgraded to first class

7. If watching a movie, ensure it is a movie of substance, preferably with a political conspiracy.

My dad called these “Political Thrillers.” No animated movies, rom-coms, or movies about finding yourself. These are meant for home viewing only. (Little known fact, my dad secretly LOVED movies about little children having adventures, or better yet, misunderstood dogs finally saving the day. I often found him watching these on Sunday mornings. I might have even caught a tear or two in his eyes).

8. If a “Political Thriller” isn’t available, read the Financial Times, The Economist, or Wall Street Journal.

If your fellow passenger is in a blazer as well, quote something out loud to them in an indignant, “Can you believe this? Our economy is certainly in for a toss!” manner. This is the key to starting a business conversation and using words like “toss” and “pish posh” really make you sound like you went to Oxford

[Read Related: The BG Travel Guide: Stress-Free Trips]

9. Change into sleepwear if on a long, overnight flight.

Do not sleep in your blazer. Only my dad never called his sleepwear PJs. In my house, we called PJs  “a night suit” and the top and bottom had to match or you were deemed a hooligan. My dad always changed from his business suit into a night suit if he was on a red eye.

10. Have an elegant and vintage looking gift in your carry-on luggage.

Examples of such gifts include things like a  miniature wall clock, or a sophisticated/regal figurine, like an eagle.

11. When about to de-board the plane, ask for this gift to be delivered to the pilot as a thank you for getting us to our destination on time (if giving the miniature wall clock), or compliment his smooth flying talents (if gifting the eagle figurine).

This ensures the pilot remembers you and soon you will be on a first name basis.

I hope this short but effective list inspires you. I will admit I have yet to follow this guide to its entirety. So, perhaps we can do this together one day. Next time you’re traveling with me, let’s ask ourselves, “What would Mr. Hukmani do?” and do just that. Then ask ourselves, “What would a hooligan do?” and definitely, not do that. Maybe, we too will find ourselves on a first name basis with the pilot, watching a “Political Thriller” in our night suits, while traveling first class.

Rachna Hukmani lives in NYC and is very passionate about writing about her Greek/Indian upbringing. Youngest child of 5 siblings, she has a lot of witty anecdotes to share and loves storytelling. In fact, she is the owner/founder of Whiskey Stories. Having worked in the whiskey industry for several years, she is well-versed in the art of whiskey making, barrel aging, and mixology. Whiskey Stories is more than a whiskey tasting class. It is a sensorial immersive experience that combines her passion for storytelling as well as pairing obscure whiskies with other artists talents ranging anywhere from authors & musicians to actors & comedians. It is unlike any other whiskey class in NYC!

Bio Photo Credit: © Katarina Kojic Photography

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