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A Flight To Remember …

Posted by RB Kollannur on February 6, 2009

Author’s Note : Written in early December 2008. It is mentioned in line,  just in case u missed it.

Have you ever waved at an airplane as it whizzed past above you from a nearby airport? Ever followed the jet stream of a distant plane in the sky? Traveling the skies can always capture the fantasy of any one who haven’t traveled by air. I’ve never been on an airplane since returning from UAE when I was four. Never needed to, to be honest. Air travel is often left as the travel of the last resort and that too only in case you need to travel immediately or reach the destination quickly (Of course, I mean domestic travel). But the freedom to fly into the skies, away from the stress ridden lithosphere tends to give you a sense of completion.

So there I was, waiting to board an airplane for Hyderabad at the Coimbatore Airport in early December. My dad had just dropped me off at the airport, three hours away from home. I had a copy of Neal Stephenson’s QuickSilver for company, though I hardly managed to read the book, brimming with excitement about the flight.

I had a job interview in Hyderabad, which I was pretty confident I’ll clear. They had already grilled me for couple of interviews, on top of three online tests to test logical thinking and character. And they were glad to take care of my travel expenses as well (Which was a factor while choosing air travel).

I was also planning to catch up with few of my friends there, if time permitted. I had worked in Hyderabad earlier, though I have kind of lost touch with them. There were few from my MBA batch as well.

The plane was on time and we were called on to the boarding area. The heightened security post 26/11 was visible. I had the standard carry on luggage only and had no hassles at the check-in, though there was a delay for a chap carrying six small bags. He finally managed to pack them all into a single large one. Is that what they mean by a six pack?

With no further delay, we were ushered in comfortably to our seats on the plane. I had a window seat. Not that it meant much. The sun had nearly set and barely anything was visible outside. The plane was not fully occupied and I wondered whether it was normal for airplanes to run under-booked.

There were two air hostesses – one was pretty and the other sexy. As I took the seat, the pretty air hostess approached and asked me if I could shift to the front seat opposite to hers. Okay. Wow. I was about to respond, when she continued to say, they needed someone to operate the emergency exit at the window in case of, well, an emergency and since nobody had occupied the seat, I was next in line.

Crestfallen, I proceeded to the front left window seat. Not exactly the most welcome greeting though, for a first time flier to hear that he will be responsible in an emergency, but then again she said it with a comforting tone as to say that the chances of an emergency are so remote that you have nothing to worry about. Relaxed, I put on the seat belts and looked out into to the dark night as the airplane sped to the runway.

I was worried the take-off would be strenuous, but it was to be of no concern. Though they were some flutters in the stomach when I felt the airplane accelerate, there was nothing jittery about the takeoff as we took off smoothly. I looked out of the window and the lights of the Coimbatore night were fast becoming distant like a reassuring wave saying everything was fine.

The “Seat Belts On” sign soon came off and the air hostess sitting in front informed me I can switch on my MP3 (She had earlier asked me to switch it off during take off). As I got back to my book, the MP3 was chiming to the dulcet voice of Chantal Kreviazuk singing “I am leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again” from the Armageddon soundtrack. Talk about timing.

I couldn’t read the book much. It was based in 1650-1750 Europe and America. Though the historic references were deep and interesting, I was not looking for a thoughtful book for the travel. I looked around to see how other passengers were doing. Some of the passengers, first timers like me, were eager to take photos of (No, not the air hostesses) the city lights far below as we passed over Bangalore and other cities. But mostly it was a peaceful crowd of techies and their like headed for their cubicles at work.

The city lights were a beautiful sight to watch. Lines of light escaping the shadowy darkness of the night. An explosion of activity in the middle of an eerie shroud of inactivity.

There was no in-flight movie and just a slight appetizer, by my standards, for nourishment. (No, I haven’t taken any photos like Richard Branson’s customers). But the good thing was that they had very good chocolate ice cream cooled to perfection. There were also flyers for the airline’s frequent flyer scheme (WTF, flyer for a flyer?) which the air hostesses tried to sell. Too bad, they didn’t ask me if I would be interested.

The airport soon reached the Shamshabad airport in the outskirts of the Hyderabad city. No flutters in the stomach this time. I was looking forward to a nice cold shower in the hotel once the plane landed. Not a slightest concern over the landing. The flight had gone without incident and took away any possible anxiety over the landing. And it went picture perfect as well.

I called up my dad to tell him I had reached. He was still on his way back home. Two points for air travel. It used to take me an entire day to travel on an oddly timed noon to noon Sabari Express to travel from Hyderabad to my home. The flight took around two hours only.

As I exited of the airport, I was expecting a furor like the one shown in the movie Rang de Basanti where the passengers are hounded by vendors trying to sell maps and stuff. Nothing like that here, though. The travelers were greeted by formally dressed good looking women, placed there by cab companies to get customers (No burly cab drivers trying to take away your luggage either). Since the city was an hour or so from the airport, I decided to take a cab (1250 bucks, btw). No, the good looking women had nothing to do with that decision. Besides, I could claim it later. The expenses, I mean.

The cab soon exited the airport, with “Leaving on a Jet Plane” still ringing in my ears. I still had an interview to attend …


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