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Abhimanyu Bishnu

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Bon voyage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The daint, white and red coloured aircraft slowly taxies into Kolkata airport.  The  swanky new terminal  , buzzing with   coffee shops, eateries, gift  shops  selling  useless  memorabilia  at  extravagant  prices,   excited children running  about  and  couples sitting  and assisting each other, is  teeming  with activity.

What  a far cry,  I think, from the  rundown terminal  five  years   back, which seemed more  like  a railway  station than  a modern  airport , that to  at a  time when all the other major airports  across the country had been modernized  . But  that same rundown terminal  contained memories of my childhood, when my father  (who  is no more) would return from his official tours  and  me  and my mom  would take  the only existing” minibus” service  from our house to the  airport. It was   a time  of joyful expectation, and  would  usually lead  to  the  procurement  of “ Tinkle” comics or  other such icons of my childhood  from the airport book  shops, courtesy  my father.

Things have changed drastically. They  have been sanitized, commercialized, and frankly  I prefer this  clean, well –maintained  building any day compared to the   rundown terminal   of yore with  the stinking dirty toilets  and  stale  food (  courtesy AAEI), but somewhere, nostalgia still lingers, in a corner  of the  mind somewhere, and  nestles  itself firmly.

Air Asia I5 549 has arrived. The  pretty  airhostesses (some looking a  bit too  self -conscious  in this plastic  atmosphere) and  the smart  pilots  are holding fort at the  departure  lounge. Air Asia, Indigo, Spice Jet, you name it, they are all over the place.

The departure bellow leads us to the aircraft, which  is  a clone of all such similar aircrafts  ( contemptuously called” cattle    class” by Shashi Tharoor  a  few years back, leading to  public uproar). Neat, daintily arranged  seats,  the  crew with  their plastic ( or amiable, whichever way you look  at it ) smile, and  the humming  of the  engine.  The airhostess  announces the  pre- take-off instructions in her drone –like voice ( probably  she is more  tired  of it by now  than we are), and  displays    a bit more  than what she has been probably  briefed to  do.  The  engines  come  to a roar, the  aircraft lurches forward, and  we  take off,  Calcutta  dangling  below us like    a  vast  chequerboard of  buildings, greenery,   fields  and waterbodies.

The  chap next to  me is from Delhi , probably  on a flight  for  the first  or second time, and I guide him  on a few things   ( including  how  to take the  airport shuttle  from the  Delhi  airport, courtesy my  four years  in Delhi ). We  have  a general discussion on air travel  and  its  merits  vis a  vis  rail  travel, it transpires that his brother is a  co-pilot  with Indigo  Airlines   based  in Bangalore, and his  knowledge  on the  current   airline scenario  in India turns  out  to be quite  good. At  the  end, I guide  him on staying  seated during  the   stopover in Ranchi  on his way  to Delhi ( this   being  a connecting  flight ) and  not  to get  down ( as he had  thought) . I collect  my bag  from  the overhead  bin,  endure the  plastic  smile from  the airhostess  once more one way out, and  leave. I am  handed    a discount  voucher for  some  outrageously priced  items from the    airport  store ( which I dispose  off  quickly) . Collecting   my   luggage from the   conveyor   belt, I move out of the terminal for the usual haggling with autorickshaw drivers for my journey back home.

Routine, humdrum?  Depends   on how you look at it. I spent  my time  observing  people ( cantankerous couples,  cooing children, pretty airhostesses  , smart  pilots  and fastidiously  busy laptop-wielding executives ), and  enjoyed  this  sojourn on my way back home. Fast and sure, air travel is now embedded into the DNA of the Indian middle   class.  Give me  a  break from the  plastic  smiles  , though, and I would   enjoy  it  a  bit more.

Bon voyage on Air Asia.  Welcome aboard.

3 comments on “Bon voyage

  1. Alok Singhal says:

    Seems true to an extent – is it more of commercialization of a few things and an objectification of a few other that has led to this.

    I have always traveled in the plastic scenario, so not sure of what used to happen next. Nice memories you have though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. abhibishnu says:

      Yes, I guess commercialization is an inevitable process

      Like

    2. abhibishnu says:

      Yes, true. Everything is a commodity now, i guess that has to happen .
      Yes, the memories are there. It was a kind of wonderland for us, in the age prior to mass commercial air travel.

      Liked by 1 person

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