Bon voyage




The glittering  terminal
Attractive Air Asia airbuses- among the newer  entrants to the aviation market
Check- in counters

The dainty,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, hassled executives working on laptops 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 too  at a  time when all the other major airports across the country had been modernized . But  that same rundown terminal contained fond memories of my childhood, when my father (who  passed away recently) 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. The airport has 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’ stay  in Delhi ). We have  a general discussion on air travel  and  its  merits  vis -a-vis  rail  travel, and 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  smiles from  the airhostesses once more one way out, and  leave. I am  handed a discount  voucher for some  outrageously priced  items from the airport  shop ( 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 ( cantankerouscouples, 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 thoughts on “Bon voyage

  1. 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

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