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‚ÄĚ minibus‚ÄĚ service¬† from our house to the airport. It was¬†¬† a time¬† of joyful expectation, and¬† would¬† usually lead¬† to¬† the¬† procurement¬† of ‚Äú Tinkle‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äďmaintained 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‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äďlike 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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