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Cruising the Skies

LifestyleCruising the Skies

I have clocked in a good amount of time in aircrafts and always, as in always, despite the frenzied pace of packing, shutting down house, the latter being endless—emptying the fridge, unplugging all electrical appliances, and God knows whatever else—with childlike eagerness board the plane, hear the click of the overhead luggage loft, swipe my face with the ice-cool hand towel, and with rarin’-to-go anticipation count the moments till orange juice arrives in flute glasses. And this is only the beginning—completely oblivious of the safety demonstrations given out, in case something untoward happens—fasten my seat belt blissfully peering out of the window. (Yes, it is mandatory for me to have a window seat, and cross my fingers, till now, I have never been out of luck as far as procuring one!) And once the plane zooms upwards, the sensation euphoric to the belly, breezing into the clouds that to your eyes look like a beatific bearded man or an elephant with one jumbo ear while the other, its diminutive counterpart. I thought, as a four-year-old, still to lose her milk teeth, till now, the very present, awestruck, that these floating clouds are cotton candy; had there not been a window barricading my hand from stretching out, I’d take an open-handed boatload to melt in my mouth. However, for too long, air travel has deserted me. Initially, Covid was the culprit when all flights ground to a halt, then when one saw Heathrow back in business, financial constraints got the better of one, and then a number of yawningly boring factors set in, that I dare not allude to, lest I chase my readers away, and so flying skywards went for a toss! (Not to run away from the fact that the Covid syndrome constructed a sluggishness of sorts!) I shall return to the highs and some not-too-diminutive lows of my soaring sojourns after branching off a bit. Two and half months ago, I had the opportunity of going to Goa. Departure: 12th of April. Arrival in the Capital on the 14th. An official trip, one might say, else I am the last person to make a panting circle-tour where one can barely come up for air. While taxing off to Goa, it was a Vistara flight. Had heard Vistara was a decent aeroplane providing reasonably presentable hospitality, and though it was a disappointment, the stars in my eyes remained midway into the travel time. Food trolleys rolled in—overdone to death microwavable chicken rice with a hard-as-a-rock dinner roll, the same was the case with the brownie. Once the service trays had called it a day, little kids requesting a glass of Coke or Sprite to be cryptically informed that these fizzy drinks were reserved for (rather the prerogative of) Business Class passengers! (I still believe that aeons ago Economy Class was coined “Cattle Class” by me and I should have patented it…nowadays “cattle class” wafts around like windswept leaves!)
How belittling, slighting, as an understatement, can this be? A tumbler of soda pop the entitlement, the birthright of travellers with deep pockets. Hello? Isn’t the whole of India guzzling Coke and soft drinks by the gallons, and all the empty plastic bottles piled Mount Everest high, threatening further to devastate Mother Earth?! If the value of cola equals caviar and champagne, then one needs not an arithmetic bone in one’s head to compute such a beverage would come at the cost of, an upper limit, Rs 20, so pray, how challenging is it to add a couple of hundred rupees to a ticket?! Now which Management Committee comprising of marketing gurus, having acquired their MBAs from fancy-dancy foreign universities, work out this profit-bearing budget? This is not even a case of “Penny Wise, Pound Foolish” but an ongoing penny-pinching, belt-tightening habit, fused with suffocating self-righteousness! Well, this plane had an entertainment screen, don’t recall what name this monitor goes by—not shrinking grey cells but writing with a raging brain so a cardiac massage is required to revive the memory. Homeward bound flight: Indigo. No aerobridge to walk, you directly to the plane. So, there you are with the sun making you sweat like swine, standing in a queue on the extreme side of the blistering tarmac, hanging on to your cool for clambering up the narrow-gauged flight of steps; in between some “late-comer travellers’’ on wheelchairs are skated in, and then at their own peril, whisked up. Fine. Question: Should not the persons in wheelchairs be escorted on a priority basis, with an announcement? Such highly-inflammable pandemonium! Okay, so finally after sweating buckets with brackish perspiration, to put it most politely, streaming into your eyes, making them sting and only after vigorous rubbing, is your vision repaired, you are on board. Then after smelling like a semi-dead rat when you settle in, you discover there’s no facility to view a movie, listen to music or just plain see the trajectory of your travel. A bottle of water? Nopes, unless you pre-paid while booking your ticket. Same for a humble snack and a cup of chai. Sure, a jugful of water you may consume without a backward thought! What about the pre-booked flavourless anaemic biryani which comes in a cup of noodles container where the flight attendant, usually a young lady, with a face thickly slapped with foundation, pours boiling hot water into the soon-to-sprout limp runny rice with lifeless vegetables, directs you to hold the plastic receptacle for 10-minutes before wolfing it down! Could you not exchange this barrel for the dry-as-dust coleslaw sandwiches doing the rounds? Nope, you didn’t sign up for this (sounds like a prenuptial agreement!) so keep your paws off! However, this has turned out to be a head-swirling complaining binge—not intended, I promise.
What about the smiling staff that tuck you in tight with a coarse blanket made cuddly by them, that let your son don the pilot’s cap to make him feel he’s flying the plane, and wake you well up before landing so you can see the rivers, valleys, and cars of all hues, appearing like the cutest four-wheelers on the face of the earth. And the feeling, long after you have deplaned, that you rode along with twinkling stars, cruised with snow-white clouds gliding across the skies. The ascending elation remains well after having descended till you board that Big Bird again.

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