Sunday, 16 March 2008

The Maiden Flight

The company is very strict about travel rules. Juniors are not entitled for air travel, and are allowed to travel only by train. So, from Mumbai (then Bombay), I take the Madras Mail, which takes two full days and a night to reach its destination.

I am supposed to be in Madras (it had not yet been renamed Chennai) for three days. But on the second day, I get an SOS from Bombay asking me to return immediately, by air! Something urgent has come up.

My knees turn to water.

This was the time when Indian Airlines flights used to crash with alarming regularity. In fact, the 1970s had been a decade of horror for the carrier with fatal crashes reported in 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1976 and 1979. A whole generation had grown up seeing pictures of burnt fuselages and charred bodies displayed prominently in the morning newspapers and become passionate converts to the viewpoint that air travel was strictly for those who had a taste for reckless adventure.

I go through check-in and security like a convict approaching the gallows. I am allotted a seat at the very back, close to the toilets and the pantry. With an impending sense of doom, I fasten my seatbelt and try to control my rising panic.

The flight takes off and hardly ten minutes later, we are facing heavy turbulence. The aircraft shudders and seems to plunge down; I am a quaking jelly, looking wildly at all the other passengers who seem to be pretty casual about the terrible fate I am sure is going to befall all of us.

The moment passes, but I refuse to relax and am keenly monitoring the engine sound for any abnormalities that will signal another crisis. Dinner is served, but I can hardly eat anything.

Suddenly from the back, there is a shrill, high-pitched hiss! For the umpteenth time that evening, I jump out of my skin, convinced another great calamity has befallen us, only to find that the noise is caused by hot water being drawn from a faucet by the air-hostess to make coffee!

After what seems like an eternity, the plane lands in Mumbai and I totter out, mentally and physically drained.

It takes me weeks to get over the trauma! :-)


Ranjeetha said...

Hi Radhakrishnan

Just to let you know that at least one person has read this. And you are not shouting into a void:-)


Amrita said...

I'm sorry, I shouldn't laugh - I'm sure you were terrified. It's just that I remember the air pocket-y years of the 80s and how it was thrilling to be in that situation. Kids are such idiots. Great blog, btw.

Ravi said...

Post 9/11 if you fly any American airline, then you will understand what has happened to this country. Airlines going broke, poorly maintained planes and bad to no service. Chaos all around but I have faith that the American spirit will come through and very soon at that,.....

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.