Sunday, September 03, 2006

My first air travel

        It should be 5:30 AM on Thursday; mom was waking me up frantically, I was about to encounter the most fantastic experience in my life.. Gd was going to fly! How great, right from my puerile days, till today as a Geo-technologist, I had always yearned for a chance to fly.
I made my best efforts to be on time for the check in. Nevertheless it had become my modus operandi. I was the last to get the boarding pass. Finishing the final security checks, I settled on a couch in the middle of the deserted Coimbatore airport. It was (as usual) silent, calm without anything much happening. Then came a roar announcing the arrival of DN 126, the plane which was going to satisfy my erstwhile desires.

            There was an immediate queue; Gd made his best work to line in, alas, this time too, he was the last. This gave me some time to look around the metallic bird. It was a dilapidated American cargo carrier reaching its obsolescence. But the fact that, even this plane could transcend me was quite enigmatic.
Entering the aircraft last, I found only the last seat empty (happily it was a window seat). A cherubic doll from China came walking toward me. She was the airhostess, gave instructions to wear the seatbelts and using the floatation devices. The plane gave a jerk and started taxiing on the runway. The thrust was enormous and within minutes we were airborne. The sight of trees and buildings becoming miniaturized was spectacular. The doll was still near me, waiting to say something. I was the closest to the emergency exit and asked if I would volunteer to use it in case of emergency. Gd expressing his gallantry immediately accepted. She demonstrated the lifting and pulling mechanism. Exhibiting my propensity towards pragmatism, I too acted the same way showing her how I would pull. Nooo….. she screamed getting alarmed thinking I was pulling it.. she pulled my hand back. Gd comforted her saying that he was demonstrating back.
The plane made a constant acclivity. Rustic landscape, settling mist, mild morning sun, flocking bird groups, the pastoral Coimbatore district is a glee to look at. Once again, I felt penitent for not possessing a cam. I looked around at the people nearby. I was the only youngster. My neighbor much like CEG Dean, opened the first page in Deccan Airways magazine showing absolutely no interest in peeping out. I continued to delve through the window wondering how people could be so stolid.

         I saw the mother river of TN – Cauvery. Gosh, how wide was it!. The sight of it meandering was magnificent. Following it came the Mettur Stanley reservoir brim full. Several tributaries of the river were crisscrossing the farmlands in between. The pattern of development of urban areas around the river bank was immediately apparent. Urban sprawl and so many other concepts came reminiscing.

         I had plugged in my MP3 player (my sister gifted me) and was lost gazing through the window. I had the similar feeling; the lass was staring at me waiting to ask something. This time it was snacks. I gave her a chivalrous nod saying no, wondering if I had so much time to afford munching. There was a sudden turbulence and the plane jerked. My seat was adjacent to the massive propeller and I had weird hallucinations of the fans tearing down and I operating the emergency exit. There was another pitching and the plane ascended further more. The pilot announced us flying at 19,000 feet. A milky flow of clouds filled the window encumbering my remote sensing. We had been flying for 45 min now.

           The eastern ghats appeared like little mounds. Suddenly there was a huge green irregular pie. It was the Dindugul hills with cute hill resorts atop. I could see small milky falls at the sides of the mountains. The formation of several geological features were so conspicuous. Every geo informatics student should get a chance to make an air travel.
Another 20 minutes we reached the coastline of Chennai, the long Marina beach, Adyar river making its estuary, gentle waves in the ocean made a pleasurable sight. The pilot took us deep into the ocean before taking a turn. Then a sharp roll, we made a right turn. The ocean surface which had hitherto been silky gradually turned into a leathery texture with the sun put to my right. The transition was so spectacular, just like light entering gradually from a rotating polarizer; light accreting from a bulb attached to a rheostat.
Then some more rolls, we were circling above the ocean without permission to land. We flew over small fishing boats, large ocean liners carrying coal, oil and a large passenger ship. Finally the announcement to wear the seatbelt was made. I was still wearing the fetter from the beginning lost in my first air travel.

               DN 126 made a roaring, swift descent as it took me over the massive city. I could make out the harbour, the Chepak Stadium, the AIR tower measuring 229m ( it was my practical exam last time, I measured it using the radial spreading phenomena with a single aerial photo), the Triplicane MRTS junction, the Police HQ, Loyala college grounds. How much used had I become to this city.. it is just a span of 3 years since I had been to Chennai.
As we flew lower, I could see the bright shining golf ball.. It was the magnificent dome of College of Engineering, looking like an edifice. Hurray, I could even hear my Environmental prof. murmuring his lecture. It would be only a ‘stone throw distance’ we crossed the St. Thomas mount landing on the Kamaraj Domestic airport.

           The airhostess resuscitated the sleeping passengers. Like the rule of the thumb, I was the last to get down, this got me the opportunity to talk with the pilot. I congratulated him for making the travel so pleasurable and requested him to make more interesting comments while flying.

           The cab took us around the runway into the airport. Not bothering where others are going, I made a beeline to the restroom. Another surprise, five counters and half a dozen men queuing up in each with distorted faces, showing the peak of their patience. Typically Chennai, I wondered how free would my city be!

            Gd stood before a conveyer belt waiting for his bag. Some fifty bags passed by, I didn’t find mine. Frustrated I moved a little only to find 6 more similar conveyer belts. Gosh! How do I find mine? I searched frenzied for my dean (err.. he’s Mr. Deanlike). At last found him in the last near a display board showing DN 126. Relief. I felt how confusing would it be for an unsuspecting passenger! Typically Chennai.

          My little blue bag made its debut. Unlike its owner, the bag was the first to arrive on the belt (perhaps because it was the smallest of all bags). I picked up the little buddy and walked out modestly, ending my first air travel.
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