It was a bumpy plane ride; the worst of all I have experienced. I was half asleep and therefore less afraid.
My father had mentioned air bubbles once… it seems the air hostesses had abandoned the food carts/trolleys right in the middle of serving and fled…
Were we passing through one of those bubbles now? Or was it something else?
It felt like driving on roads with alternating road humps and potholes.
I could actually feel the plane diving suddenly and my heartbeat stopping every time that happened.
And I smiled away foolishly, eyes closed, rather enjoying the boisterous slapstick comedy, not caring to fear, sure of my destiny, for no reason at all.
Another feature of this ride was the impervious-impermeable Vada that was served alongside Idly. It was so impervious to the hot Sambhar in which it was immersed, that it was brown on the outside and when I bit into it, it was spotless white inside. As I chewed, there appeared Vijay Mallya on the screen before me, proclaiming he had tasted the food personally and made sure it was perfect.
We were flying cattle class in Kingfisher.
The seats were closely packed. The namesake reclining seats moved only 2-3 inches backward while I continued pressing the button and pushing the back of the seat with all my might.
The Bangalore – Delhi journey was miserable!
And the little speech by Mr. Mallya was a source of comic relief to one and all.
“The airhostesses have been personally chosen by me…! “
Yes. We believe you.
I thought of a joke by a friend during peak recession “Why King Fisher employees need not worry about being laid off?
Because they have already been … … by……
Ha ha ha…
Sorry about the crudeness.
The very plastic, artificial Yana Gupta was giving security instructions in Hindi on the small screen pausing between sentences at all the wrong times…
‘Hum aapko suraksha ke’
‘Soochna dete hai’
The Delhi international airport!
Wow!! What a sight! How grand and what aesthetic sense! Every inch of it had received attention.
The first thing I noticed was the carpeting! The complete length of the corridors, stretching up to hundreds of meters was carpeted.
The way it stretched from this end to that, it made me think of Paris airport!
There were conveyor belts to carry people who preferred to simply stand and at the same time be transported to the opposite end of a long corridor.
Every bend and turn at the airport offered a surprise.
High ceilings created an atmosphere of majesty.
In one place, there were Mudras in metallic finish fixed to the wall, that was covered by huge copper coloured concave metallic plates - each mudra being as tall as I am.
There were 10 or more of them in all.
I had to meet a friend during the three hours I had before my next flight so I moved towards arrivals.
Granite tiles polished to a sheen covered the floor that reflected the hundreds of light fixtures on the ceiling above.
The snake charmer was there; it seems to me that no amount of development - glass finished buildings, malls, computers and all - will take away from the snake charmer, his right to represent India before all else.
Then there were the Classical dancers, Elephants, the Tabla and the Shenai, Tagore…
And this one took me by surprise - the Naama - the mark on the forehead worn by the Iyengars, and the Vaishnavas in general. I was happy to see my community represented.
I did not notice then, but the Taj Mahal was not all pervasive.
I am glad someone had discovered there was so much more to India than a grave.
(Make no mistake; I am emotional about Agra and the Taj Mahal. I spent the first two years of my life there. But definitely, there is much more to India)
I walked slowly towards the exit savouring the sights.
The Hindi translation of Exit ‘Nikas’ caught my attention as I traced its root to a word in Sanskrit that I thought I had read recently.
The arrival lounge is lined with stalls on both sides – stalls of all kind, books, food, bakery,…
The one that faced me as I entered this lounge was a very attractive ‘Kingdom of Dreams” - What was it? Some agency for booking hotels? That’s what a certain taxi driver, waiting at arrivals said.
When I googled it, I found something very interesting. “Kingdom of Dreams is a spectacular world of unparalleled imagination, which brings to you a blend of India’s culture, heritage, art, crafts, cuisine and performing arts buttressed with the mind boggling technological wizardry of today. This unique tourist destination, situated at the apex of the golden triangle of Jaipur, Agra and Delhi offers you the carnival that is India.”
I will surely visit this place on my next visit to Delhi. The website is so gorgeous.
Last and the least was this restaurant called ‘food street’ that I walked into, to get some South Indian food. Plain Dosa - 110 rupees. The white chutney which first tasted of ginger and resulted in a good first impression, turned out to be stale the next second. The Sambhar was kind of bitter sour but I was not sure if it was stale. I had to negotiate with three people before I could get a glass of regular drinking water without paying extra.
This restaurant must be a shining example of the decadence that Laissez Faire capitalism can bring about. More on this later…
I had one more hour to go before my international flight took off.
I said goodbye to my friend and moved towards the next gate. My heart sank when I saw the queue. The king fisher staff who filled the form for me at the counter by taking details from my passport…thank you so much…
Once I had my boarding pass, I felt somewhat relieved. I had to reach gate 10B. I had 10-15 more minutes but did not panic since I thought the gate must be close by.
There was no end to the enticing distracting glittery shops and I clicked some more pictures. Anti-consumption though I may be, I could not help feasting my eyes on all the dreamlike material abundance.
I pushed my trolley, walked to this bend and took that turn but gate 10B would just not show. When someone pointed to the bend at the very end of a kilometer long corridor, my pulse began racing. I had no idea Delhi airport was so huge.
I ran with the trolley as a voice announced the last and final boarding call to passengers flying by IT-65.
I must thank the driver of the electric car who went out of his way to escort me. The one meant for passengers shook his head when I signalled to him and drove in the opposite direction. The other who was loading or unloading some goods – drove me to the ever elusive 10B terminal.
I reached, just in time, still panting from the effort of my marathon.
I almost missed my flight twice on the same day. The flight from Bangalore to Delhi had also been a scramble, because we had underestimated the crowd inside. The number of people that had turned up at 5 in the morning! Where were they all going?
Had my mother been witness to all my scrambling, that too twice on the same day, she would have shook her head from side to side until…
So I was inside Kingfisher again, flying cattle class again. The refreshment for this international flight, however, included a chocolate pastry, which I must admit, tasted good.
I had gotten used to Yana Gupta by now.
What kept my childish whim occupied (and amused) this time was a Faux pas.
The recorded announcement said something about alcohol consumption being prohibited on plane and the big prohibition symbol appeared on the screen - on your face.
After water, wet tissue and head sets were offered, the lady in red appeared with “Some beer for your sir?”.
When she tried to offer me one, I asked her about the earlier instruction about prohibition of alcohol, out of idle curiosity (I am a teetotaller).
“That’s for domestic flights only, not international flights’.
Why the message then, I thought?
Cost cutting - by shooting a single video for two messages!
Somehow, cost cutting had characterized several happenings of that day.
By the way, did I tell you where I was heading to?
Oh! I forgot.
Some believe that you do not choose a mountain. The mountain chooses you. Must be true, for I swear I had no plans of going to this place this summer. But long before the onset of summer, a certain mountain, in The Great Himalayas of Nepal, over 29000 feet tall, had chosen me, to take into her proximity.
And here I was, responding to that calling.
Here I was, flying and scrambling, crouching and racing, lumbering and trudging, ambling and hopping and doing whatever else it took to reach the glorious Mt. Everest.