Sunday, January 29, 2012

Travel diaries - Part One

(The first of a series, hopefully, of a travel diary)

One week to go, and PP was headed to India, for the first time after he came to the US. The airport, which is normally one of those where you can breeze through, was a buzz of activity that morning with queues stretching all over the terminal. Strangely, it took about 45 mins to check-in, which wasn't bad, since he had factored in checking in 3h ahead, since he was flying on an international leg from JFK onwards.

A week on, the boy found himself stuck in Philly airport with a six hour delay, with the rain pounding down. He thanked his stars for booking the domestic leg of the flight one day before the international leg. As usual, the US Airways folks were as knowledgeable about the flight status as their passengers. It was not the first, and most definitely not the last time the US Airways folks would goof-up travel plans!

The boy kept himself amused the next day, while the girl was away at work. Bags packed, ready to go, and before you knew it, they were at the airport. Waiting to check-in for a flight headed to India is an experience in itself; each passenger unique in his/her own way. The harried mother of two, trying to control one kid, while holding the other on her shoulder. The couple heading back home after grandparent duty. Gawky teenagers on their way to Madras to spend a few weeks of their summer vacations with thaatha and paatti. The businessman, suave and all, but still wanting to cut the queue at every possible opportunity.

At the gate, you see the AI flight to Bombay (777-300, in all it's glory) just pulling out, making it's way slowly across the tarmac, and you wonder how this beast makes it to 500 mph! This one's rather unimaginatively named "Jharkand" - a disappointment compared to the grander names AI aircrafts had in the past, like Samudragupta and other royal folks. The place slowly begins filling up.

There's not much to really do, so the boy and girl go check out the duty free section, looking immaculate with all the alcohol and perfumes neatly stacked up in there. It's a different story, that there's little place to move around in there - there are other bored people too! The boy eyes a Carolina Herrera 212, which he's had his eyes on for about 3-4 months, but as always the prices are forbidding in duty-free! He'll have to do with a splash to re-test its smell - which lasts all the way till he gets home, and turns out to be clincher and the first purchase once he's back in the US!

Still no sign of the aircraft at the gate - you can see it rest a short distance away from the gate with a couple of other big aircrafts. People are restless, and even though the airline ground staff still haven't manned the counter, they seem to be all set to take the door down and "take a walk on the wild side" off the aerobridge!

Once they get there, the airline staff do a phenomenal job of getting everyone on board, without making it look like people jumping into an unreserved coach of the Coromandel Express at Madras Central station! The guy doing to announcements seems a tad deaf/dim, as he doesn't realize whatever he's saying is audible on to himself! The best part is, everything seems placid. No babies crying, no kids running in the aisles, and we're all set for a smooth flight across the Atlantic.

It's 6:25pm, and on the dot, the aircraft starts pulling back from the gate. In the distance, you can see the Manhattan skyline, resplendent in its evening glory. As the aircraft waits for its turn to take-off, you get a close-up view of some real behemoths taking off on their way across the continent or ocean(s). At 6:45pm, the wheels lift-off terra firma, and the journey's begun!

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