Those early birds

They fly at night when all birds leave their terrain free to sleep in their nests.

During the seventies, when airports were aerodromes and Indian skies did not boast screaming jets, four noisy Dakotas used to take off from Madras, Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta around ten in the night and converge to Nagpur landing at midnight almost like large birds into an aviation sanctuary.

It was called Night Airmail Service (NAMS)
Those aircrafts carried men and mail bags. Flying at low altitude, those machines made loud whirring noises and provided the drone that lulled many to sleep. In those days one had to be past middle age with covenanted positions to qualify for flying at company’s expense.

Present day jetset yuppie software professionals toting laptops were yet to arrive on the scene. At Nagpur, after transshipment of the mail bags and passengers, the four aircrafts returned to the port from which they took off. In those days, Nagpur aerodrome consisting of big sheds had no gun-toting security guards or ferocious dogs. One could walk into and away from an aircraft as if from the Grand Trunk Express at the Railway terminus.

The passengers sleep-walked into the terminal that had no frills unlike the gleaming monstrous airports of today. Once in, they nestled into the canvass easy chairs or sofas and picked up their aborted sleep.  As they tried to catch forty winks, airline men shifted mail bags into the aircrafts that would fly back to the ports of origin.

When all the cargo had been transferred and the flying machines had guzzled aviation fuel to slake their thirst, the aircraft would be ready to commence their return flights. In addition to the announcements through PA like, ‘Delhi flight is ready for departure,’ conscientious traffic assistants would go round the hall shouting ‘Delhi, Delhi, Delhi’ like ticket agents would beckon passengers at inter-state bus terminals.

Passengers not bound for Delhi would open one eye, scorch the shouting assistant with a smouldering look for interfering with their sleep. Little would they realise, if they slept through even after such noisy wake up calls, they would be perhaps stranded at that
deserted airport. Such night flights were economical as the fare was only half the day fare.

Besides, one could save the entire day for work waisting no time, because of overnight to and fro journey. “Besides,” pointed out a silver-haired gentleman travelling with me in NAMS, “these nightly aviation contraptions are avian friendly.
They fly in the night when all birds leave their terrain free to sleep in their nests. Which means we would avoid dreadful bird hits dangerous to both birds and the flying machines.”

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