Flying high on nostalgia

Flying high on nostalgia

I think it was in the year 1957 when I was studying in a school in Delhi, that five students, including me, were selected by Indian Airlines to enjoy a free joy-ride in Delhi in a Dakota aircraft! To be able to fly was certainly an exclusive opportunity then.

In March 1964, I had been to Guwahati where my father was posted, when I received a telegram calling me for my admission interview to IIM-C, the very next day at 9.30 am in Delhi. There was no choice but to fly, late evening, from Guwahati to Calcutta to Delhi, of course by Indian Airlines. When the flight landed in Calcutta, I was made to run across the tarmac to a waiting Viscount aircraft, with its door still open but engines running. This aircraft was really and truly waiting for me!

In January 1973, I took a flight to Bangalore from Madras Airport. After the plane landed, I realised I had left my blazer behind at Madras Airport. Thankfully, Indian Airlines Traffic Officer Chandrashekar assured me on the phone that my blazer would arrive in the next flight!

In June 1975, I was visiting Hyderabad when I got a call to attend an important meeting in Bombay the next morning at 10.30 am. The Hyderabad—Bombay flight was on an Avro Aircraft, a 30 seater, and getting a seat on this early morning flight at short notice was near impossible. My veteran Hyderabadi business associate said, “Don’t you worry.” I was in Hyderabad Airport at 5.00 am for the 6.30 am flight. I was on the waiting list with seven others ahead of me. As time ticked away, I got more anxious. The waitlist came down to six with all the waitlisted passengers present there. And then the worst happened — the check-in counter closed signifying that the flight was about to leave.

My friend however, asked me to wait. Soon, the other five waitlisted people gave up and left, and suddenly, I was asked to run to the aircraft. I clambered on board for the one seat kept for me. The knight in shining armour, the Indian Airlines Traffic Officer, had worked quietly, for a friend of a friend and I was in Bombay, on time.

While I was posted in Madras, I would fly to Bangalore often, when it was truly a garden city. Cheap beer and fresh vegetables were available at Russell Market. On my way to the airport, I would pick-up a 12-bottle crate of beer or a pack of assorted vegetables. And as I boarded the Avro, I would request the air hostess for a corner space near the door to keep the stuff and she would oblige. Just pick it up on your way out and that would be it.

I could go on showering praises on Indian Airlines. Those were the days when you met the same people at all airports, when cattle-class was the only class but more pedigreed, and, when a flight got delayed, we could pick up free snacks — sometimes even lunch and dinner — at the airport restaurant!.