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   Not being a jet-set traveller, I continue to marvel... (November 11, 1986)

Not being a jet-set traveller, I continue to marvel and be amazed at the speed of travel the few times that I experience it.

For instance, this very morning I woke up to the announcement of the telephone operator at the Blue Diamond in Pune that it was 6 a.m. bathed and shaved and read The Poona Herald (there is little difference between reading The Poona Herald and The Times of India in the mornings, the news is exactly the same, though the pages are a few more or less) and came out into the misty dawn and natural air-conditioning of Koregaon Park.

As we drove to the airport, the trees were still wet with the overnight dew and underneath them the Pune cyclists were trundlling to work.

We didn’t travel by the Avro (which Mr. Gandhi used to fly, though judging by the way people are talking of his flying days one would think he was flying 747s), but a plane seven times smaller than that. My hosts had chartered a Vayudoot Dornier, which accommodates about 12 and three-quarter passengers, plus an air-hostess, who has to bend double and walk sideways every time she moves through the gangway.

The Dornier drove up the tarmac like an old motorcar and parked right next to the terminal building. The airport security waived us through, without checking the baggage or stamping the boarding cards, evidently under the belief that who would hijack such a tiny plane and where would they fly it with such a limited flying range.

The luggage was put in the bonnet of the plane, we sat in two rows of single seats with the gangway in the middle, legroom only slightly more than in a Maruti.

But it was an interesting ride. Quite close to the land, so that we could see the topography of the industrial outskirts of Pune, the Deccan Plateau, dry and caked and heart less, then over the ghats, the clouds packed in the valleys below, like cottonwood packing in crystal jars, then the approach to Bombay, the Pune-Bombay highway cutting a straight line through the land.

Inside, the air-hostess manoeuvered her way around serving a packed breakfast of one vegetable cutlet and two chicken sandwiches. I ate by spreading the morning’s Indian Express on my lap and placing the breakfast on it. there was no question of opening the messy tomato ketchup. The passengers passed, hand to hand, the half filled paper cups of Thums Up.

New Bombay was below, the creek, the bridge spanning it, then old Bombay, looking amazingly presentable and orderly from the air.

It took just half an hour to do the trip, an hour from Blue Diamond in Pune to the office in Bombay. And, as I said, I am amazed at the speed of modern travel. And the point is that this wasn’t even a modern aircraft, it was as old as the first plane, when man was just learning to fly.

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