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   I was 42 when I first travelled by air: Bombay to Banglore... (August 2, 1980)

I was 42 when I first travelled by air: Bombay to Banglore by Indian Airlines early in the morning, the plane leving on time. Patanjali Sethi was siting next to me, he showed me how to fastern the seat-belt, and, more important, how to unfastern it.

The second time I flew was two days later, returning from Bangalore. By that time I had become an expert.

Flying, I realsed, was like everything else in life. If you don’t do it, you almost never do it, but once you do it, you do it all the time. Because, since then, I have been travelling by air all the time.

I have done Bombay-Delhi scores of times, Bombay-Banglore and Bombay-Madras several times, Bombay-Calcutta twice. I have flown out early into the dawn, observing the think smog of smoke hanging over the hutment colonies of Bombay. I have flown back by the last flight in the night, often sharing a quart of whisky with a stranger sitting next to me.

I once flew Bombay-Aurangabad-Udaipur-Jaipur-Delhi, getting down from the plane at the intervening airports and stretching my legs on the tarmac, as at railway platforms during a long train journey. And once I flew across the ghats from Bombay to Pune by the tiniest of planes, feeling like a kite attached to a long, frail string. It was such a tiny plane that somebody had to swing the properllers by hand to start the motor.

The first time I flew abroad was to Singapore by Singapore Airlines. I was a guest of Singapore Airlines, economy class. Before the plane took off, a stewardess approaches me, tooking very apologetic, and requested: “it, through some oversight we find ourselves overbooked. Would you mind very much shifting to the first class?”

I have flown Iraq Airliness to Baghdad (bad), PIA to London (good), Pan-Am to New York (un-hunh), Cathay to Hong Kong (very good), Lufthansa to Frankfurt (super-efficient). And I have flown within the US by all sorts of competitive airlines. They are the best: easy, informal, likeable, as the Americans themselves.

I have never flow Air India. But I can wait. If I waited 42 years to fly, I can wait another 42 to fly Air India. By that time it would have improved also.

 
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