World biz and more as seen from India

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Up, Up and Away!!!

I know how it feels to have a cup of steaming java at 31,000 feet above the sea level in a compressed atmosphere at 880 miles per hour. It has taken me 22 years and a Godrej to scale this high.

It takes roughly one and a half hour to traverse a distance of 1200 Km. from Pune to the capital of India. I’d been to Delhi a month and a half back. While chugging along at 70 miles/hour in an unreserved compartment of Indian Railways, staring at millions of cubic meters of barren land interspersed with grass and watching the sun retire for the day, does hold some rustic charm, racing at 330 miles/hour is an experience that is hard to put down on paper.

Your nervous system goes for a toss/is in jeopardy and you seem to love every bit of it. This is no Disney Ride. This is for real and the massive piece of equipment that is carrying you doesn’t let you down (no pun intended). It helps if the captain has a sense of humor and doesn’t take his job too seriously. He may double up as a tourist guide of the skies. “To your right is the Arabian Sea;” and the 100000 pound liner obeys the pilot and swerves to the left at an angle of 45 degrees as gracefully as an eagle swooping down on its prey. But, for this debutant traveler the heart beats faster that it has ever known. The veins pulsate with the burden of that additional litre of blood and the stomach is home to a million butterflies.

A plane has to cover some ground before it positions itself for takeoff. Then, those peanut sized tires help turn the gentle giant a complete 180 Degrees. She “parks” herself on the designated runway. That’s her arena. She owns the road which will shortly take the beating of her weight. She is silent. Gradually, the engine gets worked up. She is panting. Like a raging bull, she awaits for the final ‘go’ from the control room. I anticipate the obvious. Suddenly, without warning, the engine gives out a roar which would humble a 1000 lions from the animal kingdom. Sitting at the ‘window seat’, I stare at the fins on the wings which close in giving her the perfect figure; the aerodynamics works at its best. A thousand and who knows, may be millions of cogs put together by a trillion gray cells work to get the airliner fulfill its purpose.

She races at 0 to 100 mph in less than 3 seconds. And in less than 30 seconds, the tires give away and we are suspended in thin air gaining speed to rule gravity. In a matter of a few more seconds, the clouds kiss the windows and the sun plays host, inviting you to roam about his territory.

Although the scene outside the window is breathtaking, if is quite difficult to stare away from the beatific airhostesses (Indian Airlines is an exception which believes that airhostesses are like wine.) when they come over to you fulfilling every petty demand of yours with a practiced smile that enamors you because no other beautiful stranger has greeted you with such put on sincerity for years together while on earth.

Once you get used to the skies, the exciting part of the journey ends. The plane is no more than a ‘flying Volvo’ taking you from Mumbai to Pune. Two hours later, you start descending. A concrete jungle captivates you and the buildings look like prototypes created by civil engineers waiting for your approval. Suddenly, within no time, they start getting bigger and my sense of not being a part of these mini massive structures gives away.

You are on land again. This is the true test of a pilot. All bike riders would agree with me that a good biker is judged by how well he uses his clutch in conjunction with the throttle which allows him to change gears without the pillion feeling the change. A pilot has a similar task on hand, the only difference being that a hundred pillions anticipate a safe landing and that the speed is only 300 times more than that of a bike on full speed on a freeway.

A perfect 10. Beautiful landing!