Fast forward sixteen years and you have a different me. One who steps out of the plane and looks upward in silent prayer that she's landed on solid ground. Whose knees are actually shaking (not because the pilot is cute) but because she is finally out of the big bird of the skies. I have 3 weeks of fun and sun to look forward to, but at some teeny tiny corner in my brain, I'm dreading the flight back! What makes me think like that, you ask? Here begins my 'adventure in air' (like those Famous Five books...except mine was not all that adventurous, but for my decidedly boring life, I'd like to call it that, thanks very much.)
1) I enter the airport two hours early, misjudging the distance between the airport and my college (which is only 10 minutes, but I conclude that it is halfway across the universe.) I check in, complete security check and rush towards the McDonalds counter gleefully to grab myself a humongous glass of Iced Tea to last me the wait.
2) I meet a kindred spirit who is also going home and we indulge in a lengthy conversation about everything and beyond. (I asked her name about an hour after we chat!) My flight is now boarding and I step into the plane.
3) It's a new airplane and there are screens in every seat. My antiseptic alter-ego makes me use my iPod headphones instead of the ones they provide. So ear infection has successfully been prevented. The flight takes off and I settle down to watch some weird movie involving a camera that sees the future. (It was called Aa Dekhen Zara, something I figured out when the credits were rolling and the title track came on at the end!)
4) The food is served, I devour the chocolate brownie, spinach quiche and indistinguishable paneer and check the time- around two hours to go, I realise, and look out - the fright begins then.
5) It is considerably dark outside, and the sun is melting slowly into the sea of sky. The aircraft wing lights are blinking in rhythm and the flight cruises on the blanket of clouds.
6) Suddenly, I feel the bumps. What begins as a harmless thud escalates into positive bumping, like the plane is riding on the Gurgaon road filled with potholes. The pilot switches on the seatbelt sign and the stewardess screams in the PA about not getting up from the seats. At one point, she actually screams 'Get back to your seat MAAM and don't get out until I SAY SO!' (she sounds exactly like a hijacker and I begin to wonder if they learn these dialogues from them.)
7)I distract myself and look outside the window. Big Mistake. I can see the sky lighting up every couple of seconds. Lightning, it suddenly strikes me! (Not the actual lightning, but the thought.) I see it stab the clouds viciously every few seconds, inching closer and closer to the aircraft. I look around frantically if anyone has noticed it - everyone is so engrossed seeing Bipasha Basu gyrating in a sleazy Thai pub, that they apparently don't deem it necessary to write out their last wishes (which might never be found anyway, so they have a point.)
8) As the flight trembles more violently, I wonder if it's a good time to listen to that devotional channel in the aircraft audio and bribe god to make us land carefully. I look out again, the lightning becomes brighter and closer. I wonder if I should try and salvage my original certificates and passport from that overhead cabin while jumping out of the plane. I wonder when the stewardess will instruct the emergency exit passengers to 'co-operate' and open the doors in mid-air.
9) The flight stops trembling and swoops down, as if to attack it's prey. I cautiously look out again, and this time I see an iridescent city glowing below me. The lighting has passed, so have the clouds, and all that remains is the city below the aircraft. I wonder if he's making an emergency landing in some other city.
10) It turns out that we've finally reached our destination, and as the flight touches the runway, the breaks come on at full speed but the flight just goes on and on....the airport passes us (or we pass it) and the flight still refuses to stop. (The aeromaniac in me tells me that we might have skid on the wet runway and will end up overshooting it). It finally stops thunderously close to the boundary wall and I hear a collective sigh of relief. It turns out everyone on the flight has been just as paranoid.
I've flown a dozen times this year alone, and this has GOT the be the worst flight ever. Blame it on the weather, or the grudging pilots (incidentally, the airline I flew is on an indefinite strike since yesterday!) or my aeromania, but in three weeks I'll have to fly again. Sigh.