A rollercoaster flight to Dooars : The Tribune India

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A rollercoaster flight to Dooars

A rollercoaster flight to Dooars

Photo for representation. Thinkstock file photo

Gouri Sen

IT was not my maiden flight, but the first with my husband. We had been married for less than a year; he was posted in one of the remotest districts of Odisha. Our idyllic stay in the cradle of nature was rudely disturbed when summer set in. The place literally started burning up — rivers and ponds dried up; the hitherto green trees wore a bare look. Never before had we experienced such an excruciatingly hot summer. To add to our misery, the fridge went kaput due to frequent power fluctuations.

When our ordeal had reached the limit, my husband suggested in a moment of rare chivalry: ‘Why don’t we beat the heat and fly to the Dooars region (where my brother-in-law was the manager of a tea garden) en route to Darjeeling?’

I readily agreed. Next week, we found ourselves in Kolkata. Those days, the only means of transport to the tea gardens was provided by the now-defunct Jamair Air Services. The planes mainly carried cargo and tea chests as well as daily necessities ordered by the tea garden managers (mostly Englishmen), but would make room to squeeze in a few occasional passengers, who were willing to brave the discomfort of those unpressurised Dakotas taking off at an unearthly hour. The presence of stewards and beautiful hostesses was out of the question. Only a lone pilot and a radio officer comprised the crew. Even so, we decided to take the plunge.

Two days later, we were airborne. The wooden, uncushioned chairs did hurt; the cold night air pierced our marrows. The noise from the cockpit was ear-splitting. So, when the pilot announced that within half an hour, he would make an unscheduled stop for 10 minutes at a nearby airfield, we heaved a sigh of relief. The moment the plane landed, we rushed out to inhale fresh air. A tiny building, situated at a distance, caught my attention. I strolled towards it to freshen myself up.

I was powdering my nose when l heard the roar of propellers. I dashed out of the building. The plane’s staircase had been removed. The groundsman was waving his hands to give the takeoff signal. I made a frantic bid to reach the aircraft.

Missing me, my husband must have raised a hue and cry; soon, the door of the plane was opened and l gazed at the incredulous face of the bewildered pilot. Next to him stood my stupefied spouse with the usual sheepish grin of a man whose wife had made a faux pas.

The rest of the flight passed in total silence. Oblivious to my husband’s entreaties and explanation that he thought I had emplaned before him, l maintained stoic indifference. Never again, l vowed, would I travel with such a callous partner.

I must confess that I could not stick to my solemn promise, but I certainly make sure that every time we travel together, by plane or by train, I am the one who gets in first.

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