To the moon and back (almost)

It was the first ever time I entered an airplane. I was 24 years, 12 days old when I did that. The evening was on the 22nd of November, 2004. An interview for an Italian visa awaited me in Mumbai the next day. I was flying from Bangalore, with a colleague. I didn't know how the whole thing would turn out, but I had heard enough stories of people scared to fly. I was prepared for the worst. Our hostesses were always smiling and each one of them made it a point to wish every passenger. Must be such a taxing job to keep that smile on.

At 08:45 in the night, the plane began to taxi down to the runaway. I was at the window and a little behind the wing. It was an awesome sight to see such a huge contraption moving. The plane aligned to the runway and then the engines began to cycle up. Suddenly the plane was hurtling down the runway, the marker lights flashing by. In a few seconds, the plane lifted up gently and the land was falling away. Very soon, all I could see where groups of lights, creating a humungous geometrical pattern. If only photography had been allowed. It is such a shame to not let people capture such a glorious view.

Finally the plane levelled out. By then, the land beneath looked a glittering jewel with narrow designs cut into it. The navigator anounced that we were 36000 feet(I think) above sea level. Wow! Sadly, the cabin lights were switched on and I had to cup my hands over the window to see the sight below. Around 10:15, we were nearing Mumbai. The plane made a wide arc to prepare for landing. It was such a graceful move. The wing gradually lifts up and then the plane turns away. To imagine such a mammoth doing this would have been incredible, to see it being so delicate like a ballerina, was unimaginable.

Mumbai was an astonishing sight from the plane. I cannot find the words to describe what I saw. Shimmering lights arranged in some unnaturally beautiful pattern. The water bodies creating lovely patterns among the lights. Gosh, it was out of the world. Again, i cursed the government for not allowing photography. And then we were rushing down towards the earth. The buildings became distinctly visible and highlighting the speed we were travelling at. Landing was not as discreet as the take-off. I could feel the tires banging down on the ground beneath. So that was my first plane ride and I felt wonderful.

I thought,then,that a day flight would not be as interesting as a night one. But the next day, I was proved wrong. When we left Mumbai, the next afternoon at 4:00 PM, I could see a translucent, dark layer covering the whole city as if to hide the hidden treasures beneath us. We were up and flying away from the ground. I saw a gorgeous plateau (the deccan plateau, I guess) stretched out below. I had seen such photographs on National Geographic. To see them live was too good to be true. I never thought India had so much of uninhabited (well almost) terrain.

Looking down it appeared as if the plane weren't moving at all, inspite of the ground speed of 830-odd kmph (800 kmph, can you believe that) the pilot announced. I felt like we were hanging there mid-air tied to some supernatural rope. And the sky looked so pretty. Yes, pretty is the best word I can find to describe it. Directly below, there was a layer of glass-like cover with fluffy clouds floating around like icecream on a transparent plate. This layer met the sky at a point that was blindingly bright white. And from there the sky's colour was a gradient. First, the lightest green-blue I have ever seen. Next, true sky blue and later a deep bright blue. Like a fading bindi on a woman's foreahead, a half moon hung a little way up in the sky. Pretty. The clouds below us then were the fluffiest you could ever imagine. From up there, they looked like snow capped mountains. We were near Bangalore and the plane gradually started to lower. We cut through the clouds slowly, very slowly. I kept thinking that we were going to slice the cloud mountains into a million pieces. For a few moments we were completely wrapped by the clouds. I could see nothing out the window, and wondered how the pilot knew where he was going. And then I was back on earth.

Only one thought lingered. If a mere plane ride were so very beautiful, how would it feel to be out there in outer space peeping out of a port-hole at the blue earth suspended to nothing?

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