Our hired Tata Sumo rolled into the Kolkata airport at 5:00 am of the 13th of August. It was dark and raining. My cousin sister-in-law and her two kids arrived with their luggage in another car. They stay in the US. I was to travel with them. My parents', particularly my mother's hopes of seeing me board the plane were shattered when we learnt that the entry of visitors had been stopped due to stepped up security for the Independence Day. So the four of us rolled our two trolleys into the airport and waved goodbye to our families.
The British Airways flight to Heathrow left timely. I had never been inside such a large plane before. I had also never faced such turbulence before. We had just finished our breakfast and the airhostess had filled my cup with coffee when the plane hit an air pocket and a taxi ride on a Kolkata road seemed smooth. The whole coffee simply jumped out of the cup and flooded the breakfast tray. The airhostess completed the disaster by spilling it on me and my fellow passenger while collecting the tray. I think my jeans will eternally bear that souvenir stain from my first trip abroad. That shook me up so much that I didn't drink tea or coffee again in my entire trip. The second time turbulence hit was when I was standing in front of the restroom waiting for it to open. The same air hostess told me to go back to my seat and wear the seat belt. How would she know that I was accustomed to travelling standing in Kolkata's buses and trains? Besides, I didn't want to trouble my two fellow passengers by pushing past them to my much coveted window seat then only to come out a little later. So I stood my ground firmly hanging onto the wall. This time it wasn't so bad though.
The behaviour of the airhostesses, particularly the Bangladeshi one, left a lot to be desired. She's the one who had spilt coffee on me and nobody saw her smile at any time. One thing that I liked was that the airhostesses looked natural; in the domestic carriers like Jet and Kingfisher they put so much make up on their faces that they look like clowns. I had been spoilt by the trips aboard the domestic airliners in India; I was expecting refreshing wet towels and toffees on boarding. Nothing of the sort came. However, the food was good and blankets and hard drinks (which I didn't drink) were provided. I tried watching The Chronicles of Narnia II: Prince Caspian (as I was passing over the Caspian Sea, incidentally). It wasn't understandable with the pathetic headphones and the tiny display. I must mention here that these headphones with auto-rickshaw standard audio quality were collected by the air hostesses before the flight landed. Then I settled for an abominable Hindi movie called One Two Three. When it became unbearable I simply switched to the Moving Map. Homesickness set in as I realised once more how far I was going from my home and for how long. I tried to fight it away. I tried to sleep... but couldn't. I took a few photos through the window whenever I saw something interesting. I saw the Caspian Sea and Kiev and Berlin and the North Sea and also some mountains in Afghanistan. I photographed farmlands in Russia and Germany. As we approached London it was announced that it was raining there (so, what's new?) and we entered a mass of clouds.
As the plane burst out through the clouds over London, the first thing that I recognised was the Millenium Dome. The other familiar things must have been nearby, but before I could locate them, clouds swallowed us again. Another time, I got a glimpse of the London Eye, the giant ferris wheel. I recorded a video of the whole landing view but couldn't spot anything familiar other than a Concord that was parked outside the airport. It was a bumpy landing and the child behind me (also called Joy by the way) threw up, but we were finally on solid ground again.
My next post (which I'll put up tomorrow) will be on my experience at The Heathrow. I think a bit of British bashing is in order on Independence Day! It's 11:50 pm of the 14th here now, and I must try and get some sleep although feel fresh and energetic as if it were nine in the morning.