There was a time when the Man from Madras Musings flew hither and thither as did so many others. Now he looks back in wonder at those memories. Here is one, about a small airport in deep down Tamil Nadu
The late Chief rarely liked The Man from Madras Musings to continue on the same theme for an entire column but he did allow it on occasion. And so, MMM continues with his airborne experiences. Only here he would like to dwell on the mofussil airports – not that the one in Chennai is exactly an urban equivalent. But it is nevertheless large and does cater to more flights than the ones in the hinterland. MMM has of late been to locations in our State where just one flight arrives and takes off each day. If you miss that you have no option but to stay on for another day, unless you take to the road.
It was at one such town that MMM, always somewhat of a nervous traveller, found himself having to catch the only flight early in the morning. He hardly slept the previous night and so made it bright and early to the airport, which as he had noticed even while flying in, was constructed more on the lines of a bungalow than a terminal building. Driving up MMM found there was hardly a soul in sight, which to his panic-stricken mind indicated only one of two possibilities – his flight had either been cancelled or had left already. The security guard was however all assuring – nothing of that sort had happened he said and if MMM would just go ahead with his check in formalities and wait, he would soon find other passengers joining in.
MMM went in accordingly. There was no other passenger but the process went on like a well-oiled machine. MMM was checked in, his bags taken and then asked to proceed for security check. There were still no other passengers. Having been frisked, checked and scrutinised MMM took his seat in the empty waiting area. There was a prolonged wait. He was informed that the incoming flight was delayed which he was not so concerned about as much as he was about the continuing absence of other passengers. Was he, MMM, the only person to fly that morning, MMM wondered. He debated on the possibility of the airline cancelling the flight owing to there being no other passengers. He wondered as to how the airline could be viable if it flew just one person. And finally he pondered over a Tamil film he had seen recently which was on the travails of a common man wanting to start a people’s airline. In that fairly enjoyable movie the hero famously declared that he would operate his flight even if there was only one passenger, namely his wife. It appeared to MMM that he was soon to witness something on those lines.
Suddenly there was a flurry of excitement. The incoming flight had been sighted. It came roaring in, touched down, taxied and finally came to a halt, disgorging passengers. Here was hope, reflected MMM. But what delighted him was the sudden arrival of outbound passengers – in fact the terminal filled up in no time with the happy chatter of people and it appeared that contrary to MMM’s gloomy predictions there would be a full outbound flight.
MMM asked one of the security men about the sudden arrival of people. He was informed that this was a regular feature. Apparently the only airline that operated jets to and from the town was not very true to its name for it cancelled flights often. So, people watched from the terraces of their homes for the incoming flight and only on sighting it did they leave for the airport! Of course, the traffic being light, they made it well on time. There is much that we city people have to learn from our pastoral counterparts.