Hawa mein bath: Stories from the Indian airspace


The woman sitting next to me was travelling on air for the first time. She grew up in a small town and there was not much discussion about air travel among her friends. I did my share to make her feel comfortable. We did a round on how to buckle the seat belt, how to turn on the light, how to turn off the air vents and whether she should hold her three month old tight through the flight. After we reached the altitude she asked, “Chal rahi hai kya” (is it going?). I heard it as “Jal rahi hai kya?” (is it burning?). I had never imagined that someone will discuss a plane burning with such a bright smile.

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We flew over a beautiful winding river that branched off every now and then to reunite again. It was a mighty river, and it had so much water that it must be rough and rapid. From my vantage, the river was one gracious picture, winding in beautiful curves, creating little river islands along the way. At times, long curvy branches led to little curvy branches of water, making it look like the river was stretching out its hand. All around it were little rectangles in varying shades of green. I have read about land fragmentation in India, but the sight of it from thousands of feet above was stunning. I guess I would not have made much sense of it had I not seen those large blobs in varying shades of green in the USA. But then, is it a story of fragmentation or concentration?

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Landing in Los Angeles at night is an incredible sight. It is a sea of lights stretching for miles and miles, disrupted only by brief patches of darkness in the woody hills of LA. I landed in Ranchi today after the sun had set, and the lights began with barely a minute to land. Between thin streams of light were vast stretches of shadow. It was an eloquent political commentary.
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The lounge was made lively by a crew of young women. Their smartly tailored uniforms highlighted many an attractive feature and the skirts that went just above the knees revealed beautiful legs. The smiles were effective and economic as they went about their routine. They were invariably young and pretty, and I believe that it is not an accident. “…I am the commander of your flight” said a voice amidst my distractions and went on to introduce the male head of the hosts. I liked the sweet feminine voice of the commander.


About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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