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`Chhattisgarh' & 36, Chappan-bhog & 56:Mumbai,Jan'13

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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
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Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Sat Aug 17, 2013 12:36 pm    Post subject: `Chhattisgarh' & 36, Chappan-bhog & 56:Mumbai,Jan'13 Reply with quote

`Chhattisgarh' & 36, Chappan-bhog & 56: Mumbai, Jan'13

51.1 Introduction

Looking at the titles of my trip reports, the reader cannot be
blamed for thinking about the sanity of the person keying in
these lines.
I do not blame the reader, at all.
First, I give a strange title, to attract the reader's attention,
in a desperate attempt to solicit his/her attention.
Of course, I spend the next few paragraphs in an even more
desperate attempt, to somehow justify the choice of words.
By the time the trip-related details come up, the reader may be
in two moods, on whether to continue, or not.
By the time the food description starts, so does the reader's
desperation to let go. Does this sound familiar?

This would be a very quick official trip to Mumbai.
As is my wont, if offered choices, I usually discuss them with a
prominent Delhi plane spotter, whom the reader is already
familiar with. Yes, it is the same person whom I refer to as Mr.
All-Stare MacLean, the lean and thin spotter. No interesting
flight, or plane can escape from his hawk-like gaze. He knows
everything about almost every movement. It was the end of
December when I had to plan for this trip. The Delhi fog had set
in quite early this season, around mid-December 2012. I was a bit
worried. This was an important meeting I did not want to miss. I
discussed my options with Mr. MacLean, and suggested AI 101 for
the onward leg, and AI 888 for the return. Why would that be so?
The meeting was scheduled for 14 January 2013, a day which is
usually celebrated as `Makar sankrAnti', or `Pongal' in many
parts of India. I had to return to base after the meeting, that
night. For that, I had to set out on the day before, 13 January,
2013. This is another festival day, Lohri. This is a winter
festival, which celebrates the lengthening of the days as the
winter does out, and spring sets in. Lohri is a common festival
in North India, and is usually associated with a bonfire at
night, with people singing songs, and partaking of sesame
seed-based sweets, and groundnuts/peanuts.
Two festivals.
I had chosen those very days to be away from home.

Apart from the usual backlash from The Wife, I had to content
with planning the trip well, so that I avoided the fog.

AI 102 on 13 Jan was possibly a good choice. This was Air India's
flagship flight, JFK-DEL, which continued on-wards to BOM.
Unless New York gets completely snowed in, this flight is rarely
late. Additionally, this would give me my first domestic segment
on an international flight, from IGIA T3. True, I had done DEL-JFK
on AI 101 in December 2008, and JFK-DEL on AI 102 the same month,
and the BOM-DEL segment of AI 101 in December 2012 with The Wife
and Junior, too - to see the CSIA International terminal (at the
time of writing, Jan 2013) T2, and to give TW and Jr, an
experience on an Air India B777. It would be an Air India
B777-300ER (`77W') again, and it would be my first time in the
international section of New Delhi's IGIA T3 in the daytime. All
my foreign trips had originated at night from IGIA T3, and I
looked forward to seeing what the beautiful terminal looked like,
in natural light. I was to return the next day, and AI 888 was
the first flight back, which had dinner. It was the 7pm flight
from Mumbai, and was timed just right to mitigate any fog delay,
at both ends of the day: a morning fog, and an evening fog
setting in, at Delhi. Mr. MacLean agreed with my analysis, and I
happily booked both tickets.

Mr. MacLean gives me regular SMS updates on the Air India B787
operations, and some interesting B777 ones. Given my penchant for
getting a particular Air India B777-200LR (`77L') `Assam'
(VT-ALC), he also told me that sometimes the DEL-BOM segment of
this flight was operated by a B77L going back to Air India's heavy
engineering base, Mumbai. On 12 January, he told me that the
aircraft for my trip would be `Chhattisgarh'.
While there is some etymological confusion regarding the latter
part of the name of the Indian state after which the Air India
B77W is named, there is none about the first part.
`Chhattis' indicated the number `36'.

`36' is also a term used to indicate a (bad) relation between two
people in North India
, since the Devanagari numerals for `3' and
`6' are near-mirror images of each other. Two people being at
loggerheads is what in the chaste vernacular, is referred to by
the relation between them being a `36'.
I had had some experiences with flight AI 888.
No, not too bad, but somehow, I have experienced delays almost
every time I have taken this flight, AI 888, or its earlier
avatar, IC 888. Was I at `36' with this flight?

A day before my journey (12 January, 2013), I got an email from
Air India, informing me that my 14 Jan flight would now be
AI 605, the 09:45 pm A321 flight from Mumbai to Delhi, in place
of AI 888, the 7pm flight. What?
I had to make two checks.
First, I went to Air India's website to check the schedule.
Indeed, there was no Delhi flight from Mumbai's domestic
terminal (1A) after the 6pm flight, till this 09:45 pm one,
on that day. There were two flights in between, but these were
from the International terminal. AI 310 was the 8pm Hong Kong
flight, with the BOM-DEL leg being operated by an A321. The
second was the New York flagship flight, AI 101, with the B77W.
The block time for this flight was 09:30 pm - 11:45 pm, so my
re-assigned flight and this one, would nearly operate in
parallel, between the two cities.
Would it make sense to try to change my booking?
That was my second check.
I logged in to my account, and found that I could not cancel or
modify my re-assigned booking, on-line.
Should I go to the Air India office at Delhi's Safdarjung
airport, wait in line, and try to have my flight time advanced,
by changing my booking to AI 310, say?
I had some work in the morning which I had to complete.
I decided against it, though I had some work at the Air India
office too, which could wait.

51.2 Memories of `Chhattisgarh'

I had had my first Air India 77W flight on this very aircraft.
This was way back on 2009. My itinerary for that flight was:

Set out 25 Oct (Sun) for London from New Delhi
New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 2 -
Heathrow London, Terminal 3
AI 187: Air India (B777W) [PNR: HB0RE, Seat 42A, Class V]
New Delhi (DEL) - London Heathrow (LHR)
[09:10 am - 01:15 pm] 09:35 hours

I had my favourite AI B77W seat, 42A. Row 42 is by far one of the
best seats in an AI B77W, since the view out of the window seats
42A and 42K, is not obstructed by the B77W's huge wing.
The two side rows have two seats each, in place of the ordinary
3. The proximity to the galley (nice smells!), and the lavatories
(comments reserved), is an added bonus. The seats have
power-ports, and a non-folding IFE panel on the seat in front.
Row 42 does not have the incredible leg space of the emergency
exit row 41, but offers stowage space at the side, for me to keep
my laptop, the laptop cooling pad, my analog SLR, and reading
material, all of which would not fit into the back-seat pocket in
front of me.

However, it had been a slight `36' experience.
The flight had got delayed in Delhi.
On boarding, I overheard a senior member of the cabin crew
talking to her colleagues, ``Oh no. I wonder why AI Engineering
has given us this plane again.'' We had read about some niggles
on two Air India B777s `Bihar' and `Chhattisgarh', in 2009.
The IFE failed as soon as we reached cruising altitude.
Numerous attempts at re-starting it, did not meet with success.
The mood lighting failed soon after.
The in-seat power followed suit soon, and my old laptop battery
would run out in course of this long flight.
The breakfast turned out to be a complete farce, both in terms of
quality, as well as quantity. An obnoxious `Aunty' had an
unnecessary (in my opinion, at least) altercation with a
passenger in the section just before ours.
While the lunch was excellent, the starting delay, and numerous
circles over London meant that we landed late, got into one of
the longest immigration lines I have ever stood in, and missed our
Bristol bus connection.

51.3 Back to the Jan'13 Trip Planning!

Let us fast forward to the present, once again.
I had tried pre-booking a seat on this flight, but the system
would not allow me to do so, perhaps for obvious reasons. I was
to be on the last leg of the flight, so why should the system
give away a pristine seat to such a passenger? Mr. All-Stare
MacLean confirmed that since the plane would take off from New
York at around 01:30 am IST, I could try reserving my seat just
after that. I have always been impatient.
I tried a web check-in, and lo and worked!
42A had been taken in the afternoon, but 42K was free.
It would be 42K for me, then.

Let me get back to the return trip booking.
Mr. MacLean urged me to try the Air India booking office, since I
was loathe to going to the Safdarjung airport Air India office
for the same. I was not very hopeful of it being changed. I
noticed that the lowest ticket prices had not changed from what I
had paid when booking the trip, even for AI 310, the 8pm flight
to Delhi. This fact, and Mr. MacLean's urging prompted me to call
up the call centre, where my request was cheerfully attended to.
I had promptly given the agent all information he needed, all the
verification, including the eTicket number. Would this be
registered on my account on
Yes, he said, but perhaps in a while, not immediately.
This was where the trouble started.
I found a strange-looking entry in my current bookings
part, which was basically a zero-entropy record.
It had taken out my Flying Returns number,
it had taken out the source,
it had taken out the destination.
When I wanted to print the itinerary, or email it to my email ID,
it simply gave me a document sans this important information.

I reported this to Mr. MacLean, who suggested I get a printout at
the airport to soothe my already frayed nerves.
I go to Mumbai's CSIA T1A, show the old ticket, get a fresh printout,
wait for the inter-terminal coach, and then head off to CSIA T2?
How stupid of me to think so.
Mr. MacLean patiently told me to do the needful at IGIA itself,
if I reached there with a bit of time on hand.
Could the updated itinerary be emailed to me?
I rang up again to confirm, the agent who was on the line this
time told me that if he tried that, the old itinerary would be
mailed back to me. I could wait a bit longer, or I could get a
printout at the Air India counter at the airport.
No, I could not wait any longer. I needed to check in well in
advance for an international flight.
I managed to reach the terminal, and check-in quickly.
I was directed to the end of the terminal: the parts adjacent to
the two ends have Air India ticketing offices which are
accessible air-side, too. Within minutes, I had the document in
my hands, as I went towards the security check-in.
This did not take much time either, as I went straight to the
windows to have a look, if anything interesting was on offer.
But first, I stopped by to have a look at the plants.

This time of the year is celebrated as SankrAnti, Pongal, and
Lohri in many parts of India, and IGIA T3 was bedecked for the occassion.

51.4 Daylight Delight!

Since all my international flights from IGIA T3 had been in the night,
I had only seen the vertical gardens then, in artificial light.
It was a spectacular sight,
illuminated by natural light!

There was an Air India Dream)liner on a domestic wide-body gate,
and a B77WW on an international gate. The haze around was
tremendous, it was barely possible to take a decent picture.
As I went towards the international finger which bifurcates past
the Delhi Daredevils' lounge, what I saw pleased me. There were
quite a few exotic planes on view. Almost in front of me was a
Kam Air B762. To my right, some distance away, was a Safi Airways
B762 to Kabul and Kandahar, and an Ariana Afghan Airlines A310
named `Kandahar' parked there.

An Emirates A332 had come in.
The SpiceJet flight to Kathmandu announced boarding shortly.
The Safi B762 pushed back, past the SpiceJet plane.

shukriyA, sAfi, as the old television ad for the blood
purifier tonic from Hamdard, went. (Literally, thank you, sAfi).

There was a lovely Oman Air B738 boarding passengers. By the time
our plane would push back, two Indigo planes had also parked to
our left. On our right was VT-ALL `Goa'. I had remarked to Mr.
MacLean that Air India had two Goas. Mr. MacLean mentioned that
it was quite apt to call them the old one and the new one, since
the old B744 was `Velha Goa', which literally referred to the old
part of the sun-and-sand-and-greenery state! `Goa' had come in
from Chicago as AI 126, and the lucky passengers on-wards to
Hyderabad were to continue the next leg of the journey on a
Dream)liner! This had been happening for the past few days. I
was on constant SMS contact with Mr MacLean and fellow member Shukla-ji.

Mr. MacLean had given me the complete report of the day on the
Air India Dream)liners. How many Dream)liners had I been able to
spot from the International pier? I was going all around the
international section, enjoying my first time in natural light.
His update was as follows: Princess ANI (VT-ANI) was due for
Bengaluru as AI 403, `Over-ride/Annul' ANL (VT-ANL) was due to go
to Hyderabad as AI 126, The `Egyptian plane' ANK(h) (VT-ANK) had
done the Frankfurt run, and the `Connector' (AND) was to go to
Calcutta. `New Joy' (ANJ) and `New Hope' (ANH) were resting at
their base, Delhi. AI 143 to Paris CDG was again done by a B777,
he told me. Air India had now taken the `Fly the Dream)liner to
Paris' advertisement off their web-page that day, Mr. MacLean told me.
``French Leave,'' was my wise-crack.

There was one Dream)liner at a domestic gate, one was parked at
one of the IGIA T2 remote stands beside a Jet Airways A332, and
one near the AI Engineering base at the point where all three
runways 11, 10 and 09 come close. The haze made it nearly
impossible to read the registrations. However, at Gate 14 was
ANL: the `over-ride' plane, VT-ANL. I wondered how lucky the AI
126 passengers were, since they would do the DEL-HYD leg on a
Dream)liner! And here was I, who had tried four times in the space
of a month, and been successful only once.
The AI Dream)liners seem to HYD from me,
and I got neither HYD nor hair of a Dream)liner,
in most of my trysts with the plane.

There was an odd announcement of AI 022 to Calcutta being delayed
till 9pm that day. I was aghast - how could a noon-time flight be
so badly delayed? Mr. MacLean got me down to earth. This was not AI
020, the Dream)liner flight to Calcutta. AI 022 would be delayed
by around 45 minutes, or so.

One of the most spectacular sightings I made was a Douglas DC-3,
parked right beside the now defunct IGIA T2.

Excitedly, I texted my friends about the `discovery'. On closer
examination, it looked like one of the Basler turbo-prop
conversions of an original DC-3. This looked like a more recent
build of the famous plane, with the new-style squarish tail, in
place of the classic rounded one. Mr. All-Stare MacLean was the
first to respond. It was C-FTGI, belonging to Bell Geospace
Aviation, did it not have a globe on the tail?
I was simply speechless.
He knew it all.

I was in a trance, looking at the lovely plane. In the 1970s, I
used to enjoy the sights and sounds of numerous DC-3s coming in
to land on the main runway at DEL, and some operating from
Safdarjung airport, as well. The Safdarjung airport used to be
Delhi's main airport, being bang in the middle of the city,
before the city grew around the small airfield. One of the joys
of watching a DC-3 land included it coming down on its two main
semi-retractable landing gear, touching down straight, and then
going nose-up as the rear wheel touched the ground. The wing
shape, the nose, the classic rounded or the newer squarish DC-3
tail, and of course, the incredible sound of the Pratt & Whitney
Twin Wasp engines. The distinctive wing planform as seen from
below, and the `meaning-business' shape as seen coming in
head-one, with its main landing gear wheels partially retracted -
will be embedded in the minds of those fortunate to have seen
them. Whenever passing over the Safdarjung flyover, my ears would
ache to hear the sound of the P&W Twin Wasps, in the hope of
seeing one of these land, or taxi, or take-off. I have seen the
DC-3s in many colours, in the air. The last few of them were
stored in the Safdarjung airport hangars, with the all-metal
fuselages, and `Indian Air Force' written in medium blue.
I will miss these sights.

While all these thoughts went through my mind, a forum post
conversation with member Shukla-ji came to mind. Just prior to
approaching the INA flyover from the AIIMS side, comes the INA
market to the right. I remember my parents mentioning a DC-3
crash there. It was only some time last year, that I asked people
such as Shukla-ji, and stumbled upon two leads to this sad
incident, which I mention here. VT-CZC was indeed a DC-3, which
had crashed on 05 Dec, 1970.
essentially report the same thing. I think the best description
of the sad incident can be found here:
The descriptions in this article almost exactly match what my
parents remember of this incident - Papa remembers more details
about this. (It was Papa who had an excited Sumantra in his lap,
who first inculcated his interest in planes, and aviation). He
brought me those huge Jane's All The World's Aircraft volumes for
me to chew and digest. He taught me how to identify the Fairchild
Packet, the DC-3 `Dakota', the 747, the DC-10, and some assorted
military aircraft - when I was very young. This search concluded
something that had been in my memories since the early 1970s,
when my parents had first described this to me, on a trip to INA
market - one of many shopping trips there, for buying fish (ugh -
the stench and the smell), spices (ah - the lovely smells that
tickled my taste-buds), and visits to the huge Super Bazar
complex (one corner had a DMS store which sold flavoured bottled
milk, which I loved). So much so for kindling kiddie memories!

51.5 Boarding `Chhattisgarh'

It was close to boarding time, so I rushed back towards Gate 17.
Mr. All-stare MacLean had been constantly pulling my leg.
``Chhattisgarh was formerly a part of Madhya Pradesh,'' he said.
To the lay-person, this may sound like a factual statement.
Between us, it was a reference to my rapidly expanding `Madhya
Pradesh', or the `Central Provinces', my bulging belly. He had
chided me two days before, when I confused the AI plane
`Jharkhand' with `Madhya Pradesh'. He said that I was obsessed
with matters related to Madhya Pradesh, so that what had
permeated my thoughts, was put into action as well. I pointed out
(helpfully) that the abbreviation for Chhattisgarh was `CG', which
also stood for `Centre of Gravity'.
These are grave matters, after all, not something to be laughed off.
Food is dead serious matter. Further, the shape of the state of
Chhattisgarh indeed looked like an intestine to me,
so it was all Alimentary, my Dear Watson.

I was the third passenger to board the plane. I had hovered
around gate 17 with a small crowd building up, and had been the
first to react when the announcement was made. This would be a
very light flight with only about 50% loads. Just as we were
about to push back, an AI Dream)liner came in to land, and taxied
past us, to the international end. `Chhattisgarh': the fabric
surfaces were showing their age, especially the carpet, but
overall, the plane was neat and clean, with hardly any grime
marks on the plastic surfaces. This was a good sign. The same
could not be said about the remote: it didn't work on seat 42K.
The touch-screen worked however, and the number of options on the
IFE was quite good, as was the content.

Mr. All-stare MacLean and I have discussed this over many a
marathon SMS session. We Indians are quite insensitive people. in
many aspects. Mr. MacLean specifically quoted an example of the
Gulf routes. Emirates and Saudi had separate planes dedicated to
these routes, from India, and the sub-continent, in general. Why
did Air India often send their best hardware on this route, with
a majority of the passengers being absolutely insensitive people?
He remembered an EK flight on the DXB-DEL route. Obnoxious
passengers had misbehaved with the crew. They were the so-called
`educated' passengers.

Why blame many illiterate people who end up
spoiling the hardware on the plane owing to ignorance, as opposed
to educated people, who simply do it because they can. ``Oh this
is Air India, it is expected to be like this,'' and then they
proceed to soil the cabin further, and often create a ruckus,
and on quite a few occassions, misbehave with the cabin crew.
Many senior cabin crew have been hardened with such experiences,
and either choose to ignore such things, or at times, get back to
the passenger, rudely. This is not to say that Air India's
internal maintenance has been faultless over the years, and that
there have been no rude and obnoxious cabin crew on board.
Yes, I have experienced this bad part myself, too.
However, of late, there has been an almost uniform sea change in
the general attitude, as the airline makes an attempt to get
better with time. It is extremely disheartening to see fellow
passengers behave badly, in spite of being warned. These same
people would not do this on any other airline, even if it is an
Indian one, Jet, for instance. I have seen this myself, with the
same passengers connecting between flights, one of which has an
Air India leg. The same passenger behaved differently.

51.6 Downing Chhappan-bhog

Let me get back to this flight.
It had been quite a while since we had taken off.
My anxiety increased with every passing minute.
Bu of course, the regular reader would have guessed exactly what
the reason for my discomfort was.
On `Chhattis-garh', I was awaiting `Chhappan-bhog'.
Literally, the latter refers to a feast of 56 food items,
prepared for serving at a grand occassion - I think the origin of
this specific term, and the associated practices, comes from the
royal families in Rajasthan, if I am not wrong.

The cabin crew had not just not gone to the galley right in front
of me, they had completely abandoned post. There were no welcome
metallic sounds of trays being taken out, and put into the ovens,
no wafts of appetising smells seemed to be anywhere nearby. The
Captain Rajiv Gupta had switched off the seat belt signs quite
some time back. There was some mild chop in the air, but more so,
in terms of of my peristaltic movements, much in anticipation rather
than anything else. What was the world coming to?
It hit me from behind - a pleasant surprise.
The real galley was in use for this light flight.
The trolley came up to us, and a tray was handed over by the
pleasant young lady in charge of our part of the cabin.

There was one common offering today.
A snack.
No, not that I could expect a meal at this hour.
The hour hand of the watch had just started setting out from
five. There was no non-vegetarian offering for this light load, I
guessed. There was a brown bread sandwich with some light
cheddar-based spread peeking from between the slices.
The bread was very fresh, and the cheese, wonderful!
If this offering had an orangish cheddar, the main box had a
softer creamy cheese, mozzarella. And what was this in?
A slice of pizza! This was quite a pleasant surprise. The crust
was quite thin, but quite soft, though well done. This was an
ordinary pizza, with tomato and capsicum slices, and a very
generous amount of mozzarella cheese which had just melted from
the warming. The semi-solid molten mozzarella gave the ordinary
pizza a heavenly taste. Giving it company was a neat potato chop
- Aloo tikki, to the North Indian. There was some fresh
coriander chutney to go with it. The flattened cylindrical potato
mash slice had been fried very lightly in a minute amount of oil.
There was just a hint of browning on both sides. Mmm...

I noticed that the service had duties divided among three members
of the cabin crew for this part of the cabin, quite seamlessly.
Another lady came to offer tea.
As the reader would have guessed, I politely declined the offer.
In anticipation, of course.
In anticipation of a good coffee.
A young gentleman came in with the coffee pitcher, and much to my
very pleasant surprise, the coffee was not bad at all!
Much to my surprise, I found myself involuntarily gulping down
the hot coffee right then, rather than even wait for the dessert
to go down my oesophagus. The coffee was hot and strong,
and I did not want to miss out on this.
This did not mean that I wanted to miss out on the dessert.
By no means.
Further, no means would be mean enough to justify the end(s)

It was a North Indian delicacy very apt for the season.
It was some delicious GAjar HalwA, the way I like it.
Thin shreds of a reddish carrot had been cooked in mildly sweet
milk till it had thickened, and condensed a bit. Cooked along
with it were some sweet raisins. The overall visage was a rich
gooey fluid, rather than what often passes off as GAjar-kA-halwA
in the North, where they boil shredded carrots in sugar syrup,
and mix some separately made khowA (condensed milk with a solid
consistency), with dry fruits mixed in. Such a delicacy is never
a sum of its parts, something I firmly believe in. One can never
do a mix-and-match, this one with the condiments cooked in, makes
other imposters no match for the heavenly taste. Oh, Air India
once again served an ace of a dessert. I have loved both their
experiments, as well as the traditional offerings - Air India
does this to a finesse rarely seen in other airline food.
I sat down with my laptop, with my senses pleased beyond words.

The trays were cleared quite promptly, and the mood lighting
weaved its magic around the cabin, as I tuned in to my favourite
channel on the IFE, and listened to some melodies from the silver
screen of the 1950s, as I typed in a part of this report, and
also went about doing some work on the laptop.

51.7 At Mumbai...

Captain Rajiv Gupta got us in a bit fast, but made a smooth
touchdown. Mr. All-Stare MacLean had asked me to check which was
the B777 which was gathering some dust at Mumbai airport. It
wasn't exactly the best time to check it out (we had landed well
in time, around 06:45 pm), since it was quite dark already. Mr.
MacLean had suspected it to be either VT-ALR `Meghalaya' a 77W,
or VT-ALH `Maharashtra', a 77L. I guess it must have been `Meghalaya',
then. There was one silhouetted 77W in the AI hangars beside the
main runway, and I guessed that Mr. MacLean was referring to this
one. I had only caught a fleeting glimpse of a B777 in an AI
hangar towards the Jari Mari/Mithi river side, as we had come in
quite quickly. Much to my delight however, we got a bus gate,
giving me a better view of the AI hangars there. There were two
B77Ws in the hangars there, one of which was being towed out for a
flight. The other looked quite clean, so that could not be the
`silicon valley' one. There was an Air India A332 beside the
cargo ramp, with her lights turned off.

Captain Rajiv Gupta was coming out of the front office, and I
wanted to express my admiration for a smooth touchdown. However,
there was some space on the BEST AC bus that had come to pick up
passengers, and I did not want to miss out on that, since I had
to reach my destination quickly, else I would miss dinner. I
thanked the cabin crew for a nice flight, and told a lady about
the IFE remote. She enthusiastically told me that she would
inform AI Engineering about it, and that hopefully, it would be
fixed soon. As I was de-planing, I saw all the PTVs on, and in
working condition. Mumbai gave me a warm welcome, it was 30
degrees Celcius outside. This was the first time I was coming
into the international terminal arrival section for the first
time after 2004, and I was impressed by the renovations. I booked
Meru cab, and reached my destination with half and hour to spare.
For dinner, that is. The dinner itself was nothing to write home
about, but with my belly full, the heart sits contented, above.

The next day was quite a busy one. I had stayed up late, and
forced myself to drag the rest of me out of the bed quite early.
I had a presentation to complete, lest the lack of a suitable
presentation turn into the opposite of `presentation', an
`absentation' (according to the Prankster's New World
Frictionary, credited to the infamous plexicographer, you know
who.) The presentation went off well, and the Meru cab arrived
well in time, in spite of my leaving my cellphone in the Guest
house, and someone else having to make the booking on my behalf.

51.8 CSIA T2, Mumbai

I still had the unfinished matter of the AI 310 ticket.
I reached CSIA T2 `Sahar airport' well in time, and seeing the
huge mass of humanity snaking around Gate B, I beat a hasty
retreat, and entered from the relatively free Gate A, and walked
towards the Air India counters. I handed over my printout, and my
original ticket. I was asked to wait, till the lady checked
whether AI 888 indeed had been cancelled, and if my new booking
was in order. There was some confusion in the system, and one of
my tickets was being shown as being `open', whatever that meant.
However, she could check me on to AI 310, the 8pm Delhi flight
from Mumbai to Delhi. The same flight would continue ahead onto
Hong Kong and Seoul, albeit on a B777.
This would be an A321 flight.
Or so, I thought.
Please give me a non-emergency row window seat, I requested her.
She gave me 13A, which was one row behind the two emergency exit rows,
she said. This alone should have raised my suspicion about the
aircraft type. However, I was happy to be in CSIA T2, and happy
to be able to reach home a bit early.
She told me that the gate had not been assigned, but what could
I expect the gate to be? 4 perhaps, said the lady.
The ground floor bus gates, I said. Yes, she smiled.
I had been promised by the call centre staff that all my
information was entered into my booking. There was some goof-up
again, as it was far from the case. I got my Flying Returns
numbered entered by the lady, who wished me a pleasant flight.

Boarding pass in hand, I bypassed the immigration, joined a long
security check line which moved forward relatively quickly, and
was soon air-side in a terminal that had always fascinated me
from 2001 to 2007, the period I was a Mumbaikar, and a bit after
that, too. While the terminal wears an extremely new and fresh
look, I have been a bit disappointed with the renovation work, as
compared to the same group's work on renovating CSIA T1A, the Air
India domestic terminal.
Yes, the gates had been bedecked with stylish panels, there was a
nice panelling all along the walls, the lounges had been re-done,
and there were numerous shopping options for the international
traveller, and quite a few food joints.
So, what was disappointing about it?
There was hardly any view outside.
Very little action on the ramp could be viewed from inside the
terminal, unlike what I had seen of the pre-renovated terminal in
2007, and earlier. There was an Air India B77W on a gate, beside
which there was an Emirates B77W. There was a Saudia B777 at a
gate, an El Al B763ER at a remote stand, and a few Jet Airways
B737s boarding from the bus gates. An Indigo flight to Dubai was
boarding shortly.

Second, there is not a single usable power-port in the entire
waiting hall. There are 2 or 3 in all, on pillars, and obviously not
meant to be used without extension cords, since the seats are
quite far away. Seats? They were the old T2 seats, including the
slumberette seats, some thoughtfully tucked in some slightly dark corners
of the terminal. While they were in fair condition for their age,
their colour did not match the overall decor of the terminal. The
best view perhaps came from the bus gates, but Jet airways buses
constantly going to and fro, and standing right in front of the
best viewing position, ruined my viewing pleasure. Runway 09 was in use,
and I could not see the take-offs right in spite of being at a
fair position to view them. I roamed about the terminal to catch
up with some exercise, if not anything else.

Boarding was announced a bit late, from gate 05.
A mass of humanity made a beeline for the gate.
I was no exception, and I boarded a rather cold BEST AC bus in
Air India markings. We made a nice parikramA (circle) all around
the international gates and remote stands, saw an Air India B744
in one of the two hangars on the Jari Mari side, an Air India B77W
in the other, and three other B77Ws on the stands, along with a
Jet Airways B77W, a sister A332 of Air India's A332s, WB:
the `wide body' plane, VT-IWB. Along with us on the bus was an Air
India Dream)liner First Officer, whom I have seen on my only AI
Dream)liner ride from Delhi to Chennai thus far, on AI 439,
circa Dec'12.

Mr. MacLean asked me as to why I had not set out the corresponding
trip report till then. My reply was that it was in the works, plus all
good/food pictures were then in a reel inside my favourite analog
SLR camera. I managed to overcome my laziness, and finally
complete it and post it, some time back. The reader may have read it:
49. Silver (Edge) Lining to Dream, Meaning Business, Dec'12

51.9 Shell-Shocked at my mistake

We came right back to a place very close to where we started
from, and parked in front of...SH, the `shell plane', VT-ESH.
I was shell-shocked.
What? I was at least expecting an A321 with IFE, and here comes an
ancient A320 in the new colours. From the outside, I noticed that
it was in all-economy configuration. And indeed it would be so,
as people simply poured into the plane. The loads would be
excellent, clearly in excess of 90%, I estimated.
We were welcomed by two senior ladies, Ms Acharya, and
Ms T Cecilia. Most of the other cabin crew were young men.
I was still smarting from the shock at not remembering that this
was to be done by an A320 that day, something I had seen in the
schedules for the day. I went up to a young gentleman who was
standing near my assigned seat 11A.
11A? Wait...that was an emergency exit row.
Has there been a plane swap at the last moment?
I asked the bewildered gentleman. No, he replied, in some
surprise. I guess the check-in lady had misunderstood my request
for a non-emergency row seat, I thought.
Soon, a young lady came up, and asked me if my seat was indeed
11A, since there was another gentleman with the same seat number.
I had done it again, settling down on a wrong seat.
The gentleman whose seat it originally was, indeed turned out to
be a gentleman, for he let me sit right there, seeing me in a
messy situation with my things all around me (laptop and reading
material), and my baggage firmly perched in the overhead locker
above me. On second thoughts, I am sure he did not mind not
sitting on a non-reclining seat, which actually I did not mind.

We pushed back some 25 minutes behind schedule, and went up to
the threshold of runway 09 for take-off. We were third in the
take-off sequence, announced Captain D. R. Modi, with two other
arrivals expected in the next 7-8 minutes, after which we would
take off. This indeed happened, and we turned left after
take-off, with the usual IAE V2500 engine whine ringing through
my ears. Captain Modi had announced a flight time of an hour and
40 minutes, with some fog building up at Delhi, but he
anticipated that we would avoid the fog with some margin to
spare. The Captain had announced that we would cruise at 33,000
feet above sea level for most of the trip.
At round 07:45 pm, Ameya appraised me of the situation at DEL:
Delhi was indeed catching up with the fog, with visibility 800m,
1100 on runway 28, temperature 15 degrees Celcius.
Before we had pushed back, Ameya gave me the technical details
over an SMS: the METAR at 8pm said 700 metres, 1100 on runway 28,
and the temperature, 13 degrees Celcius.

51.10 Chappan-bhog, Again!

With Captain Modi switching off the seat belt sign as we reached
cruising altitude quickly, I was very pleasantly surprised that
the crew sprang into service almost immediately. They had heated
the meals right from the word go, and I was pleasantly surprised
by a try reaching me much before some wonderful aromas made their
presence felt. Non-veg again, of course.
I started with the bun, and the butter chiplet.
The bun was relatively fresh though not outstanding, and went
well with the rock-hard and cold butter chiplet.
There was an ordinary-looking Indian green salad, which I opened
with hardly any expectations, since the salad had not been
presented in a stylish manner at all. There were three ordinary
slices of a red carrot, six indifferently straight slices of
cucumber on a bed of lettuce, and a wedge of lemon to go with it.
A little press near my nose, and most of it on the green salad,
with a little bit left for the main course - that was how I had
planned the utilisation of the lemon slice. The salad was
extremely crisp and fresh, and the cucumber told me that it had
been packed in Mumbai. At this time of the year, the variety
available in Delhi is more watery than tasty, and the small-sized
variety available in Mumbai with the whitish skins (`kArDi'), is
quite crunchy and tasty. My taste buds enticed, I opened the main
compartment. There was some long grained aromatic Basmati rice in
the centre, which had been steamed just so. The cabin crew had
followed the heating instructions to perfection, so that the rice
had a freshly-prepared taste. No, it was not plain rice. It had
some small young kadhi-patta and rAi (the smaller mustard seeds
used extensively in South Indian cooking, and to some extent, in
North Indian dishes, too), and a half slice of a cashewnut kernel
lightly tossed in oil, and a raisin. It was simply heavenly. A few
drops of the lemon slice, a little salt and pepper, and lo and
behold, it was a preparation in itself. Lest I finish all the
rice in this happy state of mind, I quickly diverted my attention
to the left side of the box. It had a lovely dry preparation
done in just a few drops of oil. Finely chopped French beans
(`barbaTTi' to the Delhi'ite), cooked with shredded onions, rAi
(small mustard seeds), tomato, and a liberal serving of shredded
coconut powder - took my senses away. The right side had an
excellent chicken curry. A bit on the sinful side (in terms of
oil), it had a lovely onion-tomato-spices gravy, but the pieces
which were soft and succulent, had been marinated in a different
medley of spices, which has simply seeped in, during the
marination, giving it a splendid flavour. The beverage run
happened in the midst of all this, and I shocked myself by
putting the cup to the lip, in the midst of polishing off the
chicken preparation. Yes, it was the common ordinary coffee, but
it was at least quite hot and reasonably strong, so it did nice
things to my frayed nerves. I was on the emergency exit row, and
there were some strange noises coming from the window.
I stopped paying attention to the noise,
and focussed on the nice offering I had not touched as yet.
The dessert.
It was Gajar-kA-halwA again!
And incredibly, it was different from the dish served on the
onward journey. I am really amazed at the experimentation on
board the Air India catering team. This absolute masterpiece had
two types of shredded carrots, the reddish variety, as well as
the orange one (the `vilAyati gAjar' of the North, or the Nilgiri
carrot of the South) lovingly cooked over a slow flame, till the
milk got really thick. Add a small measured quantity of sugar
during the process, embellish it with chopped nuts (almonds and
pistachios), and who would not call this a masterpiece?
It was also served cold, just the way I like it.

With 15-20 minutes to go, the very senior Captain Modi came on
the intercom again, and appraised us that the temperature at
Delhi had dropped from the expected 15 degrees Celcius to 10
degrees Celcius, and the fog had got unexpectedly dense, but it
was within the margins of the plane and the captain.
There was a lot of wind-shear as we went about the descent, but
Captain Modi made a very smooth touchdown on the main runway, 28.
I guessed so, since I could not be too sure because of the heavy
fog outside, and the fact that the old A320 had a near-frosted
glass window, so scratched was the pane that it was a pain to
look outside through it.

51.11 Concluding a Lovely Trip

As I exited from the plane, both Ms. Acharya and Ms. Cecilia were
budding good-bye to the deplaning passengers. I thanked them
for a nice flight.

Ms. T Cecilia is a very senior lady, but it was very nice to see
her welcome and bid good bye to passengers very warmly, and for
the emergency row instructions, come over to us, and do the
explanations with the facts interspersed with a good amount of
humour. I mentioned this over a slew of SMSes with Mr. MacLean
after the flight, when I mentioned to him that I had been
mistaken with regard to the aircraft type, and that I liked the
crew, as well as the food! There is the usual leg-pulling banter
between us over SMS. Since there was no IFE on the plane, and
with a very full flight and me on an exit row, he asked me why I
didn't sit in the galley itself. I replied, if I did so with the
pleasant Ms. Cecilia doing her chores, it would be said in the
chaste vernacular of the region,
``galley-galley mein shor hai, Sumantra chore hai...''

Since I had no checked in baggage, I was out quite quickly.
I got into a Meru cab quickly, and got home. I appraised Mr.
MacLean of the taxi's route: Meru taxis generally get out of IGI T3,
and do not take the IGI T1 route, rather taking a turn, and going
towards the NH8 crossing.
``Trolled into the toll plaza?'' asked Mr. MacLean.
``No, skirt it,'' I replied, ``For whom do the bells toll?''
``Where there is a toll, there is a way!'' I added.

A few days later, Mr. MacLean again gave me details of the Air
India Dream)liner movements. Things had got back to normal, he
said, and all the AI Dream)liners were in use.
I replied exasperatedly, ``Sumantra returns, the fog lifts, and
all is normal now!'' I have missed three flights out of a
possible four on the Dream)liner, and would miss another one after
a few days. Yes, this was to be with TW and Jr, for which I had
booked the AI 701 CCU-DEL flight.
That will form the next trip, please stay tuned!
Links to my 51 trip reports:

Last edited by sumantra on Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:12 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 17, 2013 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"51 trip report " ; its a lot . Keep doing Sumantra. We enjoy.

AI 101/!02 always punctual. I hadn't seen any delay, rather it was an hour ahead of time. These day I recommend desi folks to fly AI over other arrogant EU airlines. I hope there will not be another Kaniska like disaster. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 17, 2013 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sabya99 wrote:
"51 trip report " ; its a lot
Thanks a lot, Dr. Ganguly, I really appreciate it!
sabya99 wrote:
AI 101/!02 always punctual. I hadn't seen any delay, rather it was an hour ahead of time. These day I recommend desi folks to fly AI over other arrogant EU airlines
Yes, thank you. I have been checking for most AI long distance flights at the hub DEL, for some time. Most of them are indeed quite punctual, and the hub structure working quite well, for them.
Cheers, Sumantra.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 18, 2013 1:44 am    Post subject: Re: `Chhattisgarh' & 36, Chappan-bhog & 56:Mumbai,Ja Reply with quote

Nice TR there again and Thanks for a mention i this TR. Smile. If I remember correctly, I too incorrectly identified the return aircraft as A319 when you SMSed me the regn.

sumantra wrote:

Looking at the titles of my trip reports, the reader cannot be
blamed for thinking about the sanity of the person keying in
these lines.
I do not blame the reader, at all.
First, I give a strange title, to attract the reader's attention,
in a desperate attempt to solicit his/her attention.
Of course, I spend the next few paragraphs in an even more
desperate attempt, to somehow justify the choice of words.
By the time the trip-related details come up, the reader may be
in two moods, on whether to continue, or not.
By the time the food description starts, so does the reader's
desperation to let go. Does this sound familiar?

No Professor, not familiar Smile

Looking forward to more,

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 18, 2013 9:43 am    Post subject: Re: `Chhattisgarh' & 36, Chappan-bhog & 56:Mumbai,Ja Reply with quote

shivendrashukla wrote:
...Thanks for a mention i this TR. Smile.
Thank you, Sir! Shukla-ji, I have always looked forward to you being a willing recipient of my SMS torrents - both during my travels, and otherwise, too. I remember many a long SMS conversation I have had with you on many matters of common interest, and your replies have always been sweet, informative, and very prompt! I remember you being awake at very odd hours as well, and replying to my pokes. Thank you Smile
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 18, 2013 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for another intersting report Sumantra.

Thanks for another interesting report Sumantra.

Your comments about Indian's misbehaving subject to situations is so true. In the early part of my career I used to be in charge of leading tour groups for VVIP's from the top corporate. There were times when I wanted to hang my face in shame but had to keep a straight face and work around the tight situation.

I have nothing against people wanting to have fun (heck not just Indians most westerners do that as well) but there is a fine line which sometimes Indians forget that they should not cross and tend to think that once they are on a aero plane or overseas the law of the land will not apply.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 18, 2013 5:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks a lot, Srinivas! You make an important point with the thin line.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm reading this TR from the departure gate of the Ratmalana Airport, as 2 Xians and 1 Harbin look at me.

Another brilliant TR of yours sir!

Sadly I cannot quote a lot, the iPad is a slight pain.

-True about the day light departures during the day (international), however, the beauties are in the area only at night.
-Chattisgarh - wow that is some inspiration for your topic! We all admire this!
- Toilet comments reserved - haha!
-36 experience for you on AI? That is bad! Surprised
-I'll take my comments back about the international beauties. I'm surprised. Rolling Eyes
-Those DC3 and Safdarjung Airport facts are interesting, dissapointing it ended like that. Speaking of which, I am in Colombo's ex-international airport, as I have mentioned!
-Pizza on a plane - hmm. I've always wondered how they are. They don't look too appetising on the other airlines, but your description certainly does make it look amazing!
-But gajar halwa with pizza is an interesting combination to be honest! Once again, looks delicious!
-The BEST KINGLONG 'Cerita' buses are tortured by BEST, I think they are better off at the airport.
-If you have finished a flight on a B77W, never complain of an old classy A320 for the next flight! I would have been overjoyed to be back on one of them!
-Crew seems nice, as is always the case onboard Air India.

I apologise but I do not have enough time to reply to this, in detail as I usually do. Crying or Very sad

It is another fantastic TR, with the descriptions of the flight change, re-booking, food as usual, keeping us readers attracted to this TR.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jbalonso777 wrote:
I'm reading this TR from the departure gate of the Ratmalana Airport, as 2 Xians and 1 Harbin look at me -.

Thanks for the detailed comments, Jishnu! It is nice of you to point out the irony, of the earlier airport of the city, in both cases. We really look forward to your trip report, which I am sure would come out before I even think of trying to complete my backlog. Your Papa's earlier pictures and report was fantastic - thank you for giving us a tour of planes and places which are not easy to find! I have some other memories of Safdarjung airport as well, including seeing a small aircraft fuselage stuck up on the flyover (thankfully, its occupants escaped unhurt) in the late 1980s. I have visited the Air India office at Safdarjung Airport a few times, each time, I get memories of the place. I will put it down in some trip report...
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Sir,

Thanks for the wonderful TR. It was a nice read, as usual.
Trust you to come up with new names each and every time, "36" in this case !


A day before my journey (12 January, 2012), I got an email from
Air India

Sir, this is 1 day, 1 year before Razz

Your "chattis" with AI-888 continues, it seems !

Your preference about dinner at location over a small talk with captain was quite clear Razz

You seem to have a liking for widebodies on narowbody routes ![/quote]
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for posting one more of your lovely reports. We all look forward to more and more of your reports.
Save Maharashtra!
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ameya wrote:
A day before my journey (12 January, 2012), I got an email from Air India
Sir, this is 1 day, 1 year before Razz
Eww...that was a bad mistake, I have corrected it now. Every time I decide to laze off, a voice in my head continues to prompt me, come on, write down the next one...else Ameya will chide you about it...I keyed that in, in almost record time, as I was reading about Himmat's experiences (please see below!).

ameya wrote:
Your preference about dinner at location over a small talk with captain was quite clear Razz
You got my knickers atwixt again, Sir. Smalltalk is an object-oriented language not much in vogue, but...the craving for food for me, will never go out of vogue. I was going to a location where getting food at that time of the night was not that easy, as the canteen at the Guest House closes down quite quickly.

ameya wrote:
You seem to have a liking for widebodies on narowbody routes!
You got me there, Sir! Thanks once again for going through my report, in detail.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

himmat01 wrote:
Thanks for posting one more of your lovely reports. We all look forward to more and more of your reports.
Sir, I owe you a thank you on this one. I had managed to dig out your domestic B77W experience on this forum (though it was in J, and I am a hardened Y-class traveller), I happened to go through it again:
Escape from the "Heat" of DEL: AI-102 to BOM
and I decided to expedite my writing this report to a day exactly a week after I had posted my previous one. It was the same flight, but on a different plane...and I expedited my efforts Smile
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lovely TR Sumantra - thanks for posting. This 8 months offset between trip and report means that I have a sudden craving for gajar-ka-halwa - god alone know how long before this craving is satiated Smile...
We miss you Nalini!
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nimish wrote:
This 8 months offset between trip and report means that I have a sudden craving for gajar-ka-halwa - god alone know how long before this craving is satiated Smile...
Ha ha, nice one, Nimish - thank you for your kind words!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 12:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chhattisgarh' & 36, Chappan-bhog & 56: Mumbai, Jan'13
- HaHaHa... By now I know "shock & awe" will come in plenty from Sumantra's TR titles Surprised

`36' is also a term used to indicate a (bad) relation between two
people in North India, since the Devanagari numerals for `3' and
`6' are near-mirror images of each other. Two people being at
loggerheads is what in the chaste vernacular, is referred to by
the relation between them being a `36'.
- Forgot how to write 3 & 6 in Sanskrit but otherwise it's a nice piece of information!

``galley-galley mein shor hai, Sumantra chore hai...''
- another one..amazed at your ability to come up with these!

Liked the dossier on DC-3 and how you developed interest in Aviation & aircrafts in your formative years.
Waiting for next round of "shock & awe" Very Happy
Tally Sheet:
40 Countries ||52 Aircraft types ||58 Airlines ||72 Airports
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 6:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

PAL@YWG wrote:
By now I know "shock & awe" will come in plenty from Sumantra's TR titles
Thank you, Mr. Pal for the encouragement - yes, the titles are getting more and more weird by the day, and the PJs even more bizarre Smile
PAL@WYG wrote:
Liked the dossier on DC-3 and how you developed interest in Aviation & aircrafts in your formative years
Sir, the next TR (currently in the works) will have a bit more on the DC-3, and the 3 mistakes in the film `Gandhi' on Mountbatten landing in India, The Safdarjung airport again (where the Air India booking office is located), and some official red tap, and bloopers. By the way, you would appreciate this even more, since you have seen Soviet aviation in its plateau period: Papa also had searched out the Myasishchev M-50 `Bounder' bomber, and had shown me a picture of the same. This is in the early 1970s (his picture was form a 1960s book), and as a little kid perched on his lap, I had admired the huge bomber, with its unique engine installation: two on the short wing-tips. I could barely pronounce `Myasishchev' then (unfortunately, now as well), but I knew to identify it. You can imagine my excitement at going to Monino in 2011, and seeing that very plane in front of my eyes-the only prototype of the behemoth ever built - it was that very plane I had dreamt about as a little child. When I got the photographs from my Analog SLR developed, I went straight to my parents' place with those, got him to dig out that photograph, and put them side-by-side. Papa had taught me the difference between a 707 and a DC-8, a VC-10 and an Il-62, a DC-10 and a Lockheed Tristar - similar-looking planes for a little kid, which were common in the Delhi skies, then (and from pictures, a DC-9 and a Tu-134, a Trident and a Tu-154, the Tu-144 and the Concorde - and the Valkyrie - he had pictures of all these). Surprisingly, he lost interest in planes all of a sudden, and after that, it was only `big plane' and `small plane' after that. He travels more than I do, and I have to strive to get information out of him. I noticed a brief flicker of the interest when he had his first Dream)liner flight, and took some nice pictures at the KLIA, KUL back to show me, but it is quite minimal now-a-days.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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