A Vembanad Weekend – Part 2

The airstair sounded fragile on each step as do those wobbly spiral staircases you’d find nestled in the dark corners of shady shoe stores. Unlike a large carrier in which a courtly hostess wearing passion-red lipstick would greet and point to your seat, this one had the do-it-yourself motif. A lean isle with 2×2 arrangements reminded me of town buses; the only difference being there’s no need of muscle or a wet towel to grab a seat. However, we had to walk inch by inch courtesy of the early birds shoving their luggage in overhead bins in God’s own time, especially men who then stood accomplished with their chests upright as though they were being X-rayed, patiently appropriating their tucked shirts by sliding their fingers round the waist, mutely chanting, “victory’s here”; sleepwalkers with a mysterious mental state; window-seat hunters viciously prying for empty seats; and loaded restroom runners who had already began bullying  their way in the opposite direction. Eventually, we reached our seats situated way back in the cabin and lodged our bags exactly overhead.

As a grown man, I always had to renounce the worldly pleasure of a window seat for my partner who gets invariably upbeat about looking out the window during take-off but reclines after to spend most of the ride poring over murder mystery novels. So, during this booking, I had proactively assigned the window seat to her name so that I didn’t have to officially give up the seat. Denial has its way of working through to your core.

Startled by the ample legroom, I became upbeat as well. I liked the look and feel of the cabin. For a low cost airline, it seemed spacious apart from times when the tall, well-built steward was stomping back and forth through the aisle. He seemed upbeat too since the only other crew member was a single lady who insisted on safety before liftoff.

Both attendants were dressed casual and so were a few of the travelers who were too cool to wear full pants. A few had adventure-cargo shorts and skimpy T-shirts that fell nicely on their bellies while the one across me started removing his shoes. I assumed he was flexing his feet to relieve some pain from the stampede caused by the politician jumping the queue, but with his socks on, it seemed more like an in-flight feet exercise that led to an effective aromatherapy for his fellow flyers stranded in a closed cabin.

People who believed their faces could melt were restlessly twisting the cup vents overhead but the AC wasn’t turned on yet as one of the cost cutting measures, which make these low cost airlines downright credible. As we were all set for the plane to start with a half-hour delay, I tried to act cool as though I had been flying for breakfast every day. On the inside I was mulling over the what-if-this-were-that-plane syndrome. I looked for signs that indicated bad omen and the only thing I could see was the shoeless traveler who still had his feet in the air like a frog sleeping on its back.  But the greatness in having a companion in my life is that I don’t have to scream alone when something bad happens. On that note, I prepared myself for the takeoff.

Things still dragged as the pilots were taxiing the plane around the airport for more than 10 minutes. Judging by the pilots’ warm up routine, for a moment, I even shared with her my weird recurring dream of taxiing through the city streets in an airplane wherein we could even extend the tour and fetch the forgotten items from home.

Finally, the plane hit the runway, positioned itself straight and paused for a moment before the fan blades rolled with full might like a stubborn hiker rolled up his sleeves before the big climb. The lead up to the actual takeoff with those intense cabin shudders is generally when I begin swinging between faith and science. And so I did as the plane geared up and sped briskly until it pitched up and lifted into the air. Within minutes, we were above the clouds for good. While we were in the air and thinking about what we could do for an hour, a set of random nerves clicked together in my head and reminded me of a quote I had recently read, “The test of success is not what you do when you are on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom”, made me want to swing more towards faith and then cling onto it.

The plane started taking turns, as she excitedly pointed out the cloud shadows on the ground. Since it’s a tiny jet with cute little wings, we could get an expansive view of the ground through the interspersed clouds while the plane navigated towards Kochi.

The flight was mostly smooth punctuated by a couple of jarring announcements made by the pilot, which could either be that he was speaking through a broken mic or he must be a man of wisdom who cleared his throat between every word spoken. Except times when my partner was cheerfully winking at the tiny kid in the front seat who occasionally stole glances though the seat gap, she joined me in looking out the window making calculated guesses on where we might be flying.  As with the absence of navigation screens in the front seat, I rarely entertain myself during flights. However, once we saw the protracted, muddy water bodies pasted on the grounds we knew we were hovering above the sultry charms of Kerala. The attendant announced we’d begin our descent then. In a few minutes, we landed in the Kochi airport and it was the only flight around that landed. Time was 12:05 p.m.

One of the nice things about Cochin International Airport (CIAL) is that it’s still stuck with its old name even after the city re-branding. The façade looked subtle resembling country cottages and guest houses with reddish, slanted, tile roofs and yellow buildings. Maybe projecting nativity but modern luxury is the priority. But we quite liked the quiet way of its appearance. We quickly refreshed and moved towards the prepaid taxi counter.  However, we decided to try the CGH Earth counter first for a proprietary cab to drop us at the Coconut Lagoon. The man at the counter looked like he had been warming the bench for a very long time. Managing boredom seemed to be one of his strong suits. Buoyed by the colorful flyers of CGH Earth resorts stuck on the walls, I asked,

“Excuse me, do you provide cabs to Coconut Lagoon in Kumarakom?”

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