Cloud Eight?

Right after posting on railway travel, I had to do a painful Delhi-Bombay day trip yesterday. Painful because it seems to be one of Murphy's laws that if you have to get up at an unearthly hour to catch a flight, you will either end up going to bed late or get poor sleep when you do. I didn't sleep well at all, and A ( who was also going to Bombay) and I were tired and grumpy when we set out, not helped by the cabbie being late.

Anyway, at the end of a long day, I was back on the flight. I hadn't carried anything to read, for a change and hadn't had time at the airport to so much as buy a magazine. The flight was packed and my knees were jammed into my armpits - or that's what it felt like - due to the limited leg space. I didn't have the inclination to contort myself and dig out my laptop to read one of the books I had downloaded. Since I'm one of those people who find it hard to sleep anywhere, I turned to the only entertainment option - looking out of the window.

As we flew over Bombay, one could see the waves and rippled lines of the sea stretching far into the distance. Silvery rivers, gleaming in the early evening sun, wound in snaky coils as they made their way across the green landscape into the Arabian sea. The landscape was soon a distant blur as we entered the realm of the clouds.

It seemed there were three levels of clouds - big, fat, puffy ones like chunks of whipped cream sat by themselves like little islands popping up in the sea. Breezy, wraithlike ones drifted aimlessly, now enveloping our plane, now blowing past at high speed, now floating dreamily, like different types of fish. Grey monsoon clouds loomed overhead, menacingly large, like killer whales.

At one point, we came into a bank of clouds that was so thick it looked like it would never end. As we flew on through it, it was revealed as a bizarre 'tunnel' of thick fluffy clouds, in the centre of which a clear space was visible and you could see all the way to far off ground. I've been rereading my Biggles collection of late and in one of the WWI books, he describes a wall of cloud. This must have been what that was like, I thought.

The sunlight streamed in through the window in different patterns depending on which clouds it was filtered through. Much later, the Delhi landscape came into view, all busy roads with traffic plying in both directions. I have to say, I don't know how pilots navigate, maybe their eyes are different - I couldn't identify a single landmark while looking down. There was a lush, large, green space that I could see, with trees overhanding the narrow road. One single car was driving down the road as we flew over it, and I wondered where this green space was - I'd love to go there with my kids for a picnic.

The lights of the city glowed like jewels against the late evening sky, with that peculiar radiance that colours seem to have at twilight. The landing was ok, with that rushing sound of the wind as the flaps on the wings pop open that always makes me feel that the pilot is stomping with both feet on the brakes because we're going too fast. I unfolded my knees from my armpits and retrieved my laptop and bag from under the seat with all the grace of a 'boneless wonder'. Air travel does have its compensations after all: 1. No one can call or expect you to check email for the duration (Yaaay!) 2. You get home quick.

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