“Damania Airlines serves free beer. Imagine that! Indian Airlines serves just coffee and cookies.”
Nilesh emphasized the fact. FREE BEER! The fare between Goa and Mumbai (it was called Bombay in those days) was the same for all airlines. Indian Airlines RIP. I vowed to fly by Damania from then on.
“They have exquisite air-hostesses. And if you say you have aerophobia, they hold your hands while take-off and landing.”
This piece of information was not as appealing as the word FREE. The Gujarati blood in me started bubbling.
Holding the coveted boarding pass for the Seat on Emergency Exit Row, I drooled:
“Free Beer, here I come!”
The flight took off. The thirsty look on my the faces of my fellow passengers confirmed that we were in the same boat — I mean the same aircraft! The flight between Goa and Mumbai was only 65 minutes long, take out ten minutes for take-off and another fifteen for landing. We had around 40 minutes to drink. The air-hostess, seated next to me (remember this was the emergency exit row) got up and prepared to distribute the nectar to the thirsty souls.
“Sir, tea? Coffee? Beer?”
Pop, pop, pop! No clinking of spoon against the china. Only pop, pop, and more popping sound of beer cans opening.
I indulged in the foamy, frothy Kingfisher. “Free”—I chugged down the first and requested for second. The friendly air-hostess asked me if I would like to have two (one down, and two more to go?). She replaced the empty can with two fresh ones. The dew droplets trickled from the sides of the cans (and my mouth).
Law of diminishing marginal utility kicked in and I could barely finish my third can. The ‘prepare for landing’ started blinking. I lunged for the fifth time to the toilet to empty the bladder. The air hostess gave a very disapproving look, pointed out to the ‘fasten your seat belt’ sign and requested me to return to the seat.
“Just a minute, please. I need to go.”
Seated next to me, she frowned as I plopped into my seat. The pressure on the bladder just relived, started building once again. One can never buy a beer; only rent it.
Ten minutes wait stretched. Then the pilot announced:
“The Prime Minister’s aircraft is landing in Bombay; and we will land as soon as our aircraft is cleared.”
A droplet of sweat trickled down my forehead. I ignored another droplet that trickled some other place. Twenty-five minutes of circling around the airport. And the dam was about to burst open.
I glanced furtively to the right, then left, and straight. All in a matter of second or two, I unfastened the seat belt, jumped and rushed to the toilet. The witch yelled and followed me. Locking the door, I released the dam. Forty seconds, fifty seconds, one minute, and counting. The damn dam refused to stop.
“Sir, are you alright? Please respond. Come out right now.”
The pitch changed from politeness to the dictatorial tone. Finishing the business, I returned to my seat. I dared not look anywhere else. I was sure everyone was staring at me. Another air-hostess sat in the aisle seat (I was in the middle), the first one by the window. Then both held on to my hands. I had not said I feared flying; yet both gripped my hands.
Some thirty minutes later, the flight landed. I covered my front-side with the carryon luggage. And vowed NEVER to fly by Damania — “though the beer was free and the pretty air-hostesses held your hands”. It wasn’t worth it.
August 3, 2022