Looking out from 25000+ feet

‘The mountains are Vishnu’s bones, clouds are the hairs on his head, the air is his breathing, rivers are his veins, trees are the hairs of his body, the sun and the moon are his two eyes and the passage of day and night is the moving of his eyelids.’

– Rig Veda

From the time when I boarded an aircraft over a decade ago, have been fascinated by the sights that one comes across from the tiny glass pane up in the sky. It is nothing less than magical to see giant bridges turn into tiny dots, long railways transform into an micro-toy trains and looming sky scrapers mere indentures on the landscape. Even after scores of trips over the Indian map and other ones, I still take the window seat and keep peeping out, as if there is something else that might just come up. Or it could be someone as well, like say, God. After all doesn’t he (she or even it) lives in the heavens. I have been keeping a watch out for him as well, because looking beneath at the wonderful creation that more or less fits on my palm, my belief in his existence is reaffirmed.

To-date, my most memorable journey was the one I took from Mumbai to Newark, non-stop. The American Airlines plane, to cut the route short, flies over Asia and Europe to the North Pole and then descends over the American hemisphere via Canada. I spent hours peering out in the darkness of the North Pole, could somehow feel the chill of the immense block of ice and the moon kept me company in the vigil. The fact that almost a century and more back there were so many valiant explorers who were racing to the find the North Pole to plant a flag. So many perished in the endeavour and so many just disappeared. And here I was their descendant, flying over the Pole in the comfort of a cosy cabin munching on cashews and sipping wine.

Here is one such journey I made, albeit much shorter and in daylight: fromMumbai to Delhi, on Indigo Flt 6E382. As I was looking out of the window as usual, random thoughts kept popping into my mind (as usual again), with a small difference though, this time I had a pen and paper on which I could jot down whatever came to my mind. This post is a chronicle of the same mind that was travelling at 100s of Kms per hour. Here it goes:

  • The captain makes an announcement; “Welcome onboard, we are flying at 37000 feet . The place is near Ahmadabad. It almost seems like am flying over the Indian map.
  • While the speed might be a few hundred kms per hour, it almost seems that the plane is inching over the land at nothing more that 1mm per second. Like time, speed too is relative.
  • In the far reaches, one can spot the infinite blue of the sea that seems to be stretching to the very horizon.
  • Before the vastness of the sea, there are a few narrow blue-grey indenture that snake their way into the vastness of the seas, great rivers that pour out their waters into the salty depths.
  • There are so many green squares that are visible, probably the hardwork of a farmer or few. Nonetheless, the brown squares far outweigh the green ones.
  • Wondering why and how huge cities come to be formed on the shores of great seas, by the side of the sea. In the light of the early morning sun, the land seems patchy, uneven, divided by lines, well-marked rivers or roads- who knows.
  • Sea is black near the coast probably sewage, murky brown ahead and bluish at the far distance. Tiny waves near the shores, all seems to merge in a white light, almost blinding.
  • In the cityscape, can spot quite a handful of towers that aspire to touch the sky and yet reaching nowhere even close to it. Wonder how tall Babel must have been to really have threatened the gods.
  • The temperature outside apparently is -48 °C, to survive in such cold would need a few sweaters and a bottle of rum, nothing less.
  • From above, Gandhinagar looks well organized, in fact much of human development seems to be according to a plan. When we see at the ground level, all looks so crazy and chaotic but from up here everything is peaceful, calm, nice. Probably this is the reason why god seems to be so ignorant and illconcerned, because from up here nothing seems to be wrong.
  • It’s daytime and yet a half crescent moon peeps back at me. We sent  one Chandrayaan to visit the heavenly, wonder when will the time come when an Indian will step on to the lunar soil.
  • There are quite a few well marked canals, among  the thin ever so thin line of silvery white sands.
  • Passing over Gujarat, I wonder if the lions at Sassan Gir would roar back at me if I sent thme a ‘hi’. And there somewhere out in the seas, lies the ancient Dwarka, a place where the blue-skinned Krishna lorded.
  • As we move further inland the brown start to dominate over the greens, seems like Rajasthan is in the offing.
  • Even with trains I tend to stare out the window, or door wherever I can find a spot. Journeying through a train that takes you across the breathtaking landscape is the most fulfilling experience. The different people, culture, foods, views and so are much enthralling.
  • Attendants inside, water for Rs. 25 and sandwich for Rs. 100 and I keep on moving at 1 mm per sec.
  • Brown deserts of Rajasthan, this must be the Thar that have read so often about.
  • The well marked lines disappear no large snaking canals but small irregular water containment reservoirs, the land seems to have merged with the sea as I can’t make a difference. The color is blackish brown, the landscape seems much hostile and less hospitable.
  • Sand dunes, indentures, the Aravali range in the midst of it all, Udaipur the lake city. 2 big lakes and a small island in one of them. There are  1,2 smaller water bodies. From up the city seems to be densely populated, powdery white, mountain lines, not so daunting or huge, dried riverbeds, extending probably to the sea, yellow sandy river, ancient riverbeds, small patches of river…
  • The sand is reflecting the light back, shining in the noon sun..
  • Big water body some big dam, huge complex, well organised, greenish dish, well marked, different  colour, red green, violet, blue purple, small concrete structures that seem like small marks made on a computer motherboard.
  • The moon still there faithfully with us.
  • Tiny micro green dots on browny yellow landscape.
  • Small cities, Can see quite a handful of them.
  • Visibility 1.4 kms, 26°C in Delhi ready descent, mountainous terrain. There are a series of projections like  crumples on velvets, or like creases on a shirt,  or the wrinkled face of an old grandma.
  • The brown was steadily taking on a shade of red as we neared Delhi.
  • Showing fertile lands, the lines return,bwell etched and travelling from nowhere to nowhere had returned again.
  • The white dense patches showing human habitation were increasing in numbers. One could also discern irregular green patches, probably some farmers tiling on his field at the moment or sitting down for some home cooked lunch under a need tree..meanwhile the charmingly lacquered air hostesses are collecting the waste generated by the morning brunch, bottles tissues and rest.
  • As we begin the descent the white patches take on a definitive shape, you can see the buildings, the expressways distinctly with tiny microdots moving on them, blue colored swimming pools, red villas, the terraces, gray painted buildings, rows and rows of houses, thousands of them.

Indeed from up above, the cosmos indeed seems like a manifestation of Vishnu. The chaos, the conundrum, all seems so much frivolous from the top. Imagine if this is how beautiful things seem from a bird’s eye, imagine how amazing it would be from space.

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