Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mandakalli Airport and some memories

Writing this on Vijayadashami 2010 of what they also arguably call as 400th Dasara.  The famous procession went on, as we planned a visit on scooter in the opposite direction, to Mandakalli.  

Will take you to Mandakalli in a while.  Be patient, there is lot of rush!

Hundreds of village folk alighted in front of our gate which was a virtual bus stand (one off arrangement by the traffic cops).  They had made a mess as is their wont, but some heavy rain in the evening cleaned things up saving our municipality (corporation) from cleaning.  It usually rains on this particular day every year with near-precise timing as per the Almanac which is published annually (Vontikoppal Panchanga).  As such people who are aware of it carry an umbrella with the when they go to witness the Dasara Procession.  

Now to Mandakalli.  Pushing my scooter (not the one seen above) out of the gate amidst a forest of village folk - men, ladies and kids and a fleet of buses adding to blockage, I started journey with my two pillions. 

My first visit to Mandakalli was around 1972.  We could not measure the distance from our house then. Now our scooter odometer did it.  It is 12 kms.  Now I know that our group then bicycled that far and back and never felt tired!!  Scroll mid way into this blogpost to read a few lines where I have reminisced that 'adventure'.  

Now, going on the same route on my scooter brought back memories of that adventure.  Road is so so and also narrowish to cope with such heavy and ever increasing traffic and we hear of many accidents on that road (Mysore-Nanjangud) often.  So I kept left, like these buffaloes and reached safely!

I remember in 1972 that there was just one or two small rooms at that "Mandakalli Aerodrome" as it was called then.  My friend Capt.Anup Murthy gives a more vivid picture of that place in his blog of how it was.  We were not allowed inside by those one or two persons present there.

When we were young, we were thrilled to see airplanes flying in Mysore which was usually during Dasara. As soon as we heard the roar from the sky, we would scamper out and look up where it was. Those flights were for joy-rides over the city.  Once my late uncle was to board one such flight at Mandakalli, but was held back to go on the next round.  As luck would have it, that particular flight encountered a snag and a serious accident was averted in the form of a small crash.  And with it also crashed my uncle's dream of flying!  

My grandfather used to boast that he had flown once from Mysore to Bangalore in the 1940s or so when someone took him there in a small plane - his only flight.  We were hearing these stories with gaped mouths.  He used to say he reached Bangalore in 20 minutes which in itself was a great thing.  Steam-engine trains took almost 4 hours and road journey was no less.

Flying in an airplane was a very distant dream.  But suddenly our govt. gave opportunities to promote tourism in certain areas.  So there were were, sitting in an aircraft for the first time two years ago, a 'dream' was being fulfiled!   

Also during Dasara time, some Circus companies used to drop pamphlets from the air to advertise themselves.  Those small aircrafts were coming from Mandakalli and we wondered where that airstrip is (in the 60s). It was a sight to behold, when we spotted the plane and then pieces of paper wafting in a zig-zag movement as they came down.  We could not reach them as they fell scattered out of our reach in some other locality! It was fun, anyway.

Amidst much dilly-dallying and numerous hurdles, an Airport has been "finally" opened (actually it was inaugurated 2-3 times!!) and some real activity is going on.  Hopefully they continue beyond Dasara.  We went to see how it is and even got to see a Bangalore flight from a distance take position on the tarmac.  The Chamundi Hill provides a lovely backdrop but some experts say the hill is a hindrance to air safety and the location of the strip itself is not very suitable.  Today, we looked at it the same way when the first shopping mall came up in the city! 

Mysore is on the air map and Mandakalli has changed over the years.  Land value in its vicinity have shot up (only methinks) but some say that they are also endangered because the AAI (Airport Authority of India) may 'grab' in future when they expand.. But this is only hearsay.  

 When we often traveled to Nanjangud by taxi in the 60s, the first thing I used to notice as soon as my grandfather pointed out that we are passing Mandakalli Aerodrome, was the air sock wobbling in the wind.  It was clearly visible in the field then, at some distance.  When I saw this today, I 'nostalgiated'. 

They have a nice airport with shiny glass and floor like this:

... but the one thing I did not like is this:  Dumped and uncleared garbage. They have chosen this nice corner!

 I'm sure they will get rid of this habit and also systematize its clearance properly. 

Let Mysore soar!


Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Well done Dinu, it looks nice and I do hope the commercial flights continue and don't end up like it did when Vayudhoot operated ever so briefly in early 1980's. Glider flight training in the early 80's brings back memories of this airstrips, the first place that gave me the opportunity to earn my wings. Thanks also for the link to my blog!

Sury said...

Thank you sir. I recollect the good old days in the 70s when we used to fly gliders on this airstrip....