Reading Jessica Helfland’s post on Design Observer today, "Oui, Oui, Oui, all the way home" brought back powerful memories of my own first flight. It wasn’t the first flight out, we left Calcutta on Christmas Eve, 1970, for Kuala Lumpur, West Malaya, as it was known then. I remember learning to remember to right Malaysia, the country’s new name.
My first flight was in late November or early December of 1972. For it was done solo. I was not yet 7 years old. I was the only passenger on that midnight flight on British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) as British Airways was known then, from KL to Calcutta. So my memories of that night consist of always being surrounded by cooing air hostesses and feeling very frightened and all alone.
I had just gotten my very first passport. I still have it. Yet another message ingrained in me since childhood. "Don’t lose your passport. It’s a very important document as a foreigner in a country." I also have a WHO document that had detailed information about my health and the shots I had to take to travel into India. Cholera and polio are the two that I recall. For later, that year, in Calcutta, I had two bouts of typhoid.
That year away from my parents was the beginning of who I am, I think, as my memories of having a clear sense of self are fuzzier before that.