It was a new high in their otherwise drab lives being the inmates of a children’s welfare home. Teenagers Pooja and Shubham were among the passengers who boarded the first flight from Shimla to Delhi under the UDAN scheme launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.
Pooja (15) stays at Bal Ashram, Tutikandi in Shimla, and Shubham (14) at Bal Ashram, Arki in Solan. The selection for the inaugural flight came as a big surprise to them and during their short visit to the national capital, they got to see the PM from a close range, visited the Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate. The children came back to Shimla on Friday morning.
Both were taken by surprise when the wardens told them about their air travel. “I thought the warden must be kidding,” Pooja, a student of Class 11 at government school in Phagli near Shimla, told HT over telephone. Shubham, who studies in Class 9 at Government Senior Secondary School, Arki, said, “I was shocked. It took me one full day to believe that I am actually going to Delhi in a plane.”
“I always wanted to travel by air but never thought that the dream will come true so early,” Pooja said, adding, “We visited Rashtrapati Bhawan and clicked pictures.”
This was their first outing outside the state. “I have read about Delhi and always wanted to visit the capital,” Shubham says. Pooja wants to visit all historical places as history is her favourite subject. “I will study hard and achieve something so that I can visit all places that figure in my history books,” she said.
“I got scared when the plane took off, but did not tell anyone how I was feeling,” Shubham said. “I was terrified when plane started landing and heaved a sigh of relief when it touched down,” Pooja said.
The crew showed them every corner of the plane. “We saw the cabin where the pilot sits,” Pooja said. Before takeoff, when airhostess asked the passengers to switch off phones, Pooja wanted to know why. “An airhostess told me that cockpit machinery may get disrupted due to the phone signals,” Pooja told HT.
Director, woman-child and development Manasi Sahay Thakur said the decision to bring on board the children was taken at a meeting about the inaugural flight of the UDAN scheme. “I am told children are excited. It was a good exposure visit for them,” she said.