Air Hostesses

My memories of the air hostesses of the 1950s

Radha Nair


Radha schooled in the Convent of Jesus and Mary (Delhi) and St. Joseph's Convent (Bombay), and graduated from Lady Shri Ram College (Delhi). She taught English at Women's Polytechnic (Madras and Coimbatore) for six years. Since 2007, she has been a freelance writer for the Hindustan Times (Mumbai), the Deccan Herald (Bangalore), and for the online editions of Outlook Traveller, India Traveller Travelogue, and Mathrabhumi (Calicut). She won the first prize in a short story competition conducted by the Deccan Herald in 2007. She has written many short stories based on her memories of family holidays in Calicut\; one of these was published in Penguin First Proof, 2010.


In the mid-1950s, when I was in my senior school, we were staying at Dhanraj Mahal in Bombay (now Mumbai). At night, after lights out, our rooms would be flooded with the neon blink of Air France, Alitalia, TWA, Qantas, BOAC, and JAL billboards, which were mounted against the walls of our building, all brilliantly lit up. All these international carriers had their offices inside the premises of Dhanraj Mahal.

As I drifted off to sleep, these billboards created their own magical illusions of distant lands. In the mid-50s, air travel was possible only for the affluent few. But for the less fortunate, the sense of wonder which flying created was reinforced by each of these billboards.

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