At 102 years of age, Kuppathaal thought she would never enjoy the experience of a plane journey. But this Saturday, she was part of a 115-strong group of senior citizens from Tamil Nadu's Devarayanpalayam village who took their first ever flight. Thanks to two entrepreneurs from the village, the group of 115 people flew from Coimbatore to Chennai, as the first leg of a tour of the state planned for them.
The group, mostly comprising women workers in the textile industry, is also being taken to temples and a mosque at Kancheepuram, Tiruvannamalai and Vellore on their way back by bus, making it a pilgrimage of sorts.
Kuppathaal is the eldest in the group. "The plane ride was beautiful. I enjoyed. They took care of me very well," she told NDTV.
For most of the people in the group, the plane journey was a dream come true. "I never imagined I'd travel in a plane in my lifetime. Most of us have not even travelled by train," 57-year-old G Valliammal said. For 63-year-old Saraswathi, the journey was a memory she said she will keep forever. "For years I've been only looking at the sky whenever a plane passed by. This will be an unforgettable memory for me," she said.
M Ravi, one of the two sponsors of the trip, said the idea to fly his fellow villagers came to him after his first flight to Kolkata five years ago for a business visit. With every flight he took since, the idea only grew stronger in his mind, he told NDTV. "My late father was so fond of the people and he had done a lot for them. I wanted to take the legacy forward," he said. When the other sponsor, a textiles merchant who chose to remain anonymous, came forward to share his costs, the plan developed fast in his head and he soon made it into reality.
"There is joy in making others happy. That's what I've done. All are like my family. We are not going to take our wealth anywhere after this life," the businessman said.