Over the past few months, an innocuous but interesting pastime has gripped the citizenry of Bihar’s cultural capital — Darbhanga. It’s laying bets on how many passengers will travel through the seven-and-half month old airport in the city.
Ever since the first civilian passenger aircraft landed at the Darbhanga airport on November 8 last year, the passenger count, and the number of flights, has been steadily rising. Today, it is one the fastest growing airports in the country.
Darbhanga airport, which belongs to the Indian Air Force (IAF), got on the country’s air map with a SpiceJet flight from Bengaluru landing on that winter afternoon. According to the current month’s schedule (see this), 20 flights to and from six cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad — operate out of Darbhanga.
And the passenger count (arrivals and departures) varies between 1,700 and over 2,800; it was 2,319 on Sunday (July 25), 2,458 on Saturday (July 24), 1,725 on July 22 and 2,855 (the highest daily count so far) on July 18.
Many, cutting across all ages and communities, sportingly bet on what will be the passenger count the following day. There are many WhatsApp groups dedicated to this ‘betting’ which, say residents of this seat of culture and education, is innocuous and never involves any money.
But that aside, the operationalisation of Darbhanga airport has changed lives and lifestyles of innumerable people in Mithilanchal and even beyond, including neighbouring Nepal.