Gutsy granny takes a chopper ride on her 102nd birthday

Vithabai Patil flew over Mumbai for a 10-minute joyride with her family; her next aim: a seaplane ride to Lonavala

The next time you want to have a birthday experience that lifts your spirits — figuratively and literally — take a cue from Thane resident Vithabai Patil. On Saturday, the 102-year-old took a helicopter tour of Mumbai with her grandson, daughter-in-law and her daughter-in-law’s mother.

This was the first time Vithabai was flying but she showed no sign of nerves
This was the first time Vithabai was flying but she showed no sign of nerves

Vithabai, who always wanted to experience flying, was granted the wish by her son Sharad, a Thane-based businessman. “My father gave the trip as a birthday gift to my grandmother. He would have accompanied her himself but could not do so because he was working. Her birthday was in February, we could not manage to go at that time, so this gift came a little late,” said Amol, her grandson.

Vithabai (left) was flying for the first time in her life. (Right) Her daughter-in-law’s mother Shitabai (75)
Vithabai (left) was flying for the first time in her life. (Right) Her daughter-in-law’s mother Shitabai (75)

Vithabai is a mother of 14. Six of them survive today. She is still active and visits a temple near her home daily. She even cooks her own food. Her family says she is completely independent and uses the stairs of the three-storey building her family owns in Thane (east). A thirst for adventure is part of Vithabai’s personality. “When she was 85-plus, my grandmother went to Jejuri (in Maharashtra) for a pilgrimage where she walked all by herself and obtained Khandoba’s darshan,” said Amol, who works for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

Vithabai Patil (with a walking stick) with her family
Vithabai Patil (with a walking stick) with her family

Enjoyed the view
“The experience of flying was wonderful. When the helicopter tilted, I was scared for a while. But I enjoyed seeing the view from the top,” said the thrilled centenarian. Next up for her is the Mumbai to Lonavala seaplane ride, says her grandson. Incidentally, Vithabai has never taken a commercial flight before.

Shobha Patil, her daughter-in-law who accompanied her on the trip said, “My mother and my mother-in-law were very excited about the trip. They did not get scared even once. We went at around 3 pm, when the sun was nice and bright. The marvel of having the sun so close and the beauty of Mumbai made her very happy as she had never seen some parts, especially the Metro and Bandra-Worli Sealink.”

Shobha’s mother Shitabai Patil (75) who was also with them said she was inspired looking at Vithabai. “She was a real sport which gave me more courage to join them on this helicopter adventure,” she said. Amol added, “My grandmother was awed by the Pagoda, Essel World and the Gorai area which she had always heard about. My wife is from Malad and the helicopter took us so close to her building, which made my grandmother very excited.”

Heli-tourism for seniors
For the ride, the Patils availed a special offer on in the last week, where tickets were available for Rs 3,000 per person. Paraag Jaiin Nainuttia, Managing Director of MTDC said, “Sarita Aswani (60) celebrated her birthday as she became a senior citizen by being among the first to enjoy a 10-minute helicopter ride over Mumbai. On Saturday, Vithabai enjoyed the experience, proving that senior citizens are a valuable part of the travel and tourism business. Heli-tourism in Maharashtra has opened up a world of new possibilities for travellers.” The only addition made for the sprightly Vithabai, was a stool to enable her to board the chopper.

Sanjay Kumar, General Manager of the western region of Pawan Hans called Vithabai a ‘daredevil’, “It is a great feeling for us to make a 100-year-old’s dream of flying come true. Many people are using these [rides] as birthday gifts to loved ones.” Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation’s (MTDC) Heli-tourism initiative, in association with Pawan Hans was launched in January this year and has seen many Mumbaikars avail of the joyrides in the past few months.

Vithabai’s recipe for a long life
>> Early risers, live longer. You can schedule chores better, you never run out of time and hence, less stress.
>> Do Your Own Thing (DYOT) philosophy: All chores should be done independently, without help from others. 
>> Take all prescribed medications on time and without excuses of ‘I was too busy’ or ‘I forgot.”
>> Zest for life: Never lose your sense of adventure or humour.

MTDC’s Heli-tourism
>> The services are from 10 am to 4 pm every day at Rs 3,200 per person for a 10-minute flight.
>> A valid identity document is needed and bookings can be done online or on at the Pawan Hans Aerodrome at Juhu Vile Parle from where the service is run.

Rs 3,000
Cost of the ride

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