Saturday, November 19, 2005
I used to often think of airports as having an exotic atmosphere, as being a door to the mysterious, the unknown. A single step into that great silvery bird known as a plane would transport you thousands of miles away into strange and wonderful lands you had never even dreamt of.
I think differently now and am beginning to be aware of how very dull and soulless an airport can be. On our way to Goa for example, I watch the people around me in the departure lounge. There is something earthshakingly blank about their expressions. Men and women slump back in upholstered chairs, reading, listlessly playing with their mobiles. I watch a couple - he taking big bites out of a dry looking (typical airport) hamburger, she tucking into a packet of potato chips while their two kids run around the lounge, involved in some sort of chasing game.
A man holds a monologue on his cell phone, another out of sheer boredom toys with his. A foreign woman frowning over a magazine, nibbles at a chocolate bar while her friend, peers over her shoulder and tries to read alongside. An Indian woman deep into a novel by Jeffrey Archer smiles as she reads. An elderly woman, in a blue sari, crinkly white hair and a sensible looking face (whom Jyotsna and I both think looks familiar), settles down on the chair opposite mine, fishes out a paperback from her capacious and sensible looking bag and pores over it. The kids tearing around are the only ones to show any signs of life.
The two foreign women turn out to be German. One of them takes out a couple of foreign looking bottles of some orange drink from her rucksack and they both sip at it. Jyotsna says to me, “Doesn't she (the one on the right) look horrid?” Well I don’t know. I tell Jyotsna that she just looks terribly disapproving and at the same time foxed by her surroundings, as indeed many visitors from abroad tend to do.
As usual there is a stampede to get on and off the aircraft. As if the plane might take off the way a bus does, the moment it is full. Seconds after the aircraft has landed the aisle is crammed with passengers reaching for their bags on the overhead racks and twisting and turning their heads to see if they can spot the quickest way out. The man next to me seeing me lean back impassively in my seat waiting for the rest of the passengers to clear off, impatiently taps his fingers on the back of his seat as if telling me to get off my ass and get going. I continue to sit and watch the rest of the crowd and just wait.
Finally we’re at the baggage section, we collect our luggage and it is a relief to step into the open and to recognise the office driver who has come to meet us, who goes and fetches the car as soon as he sees us trundling our trolley full of bags down the ramp. Our holiday is about to begin!
Group website: www.basicindia.net