Au Revoir

Modern air travel has always fascinated me, the entire process from origin to destination is one that fills me with wonder. From the moment I see the sign that tells me that the airport is just around the corner, I begin to feel a sense of anticipation and an excitement I cannot explain. I reach the departures terminal and join the queue that wishes to enter this building. A stern looking sentry stops me to check that I have that vital piece of paper that will allow me entry into this sacred lair. Not satisfied with just the piece of paper, he asks for identification; having duly proved to him that I am who I claim to be, I enter.

The difference in atmosphere from outside to in is almost tangible; outside it is harsh, bright and uncertain while on the inside the muted lighting, the smiling faces and the welcoming voices all spell comfort and warmth. I approach the clerk at the check in counter and he smilingly informs me that my flight is on schedule. I place my check in luggage on the conveyor belt, someone slaps a sticker on it and it slowly disappears behind a plastic curtain. I collect my boarding pass and baggage tag and head towards security check. Laptop goes into the box and through the scanner and the bag follows. The human baggage all passes through the scanner and is reunited with their possessions on the other side.

And then freedom, an entire expanse of the terminal for me to explore until such time the flight is called. I stroll around, glancing at all the shops with their shiny glass windows and colourful displays wondering who exactly does shop at the airport. The food joints are a different story, almost every table has occupants who are engrossed in their newspapers or laptops with a coffee cup by their side. I spend the time alternating between reading and observing the scene around.

The view from the upper floor where I sat was breathtaking, the entire airport stretched out before me, an ocean of space in the middle of the crowded city. The scenery inside was amusing as well, people rushing around, looking flustered and not really being able to settle down in one place for a minute. Somehow I think the feeling that this is something of their lives that they cannot control, gives them a reason for anxiety. They are completely dependent on the authorities to tell them what to do and where to go and that unsettles them. I have seen very few people who are relaxed in an airport. Children are the only ones who make the most of the situation, running around wherever they please.

But anyway I digress, the flight is announced, the people form a queue to board, anxious once again as if the plane would deliberately take off without them if they didn’t rush. I board the plane and find my seat, a relatively easy task for me; being so short that I neither have the problem of bumping my head on the overhead bins nor of being cramped in my seat with no space for my legs :P. Having settled in, I find that I am able to continue with my reading while all the pre-boarding commotion plays on like background music. At last it is time for the flight to take wings, the roar of the engine fills the aircraft, images rush by and everything begins to shake and suddenly we’re in the air. The city below gets smaller and smaller until you can see no more than a haze of clouds.

Inside the aircraft, things have settled down and the flight crew is busy handing out refreshments and all is well in the world. Very soon, the empty containers are cleared away and there is a peaceful silence on board; people reading, listening to music or just dozing. Before you know it, it is time to land, seat belts on, seats upright and tray tables folded away. Emerging from the cloud cover the city comes into view and slowly gets bigger and bigger as the aircraft descends. It gets closer and closer when finally with a thump, it touches down. Even before the aircraft has come to a complete standstill, there is a rush of people standing in the aisles and getting their luggage out of the overhead bins. The sounds of cell phones being switched on are heard all around. Here again people are as anxious to get off as they had been to get on. I wait my turn, pick up my luggage and smiling at the flight crew exit the plane.

A bus awaits below to ferry passengers to the terminal. Arriving there, there is another rush for collecting the bags from the giant conveyor belts and then out into the open air, turning my back to the magic of the airport. There is a throng of expectant faces outside which light up on seeing the one that they have been looking out for. I find my cab, place my bags inside and seat myself and take one last look at the airport before we pull away from the kerb. Until next time then..

Cheers!

Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone

Chennai Diaries

I heard a lot about Chennai before I went there. The heat would be unbearable, the roads would be narrow, the language would be a problem and that all in all it would be an unpleasant experience. Well I decided to ignore everything that everyone said and go and see for myself and basically had an amazing time. The heat was more or less the same as Bombay, in fact the area where I was staying which is in the outskirts of the city near the IIT-M campus was actually very pleasant and the view from the hotel was breathtaking. The narrow roads weren’t really a problem and I quite liked them, flyovers and highways are way over rated. And well when it came to language, since the basic left, right, straight and stop are the same everywhere it was easy to manage travel and in most places and in most cases English is understood in any case. I can’t say I explored much but the places I did go to were heavenly. Besant Nagar beach in the morning is absolutely beautiful, from a distance the sea actually looks blue and green not muddy brown like in most other places. With the bright sunshine and cool breeze, it is the best place to laze around on a Saturday morning especially after a delicious breakfast at Chennai’s famous Murugan Idli. It’s a very colourful city, that’s what struck me the most about the place, the plethora of colours that are everywhere around you. I brought back some of the colours with me, beaded necklaces, earrings and bracelets which will forever remind me of Chennai. With a lot of help from my friend, I also explored the areas of Khadar Nawas Khan and Adyar and amazing choices of food places. A place called Cream and Fudge especially caught my fancy with their amazing choice of desserts. I has something called a strawberry shortcake which isn’t actually a cake but a delightful combination of ice cream, pie filling and caramel and spent the rest of the day in a sugar induced high and then vowed henceforth never to go without sweets again (There is a half empty tub of Baskin Robbins ice cream in my freezer as we speak :P). Another thing I enjoyed there was the solitude I found, away from my regular life, alone at the end of the day; it gave me a lot of time to think and reflect on my life. Everybody needs that sometimes I feel and I certainly found it in Chennai and I will always treasure the time that I spent there and I do hope we meet again.

Cheers!

Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone

Like A Sunrise…

What was so amazing about the falling rain? That all lovers claimed that the monsoons were the most romantic season of the year? He hated it, the rain, the water logging, the slush, the endless traffic jams, the humidity and the stench that enveloped the entire city like a hangman’s noose. Accidentally stepping into a puddle and losing his footing, he cursed the universe in general and trudged along, still a long way from home thanks to the auto rickshaw breaking down. As if on cue, he spotted a couple walking along hand in hand blissfully getting drenched in the downpour and seeming not to have a care in the world. Disgusted, he changed direction and decided to pay a visit to an old friend, she would certainly cheer him up he thought and quickened his pace as much as his heavy backpack and umbrella would allow. Reaching his destination, he rang the doorbell and waited. She opened the door, took one look at his face and just silently waited for him to stomp in and flop down on the sofa, he would take care to discard the dripping shoes at the door since that was the only thing she was particular about but that was about it. He sat down, laid his head back and closed his eyes and just felt grateful that she would understand without him having said a word that he had had a crappy day and was in no mood to discuss it, she would pry it out of him anyway but that would be later. He listened to the sounds of her moving about in the kitchen and knew instinctively that the food cooking would be delicious, and she would somehow have managed to make enough for two. He was content for the moment to just sit there and let the tiredness of the day drain out of him. She on her part continued with her chores without paying him any mind, she knew him only too well to recognize the ‘had a bad day, don’t want to talk about it’ face so she let him be, for now that is. He was as predictable as an alarm clock which meant that in exactly 20 minutes he would be recharged, restless and getting in her way, asking about the food. She smiled at the thought, the man still behaved like a child sometimes, and added more ingredients to the sizzling pan. The 20 minutes having duly passed, he decided he had rested enough and rose to come and stand at the kitchen doorway. Perfect timing, she thought, just as the pressure cooker gave its final whistle, and asked him if he was hungry. The slow nod told her that today must have been more tiring than most, she would take extra care to see that he cheered up before he left. They sat down to dinner and the silence with bits of conversation thrown in was comforting, these were old friends, there was no need for the pomp and show that was reserved for the outside world. Eventually, he wasn’t quite sure how, he got around to telling her about his day and the incidents that led to him arriving at her doorstep. She suppressed a smile, he would always do that, insist on explaining why he came over, it wasn’t often but it wasn’t a rare spectacle either but he would always explain himself as if in a court of law. He for his part knew that she was listening to everything and in her head disagreeing with quite a few things but wouldn’t say a word till he had had his say. Then they would clear away the dishes and sit down on the sofa and talk about everything under the sun. From interesting bits of conversation, to news about mutual friends, to world politics and business, to books and music and then back again to how the day had been. By and by, he would get up to leave when they would exchange a hug and he would thank her for making his day better and she would just smile tell him to sleep well so that it would be a better day tomorrow. In all that time if he ever even fleetingly thought of her as anything more than just a friend he dismissed it as impossible. She was a romantic, and he a pragmatist, they would never be right for each other. At the time he wasn’t to know that one day they would find that they were perfect for each other for just those reasons, that they wouldn’t be able to imagine life without one another. It had been like watching a sunrise, the journey from darkness to light was so gradual that you didn’t notice the change until it was broad daylight. He took in a deep breath as he watched the sun rise from the east and turning back towards the house, saw her standing at the door smiling at him and he knew that she too was thinking back to those days of shared laughter and conversations late into the night. He walked towards her and back into the house, the same place where their story had once begun…

Promises

There is dialogue from the movie ‘Shall We Dance’ that I really love. It goes like this:

We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’

Its an extraordinary thought and never fails to bring a smile to my face. Because really if you go to see, all the other things in a marriage can be found even without being married. But it would be very difficult to find someone to be your witness for life without having that kind of promise from them. Very simply sums up the idea of a marriage.

Cheers!