Ok so I thought I would be blogging about something cheerful, but fate has it that I am waiting endlessly at an airport and there is nothing cheerful about it, apart from free wireless. I’ve been here for the past 3 hours waiting for the aircraft to grace us with its presence. The airline is offering us a pittance of a complimentary “meal” comprising of a squishy Chicken Puff, a desperate looking cookie that’s neither chocolate chip, nor oat, honey or any other known cookie… material.
But there are two upsides to this situation:
1) A little budget airline that does not even offer food in the flight is making an effort to do some service recovery by providing this snack
2) I am technically now “traveling”. It’s a lot more romantic to be writing from an airport, even if it is the New Delhi airport.
I’ve been looking forward to this 4-day respite even though traveling to attend weddings typically deviates from my preferred travel schedule of no schedule. However, before that begins, it seems I’m stuck at the airport for an endless wait – but if you think about it, being stranded at an airport is in fact an important part of travel.
There is nothing pretty about an airport. As Douglas Adams once said, “It’s no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase ‘As pretty as an airport” appear’”. But still, a true traveler can find some beauty in them , if for nothing else then just because of the time spent there when en route. I think there must be something called The Airport Memoirs. Think about it – they’re such tangible representations of departure and arrival, movement and transition. Whenever I arrive at an airport, I feel like something important is going to happen. And so I tend to get all nostalgic and reflective; often not really discovering anything except that I’ve forgotten to pack an important item 😐
I have a habit of arriving at airports late…for various reasons. I’ve been late because I had to eat my last Pau Bhaji at Mumbai airport, or because I wrongly booked flights and had to board the plane straight from the venue of a friends wedding, resembling a runaway bride myself. My arrivals on the other hand are fairly slow and measured, wondering what to do next. I wonder if this has a deeper meaning into my personality – I take flight haphazardly, impulsively, hurriedly, but take a while to arrive…? That’s probably best unexplored
Over the years, airports have become little worlds in themselves – what with the shopping gallerias and food spreads. But still, my favorite thing to do at an airport remains people watching. I enjoy people watching in general, but the airport is a particularly good environment for this activity. It’s a microcosm of the different personalities in the world…the irritable mothers with noisy kids or happy mothers with well-behaved ones, business travelers, chatty teenagers, grandpas and grandmas intimidated by the escalators. So much energy in one spot – traveling during festivals makes it even more contagious with exuberant conversations, skippy steps, and relaxed napping passengers.
I also enjoy chatting up with complete strangers sometimes. Like the girl from Harvard Law School at the San Francisco airport who introduced me to my first “green beer” as we traveled together on St. Patrick’s day (Irish day, hence the green). She explained that the green beer had no genesis in Ireland and nothing to do with Irish Day, but completely founded by Americans who decided to make the day just another excuse to drink…and so I fell in love with the homegrown world-famous-in-America traditions all over again.
And then there was the time when I met an Indian, who was, for the lack of a better term, everything-phobic. My judgment went wrong on interesting looking strangers – he was interesting in that he did not really enjoy travel, did not like sleeping in hotels, did not enjoy sleeping in a bed that wasn’t his, did not like take-out food, could-not holiday for over a week…you get the picture. But it’s always enlightening to meet different kinds of people and the airport is the perfect place for diversity in one spot.
Then there are the quiet flights too when you have unadulterated time to yourself like today. A sobering sense of belonging and flight at the same time…it’s probably why so many movies have been made with airport plots – The Terminal, Up In the Air, etc. Also why dramatic sequences tend to be shot at airports. Taking flight is not a phrase for no reason…flying to places is sometimes like that, when the airplane is just a funnel through which you arrive on the other side and cross over…the airport in that sense is preparation of the flight. Sometimes chaotic, maybe reflective, exciting…often acting as nesting places for complicated emotions such as sorrow and pain if you’re separating from someone or leaving important things behind; or as hosts of excitement, thrill and positivity expected from the destination of the next flight…