When panda eyes are worth it!


The arms of the clock in our living room are inching towards 6 p.m. And that’s our deadline to leave home for the airport.

I am a spinning top, as I check and double check the gas, lights, fans, aircons, windows, doors and the hundred other things that one needs to do. I also know that the moment I board the taxi, paranoia will hijack my rational thinking process, and will force me to keep asking myself if I had switched off the lights in the bathroom before locking the door, and many such things!

It takes a while for the paranoia to be replaced by a sense of calm. We soon reach the airport, unload our suitcases, check-in and head towards our boarding gate.

We go through baggage screening and security checks. Finally, we can all sit and relax. Each of us is busy, sucked into our smartphone screens or the pages of a book.

People are walking up and down, babies are crying and it is business as usual, the scene similar to the one at every boarding gate.

Suddenly, a voice on the intercom announces that our flight has been delayed by an hour and a half; and that we have to board the flight from another gate.

Many many groans and whines and grimaces later, all of us move at a snail’s pace to the new boarding gate. We repeat baggage screening and security, and wait.

Image courtesy – iStockphotos.com

The flight is uneventful. I drift in and out of sleep, aching to stretch my body.

Soon the pilot announces that there is air traffic congestion, and that our landing would be delayed. Sigh!!!!

When we finally land, we realize that three other flights have also landed at the same time. The queue for immigration snakes beyond the dividers used to guide the queue.

We walk, bleary eyed, in an S-shape, right and left. The line is moving, albeit slowly. I watch people. Some are glued to their phones, some are staring ahead at some point directly in front of them, some are having animated conversations about the merits and demerits of a particular model of smartphone. A small boy drags a small suitcase with a cartoon character on it.

As we move left, we meet the same people again, as they move right. We do this so many times that these people start looking familiar. At some point, the little boy with the suitcase lets out a rebellious wail. He sits on his suitcase and refuses to move. He has had enough of this late night adventure!!! His dad lifts him up and places him on his shoulder. The boy smiles, his old irritation forgotten, so quickly replaced by another new adventure.

And, finally we are at the carousel, where our bags are already on the belt, moving lazily at this unearthly hour. We haul them on to our trolleys, and walk out to the taxi stand.

Our eyes close involuntarily as the taxi leaves the airport, taking us to meet our loved ones.

As we drink cups of hot filter coffee, and catch up with family, we concur that all the pain and panda eyes were totally worth it!

The lost suitcase


My friend and I recently took a domestic flight in India, to attend the silver wedding anniversary celebrations of one of our very dear friends.

Each of us had checked-in a small suitcase. The flight was a short one, and before we knew it, we were at the luggage carousel, waiting for our bags to arrive.

Mine was one of the first few to arrive. Fifteen minutes later, my friend was still waiting for her bag. By then, most people had taken their bags and left the airport.

We barely noticed all this, as we chatted on. My friend had her eye on the carousel, but there was no sign of her suitcase.  It took us a while to realize that we were the only ones left and that there was only one black suitcase going around on the carousel. My friend was really worried and we started talking about how we would register a complaint. The more worrying part was that the clothes for the party were gone now.

As we walked towards the customer service counter, it suddenly hit my friend that the black suitcase was actually hers. She had started packing in a red suitcase , but had shifted to the black one later. But the image of the red suitcase had stayed with her!

So, looking sheepish, she ran and picked up her suitcase. We had a good laugh!

Late night flight


Our flight is at 11.50 p.m. We leave home at 9 p.m. to avoid the heavy Friday evening traffic.

After check-in and immigration we walk around in the duty free area, looking at beautiful displays of cosmetics. There are chocolates, perfumes, books, bags and all kinds of stuff. Branded, every single item, branded.

Beautiful models stare at us from the posters, looking at our red and bleary eyes.

I look around me, am I the only sleepy one here? Lots of people seem to be walking energetically, laughing and talking.

We plod towards the departure gate for security checking and finally to board.

The flight is cold, I snuggle into the blanket. People are watching movies all around me, there is the ‘standard baby who cries’ through the night, probably with ear block.

Can’t rest my hand. Both my kids are sprawled on my lap, deep in nod land, as I struggle to move. Periodically I set them upright. I let my guard down and the two are back, jostling for the most comfortable position.

I nod off unbeknowst to myself. I wake up and realize that a mere 20 minutes have passed.

I am green with envy as I see the man across the aisle, fast asleep;  the woman in front of me is in splits as she watches a romcom, another man is working away on his laptop.

The stewardesses walk up and down the aisle, attending to passenger requests. I perk up a little bit when I look at the duty free magazine, lost in my mental shopping for a few minutes.

I need to stand up and stretch. No such luck.

Finally after what seems like eternity, we land…but it’s not over. Disembark and walk, hundreds of weary people plodding-on at this unearthly hour. Immigration done, and now at the luggage carousel.

The bags look tired too, as they slowly snake down. Brown bags, black suitcases, purple, whites, greens…no sign of our bags.

Finally, they arrive. We load them on the trolley and head to the taxi stand; another long wait before we reach our destination.

Bliss, the ability to stretch and bend. The joy of having a hot cup of aromatic coffee.

Back on land…till the next flight.

Airport Persona


After an hour-long drive, the taxi driver drops me off at the airport. It is 10 pm and my flight is only at 1.30 a.m. I resign myself to this long wait.

I am not an airport person at all. The cold gets to me.  I am already wrapped up in my ‘goes-with-me-everywhere’ shawl.  I finish all the formalities and settle down to wait.

I am a silent observer now. I watch and categorize the people in the airport.

The ‘talkers’, who are talking non-stop into their phones.

The ‘earphoners’,  with earphones that look like extensions of their body, gently moving their head or tapping their feet.

Then there are the ‘oblivious’. Fully stretched out and deep in sleep..(what if they miss the announcement for their flights or don’t hear the alarm?)

The ‘duty free shoppers’, who do the rounds of all the shops till their flight is called.

The ‘hassled moms’ who are managing cranky kids or high-energy toddlers, who run around the airport.

The ‘corporates’ – men and women in formals, still working away on their laptops, signing major deals, and so busy at this unearthly hour.

Then the ‘models’ – women who look so well-groomed and fresh despite the lateness of the hour. How do they manage it?

Then there are the ‘readers’ – who scour the bookshops in the airport or who take out books from their hand bags & read till they land at their destination.

Then the ‘coffee & tea’ drinkers – at the coffee shops – busy sipping and enjoying themselves.

Then the ‘pacers’, who can’t seem to sit still. They pace up and down.

Don’t know which group I fall under – maybe a ‘reader’ sometimes & ‘coffee drinker’ sometimes, ‘duty free shopper’ too maybe, but never a ‘model’. Would love to be in the ‘oblivious’ group but am too paranoid about missing my flight. Imagine enduring another day in the airport!

For now, I am frozen and wishing I could be back home, stretched out in the comfort of my bed.

Sigh…52 minutes more.