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!

Not a gram more, not a gram less


My annual trip to India is coming to a close, and we are heading home tonight.  I am seated on the floor cross-legged, with many suitcases for company. I have shopped without remorse, like there’s no tomorrow.  This gluttony repeats itself every year, as I justify to anyone who cares to listen that I visit only once a year, and hence need to shop this much!!

The shopping has piled up like a bonfire mound.  I am trying to sort it out and pack intelligently.  My husband walks in and I can sense an argument brewing.

He asks me to remove the tags from all the clothes, as they may unnecessarily add to the weight.  I nod, and go snip snip.  Each dress has many tags, one with the price, one with extra buttons, one with the brand, one which assures you of quality.  Soon, another pile builds up.

My daughter walks in and looks at the tags, and announces that she will start a tag collection.

I start packing, my husband watches, hawk-like.  He keeps reminding me that we are only allowed 20 kg per person as check-in baggage.  What’s in the shopping pile looks like 100 kg at least!

We are four, so 80 kg should go through.  I have my books, I cannot leave those, I cannot leave anything that I have bought.

I pack and unpack, clothes and footwear, pickles and powders, books and more books, clothes for the children, books for the children….I am slowly losing it.

Somehow I fit it all in.  Now the real fun starts.  My husband brings the weighing scale and starts weighing.  I play assistant and note down the weights:

Big blue bag – 23 kg

Big Brown suitcase – 25 kg

Small brown suitcase – 21 kg

Black bag – 26 kg

My husband starts removing stuff that he thinks I will not require.  I am frantic, I am unable to choose, I absolutely need those things.  I hop about as he asks me if I plan to open a clothes franchise, when I get home.

All the surplus luggage gets into the hand baggage.  He mercilessly removes my precious books. When he is not looking, I stuff 3 books into my tote.  My daughter walks in with her neatly arranged tag collection.  She asks if we can pack this precious collection.

My husband wants some leeway with the weight of each bag, just in case our weighing machine and the airport weighing machine do not show the same weight.  One more round of pruning happens.  I cannot add any more.

Not a gram more, not a gram less!

The bags are packed and locked and rolled away.  I look at the things I have had to leave behind.  I whine.  Nobody hears me.