I have always been a big city person; I just happen to feel at ease in a crowded city, surrounded by people. It’s as though they form a living blanket around you, providing you with a certain obscurity only a city with so many people can give you. There is no room for loneliness, only anonymity. One of the few places in a big city that can guarantee you that, would be an airport. And my relationship with airports across the world goes beyond booking the window seat or flipping through books at the bookstore. What we have, is more subtle; almost human.
If ever you happen to spot me in an airport, I would probably be that awkward kid trying to get the luggage trolley to move in the direction I want and messaging my mother at the same time. Now, I am a light traveler and if you know me, you would know how I throw things out of my baggage on the way to the airport to make it even lighter. Yet, despite all my efforts, I cannot seem to get a luggage trolley to move the way I want it to. Hassled as I am with the luggage, I have the constant urge to embarrass myself. You know that voice in your head that keeps telling you to ram your trolley into that glass barricade again and again, and you have to consciously avoid being taken over by that voice? I have however, found a technique to get rid of that voice; I focus on others things like my camera bag or the water bottle. After crossing all the hurdles of getting my boarding pass and the numerous security check ins, I suddenly realize that airports are not as stressful as they hype it out be, especially if you are an honest person with no criminal history. Hence to celebrate my moment of honesty and partly to calm my nerves down, I indulge myself with the multi-layered chicken burger that looks delicious. The burger is always deceptively cold and tasteless, as though it were a prop for a burger commercial and hence despite spending a huge amount on the burger, I throw it after the second or the third bite. Sometimes, other travelers passing by glare at me for wasting expensive food and hence, my flights always begin with a grumbling stomach or worse, an empty wallet.
I’m the one who ALWAYS (unintentionally) sits down in someone else’s seat, leaving a worried passenger and a doubting airhostess. Have I mentioned that I may be, unintentionally of course, a little creepy? I’m the girl who smiles creepily at the female foreigners. I’m the girl who stares at the airhostess’s lip liner. For some reason, I am fascinated by the airhostesses. Maybe it is their gaudy make-up or the fact that they smile all the time, no matter what the situation is, I just happen to find them surreal. Though most of them are extra sweet to me as they often confuse me for a 14 year old travelling alone, their kindness too, seems very robotic. My imagination wears off after some time though, as soon as the flight takes off. This is when I start praying, for turbulence. I always pray for a little turbulence, just enough to bring some adventure to the mundane flight but not enough for the plane to crash and kill me. If incase you are seated next to me, I’m the co-passenger you’ll look at and start imagining my life as that of a latch-key teen who goes home to her divorced mother during her summer holidays and takes the flight from Bangalore all alone. Poor little independent kid.
UNTIL, I tell you that I am, in fact, 18 with extremely happy parents, shattering the author in you. Most times, my co-passengers find it incredibly hard to believe how old I am causing me to show them any proof I have of my actual age, leading to an awkward silence on their part and an embarrassed grin on mine. Many a times, I have lied about my age and made up fictional characters in my life to make the conversation more interesting and I’ve found it infinitely easier than dealing with their shock on telling them my true age. I have observed that Indians are terrible listeners and will nod after the first few sentences and then turn to face the window or at their watch amongst other things, to indicate subtly that they don’t want a conversation. I don’t mind that though, since I, myself am a bad listener and I do the same when my co-passengers (mostly tourists) start with their anecdotes.
Most times, after the conversations have died and the air-hostesses bring in the coffee trays, I wonder whether they have observed me the way I have. What did they make of the yellow patch of paint on my jeans? Or the fact that I use a mobile case as a wallet? Did they hear me burp after drinking the coffee? Did the air-hostess notice me staring at her lips? Or is it just me that feels that everything is a lot more delicate, high above the ground- like a one-time affair of observing people; People you’ll never meet again. When we finally land, these people help me with handing me down my hand baggage. And then we wave goodbye and walk away to our own taxis. I forget their faces as soon as I leave and they forget mine. I don’t bump into them at the mall or at the park and even if we do, we don’t see each other. To me, once I get out of an airport it is as though I have just walked out of a limbo, or maybe, a parallel life and my relationship with every airport is just that. A onetime affair.