The realization did not set in even WHILE we drove to my aunt’s place near the International airport. I was unruffled as we lost our way to the airport into a dark, narrow and semi-broken lane, led by a policeman with an uncanny smile… and decided that the drunken rickshaw-walah who forbade us to take this route, was indeed right. I sat through the journey, oblivious of the imminent separation… The conscious awareness of any such event seemed to glide through my thoughts easily, like sand over silk… the silk shirt that my mother had me stitched with such love. Thinking we were dangerously lost, my brother started panicking, giving me a glimpse of his usually (properly) veiled concern and care for me. We got back on the highway and did reach the airport.
I walked with the baggage into the gate, lubricated with the certainty that my parents had a pass. After some hassle over the few extra kilos in my bags, I passed through the customs. An officer explained the next procedure.
I said, “Right. You watch over my luggage and I will be right back.”
“Wait Surabhi, You need to take the luggage with you”, said my father.
Even though the humid night air of August 31st was warm, I froze. I stared at them, a funny sight I believe.
“There is a whole hour left for the flight”, I said, with a self-assured, but quivering voice.
“That’s right. She won’t go now!” added my mother.
“I think its time to go,” said my father.
I agreed, even thought no part of me did.
I picked up my bag and walked, concentrating on my steps, and simultaneously unmindful of walking. The lump in my throat tightened. Now my family was behind a glass wall through which they called me back to give the last-minute-advice and goodbyes. What do you expect? I would enter into rib-breaking hugs and overwhelming kisses? I would say words that would etch my love in their minds? Throughout the flight I thought that I should tell those people who thought that I was brave to fly across seven seas, all alone in pursuit of my dreams, that I did not have the courage to part with my family. And, I didn’t. I saw images of rushing to my family and stubbornly refusing to leave. I wiped away these visuals. I gulped down the looming tears that threatened to devour me and walked on, not allowing myself the just-one-more glimpses of my smiling family. Even the compassionately curious tears of the old, overweight man at the ticket counter couldn’t spill me over. Even though my eyes acquired a crimson hue and my face was ungracefully puffed up, I did not shed a tear. [I am punching the air Brett Lee style]
I was fascinated with the grand planes waiting to take off. I can never cease to marvel at the power of human creation and innovation. I was on a flight after a long hiatus and as the plane ambled towards the runaway, I thought that there was no way it could lift into the air. Then the engines revved and I swept into the take-off, feeling immensely empowered… imagining my pursuits rise with equal energy… When the plane would make a turn mid-air, I could see my country laden with jewels like a bride, twinkling in silent ecstasy. The sight was breathtaking. [I did see you Nidhi, amidst the string of lights]. We quickly gained altitude and lost temperature. I admired, yet again, that beyond the comfortable space that we had built for our protection, it was -67degrees.
I sat between two aging gentlemen. One of them helped me stack my oversized handbag into the luggage rack. However, he did not show much courtesy when he ignored the presence of a lady, drank red wine at 3am. I hardly cared as I went to sleep soon with the headphones lying on my lap. In the morning, I saw “Salaam Namaste” as I had my breakfast.
Before I left India, my mother had showed necklaces to choose from. I had chosen one with a locket depicting a symbol of God.
I was wearing a somewhat high-necked T-shirt, which often concealed my locket. Interestingly, Peer closely to find that this symbol is exactly the opposite of the swastika such that it may be converted to the other only by erasing or breaking its structure. This reaffirms the sanctity of this symbol that is often used in Rangolis during festivals.
I had to get down at Frankfurt and at that time, I had absolutely no clue what the “(d)evil” swastika was. What matters is that I did not get arrested.The world is growing up!
My impression of the sheer vastness of the Frankfurt Intl Airport is enhanced by the fact that it was largely deserted at 7:00 am in the morn (except the New York terminal). I had a coffee for $5. I calculated that one could buy a meal for two for an equivalent amount back home. [These two words incite uncontrolled impulses.] Well, I was thirsty and decided not to subject my brain to the menace of comparison.An insignificant yet amusing incident happened. A female airport official said to me, “Hello, sir, after which she apologized profusely, “OH! That was a big mistake!”.
A 3-hour wait churned out a poem and a writing piece. I saw a man wearing tight, red pants, strip[ed red shirt and a red hat. His additional rosy complexion convinced me that he was the brother of Little Red Riding Hood.
I boarded a gigantic plane of the US Airways. I had a range of movies, documentaries and songs to choose from. For the first few hours of the 8.5 hour flight, I watched the pure-white clouds float leisurely, forming a tender carpet underneath the background of a serene blue sky. In the sacred heights, I sensed the power of purity, the delight in lightheartedness and the extent of abundance of love.
…to be continued