Friday, November 9, 2012

Aimless In The Airport

A late night finishing odds and ends combined with an early morning flight that is successively delayed without intimation, is enough to ensure surreal airport experiences.  No hallucinogenic substances are required to induce that feeling of free floating while still being on firm land.  I drifted through the check in counter with loads of time to spare, wafted gracefully through security without the customary alarm at seeing long queues, then found myself in Bangalore's relatively new terminal with several hours to kill.

It was not as difficult a task as it sounds.  Impaired abilities make it considerably easier to while the hours away.  One needs to look at everything many times over and then jog those neural connections to understand exactly what the eyes are seeing or the ears hearing.  Apart from resisting the temptation to curl up on one of the chairs and fall asleep, I had an easy time of it.  There was one difficult moment, I confess.  A casual glance at a giant wall clock gave me a sudden nasty jolt; I felt I had missed the flight announcement (and the flight) to Delhi - but soon I realized that that particular clock was set to Hong Kong time.  Pretty tricky, all this hi tech, free floating information.

Some of my time was spent browsing in the airport bookshop.  As I was taking so long at every shelf, the sales people offered me a stool, upon which I gratefully sank, and continued my perusal of cookbooks.  Fifty Favourite Karela Recipes - hmmm.  I wondered who would want to eat so much bitter gourd.  Of course, it turned out to be Kerala not Karela, but I had spent a few interesting minutes pondering over this.  The next shelf was labelled 'Self Improvement'.  How I longed to pick up a large number of these books and pass them on to the Air India counter.  But there were other things to do.  Thoughts of food had unconsciously made me hungry.  I surveyed the options.

I decided against the sandwiches and the ready to go meals.  There were two 'live counters' which looked promising.  One was a dosa counter and I peered over the edge of the wooden framework to watch the chef deftly pouring out the batter, which sizzled on the skillet.  Late nights have unfortunate effects on the digestive tract and the thought of eating this dosa with spicy chutney and sambar was not to my liking.

I moved on to the pasta bar which was making omelettes at this hour.  The chef there beat a couple of eggs effortlessly, swirled them into a pan, added onion-tomato-green chilly and flipped them.  A part of the mixture fell on the floor.  I watched with rapt interest.  As he made no attempt to retrieve the fallen out egg, I concluded that hygiene levels were good here.  (I also internally sympathized with him.  I have had my own flipping problems on days.)

I ordered an omelette without green chilly.  "Madam, choose your bread and toast it," the chef instructed.  My eyes widened - a choice of white and brown bread!  I toasted one slice of each.  My omelette meanwhile was ready (perfectly flipped).  I sat at a small table and surveyed it.  It was teeming with tiny slices of green chilly.  Oh well, just another of those tests of Life and Character.  I endeavoured to eat my omelette with relish (the mental kind) and, to a large extent, succeeded.  Physically, I ate it with Kissan's Fresh Tomato Ketchup from a small sachet.  The brown bread was pleasant.  The white bread was exactly the same as the Modern Bread of the seventies - the same tasteless, textureless slices that I remembered; this induced a tremendous feeling of nostalgia and thankfulness that I no longer had to eat this everyday.

I looked around at fellow passengers interestedly.  My mind roamed at random, making up possible stories about the origins of these people.  Hmm - software engineer, land owner, politician, Usha Uthup...  Here my mind came to a standstill.  Was that plump figure dressed in an orange and pink saree with armloads of silver bangles really the popular Indian 'crooner' (as she is called), who has sung in an amazing number of languages - or was it just a dream?  I looked carefully a few more times.  Not many people could carry off that saree - and also get through metal detectors with all those accessories.  Yes, it was indeed Usha Uthup (or a startling look alike).  I wondered if I should take a picture, then decided to be safe and desist.  There was a call for Kolkata passenegers and she drifted away.  I wondered what she was here for.  Perhaps she was promoting the next Super Singer Junior T.V. show. I thought of one of her popular songs - a new version of 'Dum Maro Dum' ; this only added to the general whacky atmosphere that had built up.  (Just for information, the link to the original song is given below.)

Next on the agenda - tea?  I debated this issue for a while then decided against it.  I had had enough previous tea thing troubles.  Decided to go on a longish stroll instead, from end to end of the terminal.  Left the white bread for the sparrows (Bangalore airport is perhaps the only one with sparrows living inside the terminal).  There used to be lots of them flocking to the restaurant area but now I just see them sitting on signboards.  Perhaps they are wary of passengers who try to feed them white bread.

I walked for a while until the flight was announced - the new Air India Dreamliner.  Sounded like just what the doctor had recommended.  I managed to make my way along with hundreds of others, into the gargantuan craft, to find someone sitting on my seat.  He obligingly agreed to get up after I had showed him my boarding pass.  I sighed to myself as I sat down.  It was reassuring that even with new aircrafts and airports, some things never changed.

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