An hour at the airport waiting for an arrival. Time spent watching people. Reading body language can be so much fun: so much information gleaned by just sipping a cup of coffee and looking at people.
At first there is a lull. The electronic display board blinks arrivals and delays. Suddenly, there’s a buzz. The sliding doors open, a group of people wheel their luggage out. A flight has just landed from Toronto. Goldy and Sweety’s uncle and aunt arrive with grown son in tow. “Udhar dek Bunty, Goldy aur Sweety.” Much happiness and glee as the two families greet each other.
Two backpackers, with travel pillows around their necks, rugged floaters and large backpacks with sleeping bags tied to them, look around unsurely, possibly looking for public transit to some cheap lodgings in Paharganj, before they head off on their exploratory voyage of India. Then, a noisy family, a mom, dad and three sons come out and block my vantage viewing point by standing right in front of my seat at the coffee shop counter. Dad wants a cappuccino, mom is getting impatient, and the youngest boy cries incessantly for his toy, the other two boys wait beside mom. (‘Give the toy to him, lady ‘, I want to yell, ‘And stop blocking my view’.) They rummage around their bags for some Indian rupees to pay for the coffee and continue waiting right in front of me.
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I shift my seat to get a better view. The uniformed drivers from a five star hotel wait with placards of names of guests they have to pick up. They animatedly discuss which flights have arrived. ‘Tashkent, Paris and Shanghai have landed,’ says one. The other asks,” Where does 9W 017 come from? Singapore or Hong Kong?’ And before he gets his answer, his colleague replies,” Oh, mera guest aagaya,” and greets a suited-booted gent with a warm handshake, and wheels off his suitcase.
A set of grandparents wait the arrival of their daughter and new born baby. They family arrives and the grandparents delightedly coo over the newest entrant to their family. Suddenly a loud shriek. Everyone turns around to see a young girl, probably a university student, shrieking at the sight of her parents. Months of home sickness must have brought that out that joyful sound. Smiles on everyone’s faces as they watch her jump up and down with delight.
And a young man with long hair and guitar strapped on his shoulders, walks by. The quintessential musician. Not bothered about his appearance: long, unkempt hair, pajama bottoms and flip flops. Along comes a sweet young girl, holding Daddy’s hands as she drags her Barbie doll suitcase behind her. Her accent gives her away: NRIs visiting home! A blonde-haired lady in a salwar kurta, pushes a trolley stacked with 3 huge suitcases, following behind is a bespectacled man, furiously texting on his phone. “Ah, the desi boy and his firangi bride,” I smile to myself, possibly bringing her home for the first time.
Then the clip-clop of stilettoes. A group of air hostesses, wearing black skirts and cropped jackets. I try to figure out which airline. ‘Must be Air France’, I tell myself, quickly glancing at the ‘arrived’ list to see which aircraft have landed. Then Air India ladies trot past, some in saris, some in kurtis and pants. “Has to be the Tashkent fight,” I guess again.
By now, my coffee’s over and almost an hour has passed, since the flight I was waiting for had landed. Bored, I scanned passengers coming out and in the distance, I see the white hair and white tee, ambling along. Yes! Finally the master arrives, degree in tow, minimal luggage in hand and a big smile! My wait is finally over, but not before I got a good idea of who all were in town tonight!
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