My flight’s at 7pm. I am early at the airport. Really early. 4 hours early.
There are 7 tables, flanked by 3 or 4 sofa-styled chairs. Each table has a single occupant. Each occupant is male. Every table boasts of one beer bottle and a glass. Over the next 4 hours, flights will be announced and most of these occupants will leave the tables. When I came to this section of the airport, only two tables were as described above. I occupied the third table. I assume most of them are day-travellers: took the morning flight, attended a meeting; now returning. Somewhat like me. New table-occupiers come in — everyone is looking for an unoccupied table. Single-occupancy on a table, somehow signifies privacy. I take my place along the glass wall that allows me to see the comings and goings on the tarmac. This is the far-end of Hyderabad airport.
The makers of these new OTT (over-the-top) private-sector airports are trying hard to make the journey seem like it is the grandest thing that you have ever done. Failing miserably. In the glitter of the unaffordable items displayed with focus-lights on products, and back-lit lights on brands and logos, the sullen faces on the uncomfortable chairs seem to ask of just one thing: get me home!
People aren’t hungry. They are eating either to regulate their blood sugar or to while away time. I can tell. The one who eats quickly is the former; the one who eats slowly is the latter. Yet, most of them are not eating. Anything. They are recharging their phones. They are making post-meeting phone calls to their home base, to tell the completion of paperwork for the deals they closed. Excel sheets open. Row 55 they say. Add a discount of 12%. Recalculate. Very methodical. These are employees. Then, there are business people. Do x and it’s all done. Employees usually speak in English. Business folks speak in a language I do not understand. Yet, I can sense they are closing deals.
Modern airports are designed to serve two purposes: to make life miserable for travellers and for smokers. Almost always, however (and I am not doing any statistical magic show here) smokers are the smart people. Necessity, mother, invention and all that jazz.
There are 7 tables, flanked by 3 or 4 sofa-styled chairs. Each table has a single occupant. Each occupant is male. Every table boasts of one beer bottle and a glass. No one is looking to make friends. Each person seeks an unoccupied table. [ProTip: This the left-most end of the airport as you walk in, after security] Four hours to kill. Most of the people at this end of the airport drink and smoke. This is the only place where you don’t have to trek to the other end of the airport to have a smoke and trek back to have your drink. The smoking booth is close by. A glass showcase, where everyone can see a dying species. But within that showcase there is camaraderie. Good conversation. Suddenly, people are leaving their tables and joining in groups. Having conversations. Not about smoking. About themselves.
It’s so much easier to be intimate with strangers; we discover. In a couple of hours I’ll take a flight south-bound, and you will take one west-bound. Chances are, we will never meet again. C’est la vie!
There are 7 tables, flanked by 3 or 4 sofa-styled chairs. Each table has a single occupant. Each occupant is male. Every table boasts of one beer bottle and a glass. And this is how it will be. For our airports have brought us many expensive experiences, but they have utterly failed at bringing people together. More often than not, people end up spending more time at the airport than they want to. Airports, railway stations, and bus-stands are inherently depressing places. Primarily because no one wants to be there.
Seven thoughts in that small place. Seven characters. Seven humans with their personal fears and seven achievements. Seven senses of home. Perhaps these seven senses are not different. They are all the same.
They are human.