Buzz, in transit
In lieu of shameless self-advertising, I felt like this could narrate my sense of homesickness. I could not help myself from noticing the freshmen with their parents. Perhaps, most of us international kids felt the same way. I miss my mom and her airport pick-ups (I once went to boarding school so seasonal breaks meant returning home to her arms). But this is not a personal narrative, just situational prose. For missing home and starting anew:
The airport door slides open. A surge of hot air tickles my skin with a humid saltiness I’d now forgotten. A buzz of motorbikes, then a putrid smell. This was home. A mere gasp of air before the buzz: “Madam, I take you. Good Hotel. Madam, Cheap!”
A swarm of taxi-drivers. Before I could recognize faces, the most silent of the crew flocks forward. He widens his eyes, assures me with a smile, then bobs his head and says, “Welcome to India. Madam.” He takes my suitcase and leads me to the left, a less crowded pathway. The swarm stays on, awaiting other arrivals. But where is she? Maybe she forgot. The driver’s hospitality feels foreign. His uniform was familiar: conveniently smeared sweat stains on a khaki colored bowling shirt with matching pants. His kind was the “No air conditioning but very hospitable” kind. Characterized by the temperature of their post-petrol-hike Ambassador taxi cabs, these were the kind who modestly dwell on hospitality. Apart from the occasional swindling( which was to be done only when desperate and dropping- off departures), these were the kind to take good care of an arriving foreigner. Good hospitality meant an occasional stint as the foreigner’s “official cabby.” This was to be achieved only if one adhered to the following charter: Treat them well, they like you, they take your phone number and you’re insured for at least a week. He’s quiet, I decide to go with it. After all, we were at “International Arrivals.” We walk past gate C, two gates away from my arrival point at Gate F. There is no way she could have come. The large taxi stand was right by the corner of gate A. So we keep walking by swarms allocated on each gate. Then I saw her walking down, she passed me by a few feet. She did not forget. In her usual attire of pajama-pants and salwar suit, she looked confused, sad and rushed towards Gate F. As usual, she was late. Relieved, I stop pretending. In the most perfect Hindi I could use, I tell him to stop. He looks startled, he could not believe that I shared the same national identity as his. Confused, he asks in English, “What Madam?” I reply in Hindi, “Bhai Saab, it’s alright. I do not need your help. I am from here.” His narrowed eyes now roll in contempt, he might have been thinking, “Only these kind pull pranks. Everything is a joke for these kinds. Drinking, smoking, promiscuous types. Tribals” But who cares about his political affiliations anyways, I did not. I take my bag and thank him. Then I yell out: “Ma! Maman! BEI?” A few more yells before she finally turns around. I run towards her with my suitcase. I hug her, she hugs me back and says, “Welcome home! Sorry I’m late khun.” We walk towards her burgundy colored van. Driving past the familiar lanes, a few cows, the rickshaws and the crowded bazaar, I could picture the poor taxi-wallah standing there, pissed that I’d duped him into treating me like a “Madam.”
Ah Sali! She pranked me. I thought they only arrive on Domestics. Here comes another Madam, she’s atleast white.
Back to the swarm. Buzz: “Madam, I take you. Good Hotel. Madam, Cheap!”