Monday, May 28, 2012

Mumbai International Airport, Departures Gate 2 at 5 PM

A man with an clumsily tied navy blue tie tries to walk out of the terminal building. His shirt is a light shade of yellow contrasting his grey pants. His balding forehead doesn't hide his age -- late 20s. The policeman at the gate stops him, as he has stopped every one else who tried to leave the terminal building. The man mutters something as he is held by the policeman's arms that spans his chest. I am not sure what happened between the two but the policeman lets him go. Maybe the policeman just forgot all about him when he got busy checking the flight ticket and passport of the next person in line.

The man looks around at the crowd. His Mongoloid-looking friend spots him and calls out to the man's wife. The woman holds a baby in her arms and has another spunky kid at her feet. She comes to the crowd barrier that separates the terminal building from the street outside. The barrier is as high as her neck and is placed in an awkward manner which doesn't let her husband come closer than two feet. The man notices that the barrier on the side of the terminal, the one that is placed on the pavement, is much shorter and allows easier access. He asks his wife to meet him there. He walks over and waits for them. I notice they have a taxi waiting when the driver honks. The friend acknowledges the honk with a raised hand, like a stop sign.

As soon as his wife reaches the barrier, the man hugs her and kisses her on her cheeks. I can see her back. She is dressed in a bright shiny salwar kameez. Her brooch and earrings are shinier, with white drops that look like pearls, but are just cheap plastic. The kids act disinterested as their father, standing on the other side of what is essentially a fence, tries to take them in an embrace. I see that his eyes are red now. He's continuously talking to his wife, who now looks down, unable to meet his eyes. He has tears in his eyes too but the smile doesn't leave his face. His friend is now standing some feet away, with a film camera in his hands. Long time since I saw one. He stands, waiting for the wife to look up and at the camera. The husband tries to get her to look up, and then tries again, and in the third or fourth attempt she wipes off her tears and looks to the camera. She even manages a slight smile and there's a flash.

The man then takes his younger kid in his arms and there's another flash. The kid looks at me. I look away and gulp -- that stops the little water molecules unifying into a tear. I take a look at the other people around me, circling the terminal, terminating back at the scene I was at. The man is now hugging his friend -- to the left, then on the right, then to the left again. Peculiar. He then shakes his friend's hand, saying what looks like a goodbye for the last time.

Then just as he is about to turn towards the terminal, he stops to hug his wife again, and plants a kiss on her cheek again! This time he turns and moves purposefully to the terminal. The policeman lets him in without rechecking his papers. He walks past the metal detector and is walking towards the glass door that enters the terminal but then suddenly looks back, as if he had forgotten something, he rushes back past the detector looking towards the barrier where his wife was. She has already moved into the waiting taxi. He raises his hand and shouts. I look towards the taxi. The doors are closing and I don't see them looking back. The man stares at the taxi as it pulls away, and then he turns and is quickly inside the glass door.

I look up at the flight information display board. It flickers as the status refreshes. The destination column of the board is full of Gulf destinations -- Kuwait, Riyadh, Dubai, Bahrain, Jeddah, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Muscat. Dream destinations for countless Indians with nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. Good luck man!

I managed to sneak a pic when they were not looking

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