Airports scare me. There is a constant, constant flurry of activity that if you just stand in one place for a second, you’ll feel like the subject of a time-lapse video. You, staring into space, confused and trying to align your vector, while the world runs at Mach 3 in the background. Frankly, it’s easier for me to manage the local trains in Mumbai than trying to find my way through these giant terminals, feeling like a small undigested fish in the belly of a whale shark.
Airports in the old days were quite places were maximum of three planes would take off in a day, and that too those belonging to the Britishers or the Maharajas. Common man could not even dream of setting foot on the tarmac, forget even getting to touch the aircraft. I’m quite sure there weren’t any dhabas also, forget huge shops, food courts or bars. But go to an airport today and your eyes will be trying to adjust to a never-ending plethora of shops. There are the massive bling shops, mushroomed over the entire airport like couples at Bandstand. And mind you, by bling, I don’t mean only the Swarovski counters. I also mean the posh bars, coffee shops, accessories shops and pen shops. Oh, and I forgot to mention the things-people-don’t-need-when-they-travel shops. Majority of the passengers are interested in just catching their respective birds( I’m deducing that because I see majority of the people sitting with an extremely bored expression on their face). So why take up so much space, to make shops that people never buy from (0.1 % sales figure is equivalent to never for me)? I always wonder, how much revenue they’re generating, and if even the revenue generated is more than the rent paid for these shops. Hell, what do I care? I’m not going to be shopping at these shops anytime soon and neither am I going to be the rent collector for them anytime soon.
But but but..there are women, who not only shop at airports, but shop as if the world is coming to an end. Oh wait. Isn’t it? What’s the date? Aah looks like i should finally buy those shoes I’ve been eyeing… Sorry zoned out! So when you see well dressed women (I mention only women because I have seen only women do it. I’m not sexist. I’m a woman) exiting a Shopper’s Stop at the airport with a bag full of unnecessary I-don’t-need-it-but-its-fun-to-shop-when-getting-bored stuff, you can’t help but wonder incredulously, didn’t they get any other time to shop? Or what was so fucking important that it had to be bought at a time when you’re about to be airborne, and have a slight chance that you may not land at all?
Other than the inanimate objects I’ve mentioned, how can anyone miss the diversity of crowd at airports? I say this because you will not see well-dressed (often handsome) business men trying to figure out their seats at a railway or bus station. Or NRI-accented families trying to hassle the TT for a lower berth instead of an upper berth. You will see only up to a certain class of people at railway and bus stations, never above that. In contrast, at airports, there are people from all strata of the society, thanks to the low-cost airline business(R.I.P Kingfisher..a minute of beer-intoxicated silence please..). Business men/women, children with headphones blaring and carrying swanky luggage, aunties with enough gold jewelry to increase the bullion price all by themselves, noticeably poor families of five carrying just a single bag, maid servants taking care of the children, students, families probably on their maiden trip aboard an aircraft and looking as confused as Goofy given a fish to eat, families where even a two month old infant would know how to “proceed to Gate number 3” all by themselves..you get the picture. And god forbid, if one of the too-sexy-for-her-age aunties or the too-much-hair-on-their-head uncles comes in verbal contact with some of the not so privileged lot. It opens up a whole trunk of misunderstood grunts and directions, with the non-conversation finally ending with the posh people rolling their eyes and moving on. I don’t understand what harm would it do if they speak a few words of Hindi or whatever regional language and give proper directions. Or..oh, I’m sorry, is it tacky to speak an Indian language at an airport at India?
So yes. The fact remains. Airports scare me. For their sheer size, their un-navigability, for the fakeness it brings out in people and mostly, for their overwhelming shops which scream at you–Don’t be so happy!! Your salary still sucks! Ugh. I hate airports. Unfortunately, unavoidable.