I never, never thought I’d miss the long and exhausting immigration queue at Mumbai, or Delhi airport. And before that, the long strides; trying to overtake other passengers when KLM and Lufthansa are emptying their big bellies at midnight. But miserably enough, the line seems endless once I reach. The straps of the rucksack with my photo gear start gnawing into my shoulders the minute I find my place, the over-sized handbag seems even heavier than when I left home although the apples are eaten – and a book doesn’t feel lighter only because it’s almost finished.
The air is thick and moist. The cardigan and wind jacket, once useful when I was waiting for the airport shuttle back home at 4 am in 8 degrees C, are now superfluous and nowhere to be stowed away. And how come the shoes seem to have shrunk so badly. I’m telling myself I’m not tired, and text a message to the homefront: Grounded.
People are moving slowly towards the immigration counters, and everybody is at one point asking the same question: Why are only x out of y counters manned? The most important question of our times, when stranded in this Godforsaken queue. And we stretch our necks and realise that the grave men behind the counters, their faces cut in stone, are still struggling with that little remedy we all have to put our finger(s) on and apparently this remedy still doesn’t go well with clammy index fingers, so in turn we all try and several times again until luck (certainly not technology) strikes. But contrary to US immigration, we are not cross-examined about our whereabouts in India, just nodded tiredly away from the counter. Thank God for small mercy’s!
Released, everybody rush through the sparkling tax free, but why would we rush to pick up the luggage when we know it’s probably still roaming the underbelly labyrinth of the airport. I grab a trolley, check the monitor and meander through the throngs of people, trolleys, luggage, loitering airport staff, and silently place myself in the middle of chaos surrounding belt 40, scanning it in the hope that my suitcase has won the lottery: already spitted out and hit the belt. Alas no. Instead the fear, no horror, of not getting the suitcase at all is what occupies my mind.
I wait politely and patiently among the unruly mass of people, text another message just to kill time: Waiting for the luggage, while I in wonder and amazement watch the amount of luggage the native Indians lift off the belt and how they make towers of king size suitcases while they’re waiting for more. And I keep thinking that Mumbai might not be their final destination and how they, past midnight, maybe after several flights from the US or Canada via Amsterdam must check in their towers again and take that dreary shuttle bus to the domestic airport. It makes me feel a little less miserable.
I cling to my trolley while waves of fatigue races through my body, and just as I give up hope my suitcase pops up – and down, and I grab it before it goes for another swing.
Nearly there, I tell myself, relieved (should I text a message?) – before another worry takes hold of my stomach as I rush towards the green channel. Why if the driver is not outside to pick me up? (I mean, it has happened once or twice, so why not a third time?)
This is what I miss right now. And I miss it badly!