It is Friday morning and I am sitting at the Bangalore airport sipping a horrible Cappuccino and catching up on blogs and news. The airport is quite with sleepy passengers nursing their coffees, teas and hangovers in silence. Thanks to airport car pooling I have arrived very early for my flight to Mumbai. It was just a few months ago that we had individual cabs for airport drops. Sheer waste of fuel, I used to think then. Recession seems to have bought my snobbish company to earth with a gentle thud. Gentle thud…because many other wasteful practices still continue.
I am so engrossed in my laptop that I do not see nor hear a young girl sitting next to me. She is a really good looking Tambram girl. She looks very conservative though from her clothing. She carries a toddler in her arms. She seats the toddler on the chair and goes to get the trolley with her luggage. Before she goes she asks me politely if I will keep an eye on her son. I nod smiling at her. She smiles back reassured. I see her pushing a trolley with numerous bags which she parks near me. Then she glances at the airport entrance and gazes with some desperation at an old couple standing out side. The old couple is dressed in very traditional clothes of Palghat Brahmins. They look so nice and homely that I feel at tug at my heart for the girl who is obviously leaving them for another shore. A young man, perhaps her brother gently guides the old couple away from the door towards the car park. A very tactful move I think. The girl gazes at them till they are out of sight. She swallows hard, wipes her eyes surreptitiously and turns to me and thanks me for looking after her son and luggage.
“Are you the only daughter” I ask.
“I have an anna” she said smiling in relief. She is glad for the conversation.
“Are you married” she asks flicking her eyes at my neck and ring finger.
“No” I say with a smile.
“Don’t marry too far away from your parents okay?” she says turning her face away. She seems to be battling some emotions for it is a while before she looks at me and gives me a polite smile.
She asks me about my college and school and we find quite a few people we know in common. She had studied in a college in Malleswaram and then went on do her Engineering in Coimbatore. We talk about Bangalore and familiar hangouts in Malleswaram, M.G Road and Majestic area, the idiosyncrasies and eccentricities of the people of Malleswaram and Rajajinagar and the numerous book fairs that we attended in droves. She tells me how intimidated she is of girls from my college and how surprised she is that I was normal in spite of being from “that” college. We talk about the eateries in Malleswaram and the movie theaters near Majestic. We realize that we had haunted the same places as college girls though a few years apart. She was senior to me by five years. She was married at 21 on the last day of her Engineering exam and left for the US with her husband soon after. In the US she spent many a boring day confined to the house till her husband returned home late in the evening. She never saw the town she lived in till the snow melted and they were able to go out. Then she was pregnant. She had her baby in the US and her sister-in-law came and stayed with her as her parents were too old to travel to the US. This is her first visit to India after her baby was born. She had apparently had a wonderful time and now a lonely home in the US awaited her after a tumultuous and eventful visit.
Out flight is announced and I help her board with her numerous pieces of baggage. In the aircraft I am surprised to see her heading towards me and asking the gentleman sitting next to me if she could sit next to me. The gentleman obliges. She settles in with a sigh of relief. We talk some more about her life in the US and her loving but rather busy husband. At Mumbai I find her a trolley and help her deposit her baggage.
At the gate we part promising to keep in touch. I spy my cab. Before I get in, I look back to wave good bye. She is standing near the door child in hand gazing at me with some desperation. I wave and quickly get into the car. A tactful move I think. Perhaps she will find another me on the next leg of her journey. I pray that she does.