• TLS Staff

In Transit: The Longing Of Airports

4 am is a time stuck in time. I think about all the summers, winters, and monsoons that have been and that will be. And it so happens that the person sitting next to me in the waiting area draws out an idea from a corner of her brain. She decides to take off her shoes, fold her legs, and sit straighter. The smell of her old socks meshes in perfectly with one of the carpets underneath our feet. She plugs in her earphones, aware of her sock smell. But she knows it’s momentary and so do I, so she gives me a knowing smile and so do I. The airport waiting area is a place where people, ideas, feelings, and lives collide. And as you sit watching it all you think about the joy of being in transit. And airports let you have that. When you are about to board a plane, you wonder whether humans belong in the sky and even if they don’t they have fought their way to the clouds. We are all up there, kicking and screaming. So where do you belong, when you are up in the sky? The passing grounds, mountains, valleys, towns, and seas underneath you all gather in one moment as you fly above them, snuck in a blanket, just enough to give you a sense of comfort.

Art by: @owendaveydraws

Source: Pinterest

I am going to fly soon. You know that pit in your stomach that you get when your flight takes off? HuffPost called it your second brain. That feeling of leaving the ground and being at the mercy of the skies, that pit in your guts, starts for me at the airport. I am not a frequent traveler by air and I think I am better off that way, but it makes my time at the airports worthwhile. You must have noticed how most, rather almost all airports are located outside the city. They are not really in the thick of the city’s affairs and when you are leaving for the airport, you are already leaving for your journey out of the city and all its stories. That car ride you have, to think about everything that has passed and everything that awaits is where you start digging that pit of your guts. You know you are leaving. You know you will be back and you know that for a couple of days everything will feel weird and dystopian. And then you get back to your life, only to think about it again when you leave. Once you are at the airport, you jolt back into real-time and away from your whimsies of the car. Trollies are wheeled and trollies are complained about. The routine passport check happens. Your one contact with the System. Your one check at your own citizenship. Your one moment with the thought that you belong to this land and you have a responsibility for its citizens. All of the people milling around you have that one thing in common. No matter if you believe in the idea of nations or not. That moment of thought is over by the time you head over to check in your luggage.

Source: Pinterest

The girl who was sitting next to me is now long gone. The last call for her flight happened about an hour ago. Since then, many people have wheeled their bags and trollies past the row of chairs I have been sitting in. The faint sound of the wheels of the bags dragging on the carpet is numbing after a long line of passengers has crossed. The little lull of the wheels and the constant hum of the conversations all around and the soft feet that keep stepping and leaving and coming back. This monotony of sounds only broken by the announcements and last call for passengers who have lost track of time which also eventually aligns itself with all the other sounds, leaves you feeling numb. Feeling numb is when you sit at that restaurant, all by yourself, waiting for someone to take your order or just waiting for your food. You keep staring at that painting that is slightly askew or keep thinking about the fan whirring at full speed as the person on the table next to yours slurps their Coca Cola with beads of condensation on the side of the bottle. The person wipes off the drops every now and then, and you watch. Before someone snaps you back to your reality. Numbness is saying a word over and over again until it loses all meaning. And yes, that feels good. But feeling numb does not really make sense. It is the perfect anti-thesis. But the anti-anti-thesis could be feeling feelings. Something that we are all wired to do, right? Feeling things, feeling feelings, which make you human, that feels like being exhausted after dancing to your favorite song and collapsing on a chair or a sofa ending with a faint laugh. It feels like sitting still in front of a mirror and looking at yourself and wondering about the existence of mirrors and how if they weren't there, you would have never seen yourself in the first place. You would have had no idea of how you looked to the world. The feeling is like storm clouds, dark and blue, and grey, all gathering in a soft rush in front of you as you look at them through foggy car windows. It is those streetlights, holding their promise true, of guiding you home. Their soft yellows and oranges landing momentarily on the bumps of your face as you go on from one to the next. It is like waking up at 4 am, just to roam around in the forest and breathe in, years of trees, their stories, years of soil which has been walked or trampled upon and knowing her tales and years of life, that have sat there, waiting for you and echoing your voice. It is returning to an old house, where no one has been for a long time. The empty rooms, waiting for you. The old, carpeted floors smelling of slight dust and drama. As it all slightly lifts to the air with each tread of your foot, you get soaked in it. The old chairs, tables, spoons, and beds have stayed. They have known.

Art by: Federico Gastaldi

Source: https://www.federicogastaldi.com/

5 am and dawn is about to crawl in. A few passengers who managed to squeeze in a quick nap have now woken up as it is time for us to head. The colors of the sky outside are slightly being nudged into shades of orange as I am slightly being nudged forward in this boarding queue. The sudden motion of all these passengers has set the dust in the carpets free and for a moment everything smells of dust and you can see tiny particles float in the rays that have managed to sneak in. I find that my clothes have also gotten used to being in transit and they smell of the airport waiting area. The pit in my guts is growing as I inch closer to the person in a suit who checks my boarding pass. He has a warm smile plastered across his face. I wonder if it is genuine or just a gimmick for his job. As I reach up to his booth, he gives me the same smile he has given almost all the passengers. I smile back, nod, and thank him and point outside and wish him a nice day ahead. His smile changes a little bit and that is enough. After this brief morning interaction, I walk on ahead toward the airplane which is going to take me to the now orange skies and drop me off at a place with a different time zone where I would have to adjust my watch. I reach the airplane. The stewardess gives me a warm smile, and I repeat the old spiel. I sit in my seat and look out the window. One last look at the city I am leaving. Before I am back again.

- Janaki Tulshibagwale

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