On the wee hours of a June date, I exited the airport in triumph.
As it turns out, airport officials can be relentless. First, it was the lady behind the check-in counter with whom I pleaded to let me go with my 3 kgs of excess baggage. She pleaded back saying she’d like not to lose her job as I flew from Dubai to Pune. After a bit of off-loading, I got myself a hot chocolate that I sipped luxuriously to supplement my sense of relief. I even treated myself to a cigarette as I leafed through a beautiful diary a dear friend had gifted me.
Immigration, done. Baggage scanning, khalaas. Long walk to the gate, no problem. Wait- what’s happening here?
My battle with excess baggage is not over. This terminal weighs hand baggage too. Inclusive of my laptop. And fanny pack. And the three books I carried in hand. Right at the gate.
Thankfully, this time my pleas (or maybe the tears) softened the gentlemen up and they let me go, quaking with gratitude and all.
Everything that came next was as smooth as smooth can be. In fact, I ended up sitting next to a couple with a child that slept through the whole flight. Can you believe my luck? Not. One. Sound.
It was beautiful. I even peed in the airplane WC.
Pune airport was… well, Pune airport. The immigration area is like your grandma’s house, if your grandma was rich, wore suits and mispronounced names over the telecom. Having successfully lugged my near-max weight baggage, I exited the airport jubilant over my strong, imaginary biceps. What commendation. So much triumph.
I was in such a good mood that I even agreed to pay 150 bucks for the ride home, a mere 3 kilometre stretch. Cheekily, I looked up at the auto driver and said, “Bhaiyya, samaan upar tak leke jaoge toh 150 dungi”.
“Haan madam, aaye na. Dubai se aa rahe ho?”
“Haan Papa se milne gayi thi”
“Achha, achha, Kahaan jaana hai?”
“Bhaiyya Tingre Nagar”
“Chaliye na, main udhar ke side se hi hoon, Dhanori se”
We had a lovely conversation. Skimming over details of his family, he eventually told me about all his powerful friends- the election guy, the police officer, the guy at the petrol bunk… he knew the who’s who of Tingre Nagar. He was resentful. Their promises are all there when they want something from you, he said. But never when you need their help.
He was particularly hostile about the election campaigner, who promised to hitch him with a better gig if he voted in favour.
“Duniya aisi hi hai, bhaiyya. Jab kuch chahiye toh meethi baatein bolne ko sab aate hai”
He dropped me home and extracted my luggage. I paid him, he returned my change, and then I asked him to help me with the bags.
“Nahi madam, mujhe back ka problem hai”.