The first time I walked into an airport was to send off an aunt of mine. I remember being so fascinated by it that I called up all my friends and told them that I'll be going to the airport. I was under ten years of age and was awaiting the day like I was visiting Disney land instead. When the day did come, I dressed up in my best dress and combed my hair twice and checked the mirror a dozen times to see how I looked. When you are from a middle class family, the word airport sounds no less than heaven. I assumed it to be like those I saw on television with innumerable escalators and really good looking airport staff. The mirage was broken as soon as I got off the auto rickshaw and saw a man spit right at the entrance of the airport.
Still I held on to some hope and walked in. Back in those days you could send off passengers until the runway. As we waited for my aunt's flight, I drunk in the sights around. I saw the people around and thought them to be very rich. I listened very carefully for every announcement being made. I admired the well dressed air-hostesses who walked by. It was quite an eventful day for me. While I got back home that evening, I made a promise to myself that at least once in my lifetime I would travel by a plane.
My first flight ever was from Chennai to Bangalore while I was working there. I just got a call one early morning that my mom was hurt and was admitted to the hospital. And before I knew it I was at the airport waiting for a flight to take me home. This time the airport looked different to me. In the mirror I saw a petrified daughter waiting to get home to see her mother. I couldn't see anything else, nor enjoy the experience of travelling by air the first time. I remember being shit scared during the take off, but once we were in the air, my only thought was to see my mother. Since then, I have traveled so much by air, that I have lost count of it. The travel doesn't fascinate me anymore. But the airports do.
An airport is a place where I like to observe people. When I travel alone, I buy a cup of coffee and just sit and observe people around me. There are different types of people in the airport at any given time. I once saw a lady wearing six inch heels and struggling to walk with two heavy bags around her shoulder. I wondered why hadn't she checked in those bags. Once I saw a husband taking his wife overseas for the first time. I could see that he felt like God and she was in awe of everything around her, just like how I was the first time I stepped into an airport. I saw a mother bid a tearful goodbye to her grown up son and I felt a tear drop down my eye too. Then I saw a mother trying to manage her two toddlers along with her bags and all the papers that she held in her hand. She's going to meet her husband overseas, I assumed.
That is what airports do to me. I am suddenly enveloped in so many stories that I want to know more about. Airports have seen more people than anyone else and each one has a different story. Mine was one such story too. Earlier when I traveled alone, I was just doing it for my job. But I enjoyed it completely. Every airport I visited created a new memory for me. When Cal and I started dating, I started hating travel as I would be away from him. He would come to the airport to drop me off and I would keep looking at him until I was inside the terminal. When I came back, I would spot him first in the crowd. Somehow airports make you realize how much you love a person.
Now that we travel together, nothing has changed. We still sit together and observe people and try to understand their story. I may travel by air a thousand times, but my fascination for airports would never die.