This post is written for Indiblogger contest British Airways India – Go further to get closer.
British Airways India - Go further to get closer
Even in the early hours, her surrounding looked more like a marathon than an airport. Every body was like rushing for their winning post. Men in business suits moved around, most of them looking tired as they dragged their baggage. There were families struggling to contain their children as the little devils were at their best in creating havoc on their new playground. There were groups of college students who were leading at the cheers and jeers that the Mumbai airport was abuzz with. Tulip looked around desperately to find any lone traveller like her. Not that she wanted company, it was only for consolation. Across the passage, she saw a backpacker, alone, looking into a book buried in his lap and in between, stealing glances around. She felt a little peace. But she was still lonely.
Her phone rang. It was her husband calling. She clicked the receive button and before he could say anything, she busted. He will have to pay the price for ditching her at the very last moment. No matter how many times he apologise, she will stay put, she had decided. His apologies were now turning into pleadings, and she was on the verge of melting but decided to stay put. She was about to cut the line when she saw a face in the crowd, looking around in amusement. Her mind started racing fast, like torrential rains and heart sinking in it. When the face turned to face Tulip, her reflexes returned and she quickly looked away, regretting instantly. It was inappropriate but she was afraid what the encounter will turn into. She felt somewhat incompetent and a bit stuck, in moral dilemma. Should she show courage to face or be a coward insensitive bitch and quietly slip away from her mother?
Still rooted, she wasn't quite herself, her purse slipped from her hand and cosmetics spilled out. She saw her mother moving towards her from the corner of her eye and panic took over. She sat down and started gathering things urgently, when a pair of Kolhapuri chappals halted before her. As if a statue, she stared at the beautiful red peonies on the light peach sari before her. It was as if the saree had a life of its own that it grabbed her hand and took her down the obscure dark corridor at the bright end of which she saw herself, as a child wearing mother's saree, with towel around head to match mother's long hair. Putting the round red bindi on forehead and running around humming and swaying the paloo in air. The image kept replaying on her mind like a scraped record stuck on the track where the little girl was still innocent and free, until a hand reached out to her and brought her back to reality.
She looked up to find the calm and peaceful face looking at her. Tulip caught herself smiling while her mother looked at her intently, her lips turned into a smile. For a moment the two ladies looked like two breathing mannequins in the race of stolid crowd in the middle of the airport.
It was her mother who spoke first. “How are you?”, her voice, just the same, sounded like melody but catalytic to Tulip. She moved her lips to say fine but it sounded more like a croak. Mother nodded and directed towards a corner. When Tulip still struggled to move, her mother assured, “Your father is not with me. I am travelling alone”.
As they settled at the bench at the corner, it was still her mother who was conversing. “Papa flew to London last week and I am joining him now”. Tulip gasped at the mention of London and silently prayed her mother didn't hear. “Where are you travelling?”, mother asked. “London”, Tulip croaked. Mother nodded. There was a long moment of silence and then the boarding announcement saved her. They moved towards the gate for boarding. She stole a look at mother. She looked the same tough woman she was....seven years ago when...her heart sunk as her mind went down to the time when...she saw herself before her mother and father, angry, very very angry. She could see a wall been built between them and her, brick by brick. They would never accept him. How could she, an intelligent MBA student with bright future ahead select a struggling stage artist. Stage artist? They questioned her in unison. But she was determined. She tried to convince them hard but every argument of hers was just another brick in the wall. Their final words kept ringing in her ears, If it was her final decision to Samit, then the parents will show their presence at the wedding but that would be her last sight of them.
Her eyes went to the lady beside her, as they walked towards the plane, thinking, how bluntly she had declared, it was fine. She shivered as the words replayed on her mind. Guilt drenched her and she felt her heart swollen and refuse to budge from ground due to heaviness.
She came back to reality when her mother tugged her forward. She nodded but her mind was at odds. Does mother really want to talk to her? They said they would never see me. Was this just customary talk? Do they hate her? She didn’t see a hint of emotion in her mother’s eyes. After all these years, any mother would have broke down, but not her. She was surprised that she herself had not shed a tear, but she reckoned that was because she was too afraid to face mother than to look at the situation emotionally. But she has to talk. She has hurt both of them enough. But even if she manages to talk, what would she say? About her life? Or her parent’s life? How was their life without their only unworthy child? Were they years of yearning? Or they flew without any passing thought of her? She took her seat mechanically when she realised that her mother had already traded the seat next to her. Tulip smiled politely at her as they both adjusted their seatbelts.
As the plane took flight, Tulip closed her eyes very tight. When she opened her eyes, she saw her mother looking at her with a sweet grin. “You haven’t changed”, she said. Tulip simpered when the air -hostess broke in for their menu preference. Her mother was quick to respond, for herself and Tulip and like every time, mother was spot on what Tulip had on mind. “You too haven’t changed, mom”, she muttered. They both looked into each other, with complete acknowledgement. It must have been an intimate moment for the air-hostess looked at them intently, rummaged her pockets, and took out few samples of expensive Belgium chocolates. She made a face as she handed it to them, looking disappointed that she couldn’t get something better than the chocolates. But the duo were visibly pleased, like little girls. Was it the chocolates or the magic moments a few seconds earlier, but her eyes turned moist and mom patted her hands with a motherly assurance. Tulip was amazed that such a trivial moment could break the solid ice they both were frozen into.
“How are you two doing?”, Tulip initiated. “Good”, mother replied smiling. “How is he?”, mother enquired. “Good”, Tulip answered. “He is still same, isn't he?”, mother asked. Tulip knew, by ‘same’, mom meant 'same struggler' but she ignored the implicit adjective and nodded yes. “But you are happy with him? Aren't you?” She looked at mother and nodded yes. She searched for pity in mother's eyes but instead saw them gleam. “I am happy for you”, mom replied and the words broke down Tulip. Was it her mother’s acceptance or the affection in her voice, Tulip stretched through her seat belt and hugged her mother tightly. All the fear, awkwardness and apprehension, evaporated instantly like an open bottle of spirit. They talked in incessantly as the flight flew them backward in time and they were two friends meeting after years, sharing their lives, not missing the smallest detail.
The flight was pleasant and they did not realize how fast the time flew and it was time to land in London. When they started to walk down the flight stairs, a realisation started pecking Tulip. "Don't worry, it would be fine" mom said sensing her fright of meeting her father. Tulip nodded.
They walked out when she saw him in the crowd. He was wearing nice stripped shirt and dark pants, looking handsome in his own way. He had grown thin and as she advanced towards him, his features accentuated before her eyes. His hairline had receded. A few years had added to his face. There were wrinkles around his eyes and they were strangely sad. She was now standing before him and could not see him any more as her vision blurred with the tears. When she wiped her eyes dry, she saw his eyes moist. There was a long silence, not awkward but heavy with emotions as silent words flew between the trio, touching deep inside. The very next moment, the three bodies were single soul, hugging tightly. When they separated from the hug, they were crying and laughing at the same time.
They laughed for no reason and at one point their laughter grew so unstoppable that people started turning heads to look at the three funny Indians at the airport who had gone crazy.
“Where should we go?”, dad asked. “Anywhere”, she replied beaming. Thoughts of work and preparation had vanished. They dumped luggage at dad's hotel room and went for city tour.
They had travelled for more than fourteen hours in flight but Tulip felt as if the journey has only added strength to her body than fatigue. As they wandered though the Victorian streets, they talked and took pictures one of which she decided would go on her beside table. She had never been so happy.
As she lay on the bed that night, she thanked God a million times, for the miraculous journey that changed her life. She wished Samit was with her. She will call him and ask if he could still make it to London. She will send him a ticket the next moring, she decided. She could not sleep, planning weekends, trips and food, her mind was on roll. She kept wiggled in bed, overwhelmed by the thought, how complete home will look when they will be together in Mumbai, Mom, Dad, Samit and her. A Happy Family.