Plane truths and the pangs of separation

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Plane truths and the pangs of separation
While returning from India at the beginning of the week, I realised my flight had a fair share of first-timers to Dubai.

After snatching my suitcase off the carousel, I rushed to the taxi stand. I needed to go home.

by

Sushmita Bose

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Published: Fri 17 Jul 2015, 7:54 PM

While returning from India at the beginning of the week, I realised my flight had a fair share of first-timers to Dubai. As we began our descent to Dubai - and I continued to descend into a steadily-overflowing pool of depression seated on my aisle seat (my holidays were over, how could I not be depressed?) - a whole bunch of passengers craned their necks from their middling and aisle positions to look down on creation; the ones occupying the vantage points of window seats (like the mint-new bride who was coming to Dubai to be 'united' with hubby dearest - I know because I overheard a snatch of conversation she was conducting on her cellphone before take-off; and, yes, I know my manners are nowhere near perfect) were almost besides themselves with excitement. Yes, there was definitely a novelty factor at play, accompanied by a high-voltage expectancy.
And then again, not. The man sitting next to me - a boy really, he couldn't have been more than 20-21 - had made no effort to crane his neck for a view from the top. Instead, he alternated between staring into space in front of him and looking down, fiddling with his cellphone.
A blue-collar worker, he was either travelling to Dubai - or transiting via it - with a gang of potential 'Gulf employees'; the others were scattered all over the aircraft. Once the aircraft had taken off, a flight attendant gently asked him if he wished to sit with his "friends" (since many of the seats were vacant), but he shook his head quietly and went back to fidgeting with his cellphone.
Ten minutes later, he started sniffling, I immediately deduced he had a cold and looked up at him suspiciously from the Sudoku puzzle I was unenthusiastically trying to crack (what if I catch the bug from him was the first thought that came to mind). and then noticed he was wiping away tears. Intrigued, and without any thought whatsoever towards his need for privacy, I watched (from the corner of my eye) as he went to the photo gallery on his smartphone, and looked yearningly at the picture of a little girl. He seemed too young to be a father, but who's to know? Maybe that was his daughter. Or his kid sister, a niece or the lovable neighbourhood brat. Whoever it was, he was missing her. As, I'm sure, he was missing a lot of other things he'd left behind - people, places, roads and sights, sounds and smells. He was missing home.
It grounded me. Suddenly, I knew that my lurking depression - stalking me for at least 72 hours before I even came anywhere close to the departure terminal - has to do a lot more with missing home than holidays being over. In a show of solidarity with my fellow passenger, I decided it was okay, not un-cool, to be miserable, to feel like my roots (not in the ambient/cultural context, but in the existential one) are yanked off, without anaesthesia, each time I leave 'home'.
Once we deplaned, I tried to spot my airplane neighbour in the vast reaches of the arrival terminal but he, along with his new colleagues, seemed to have moved on. I didn't get to see the rush of expressions on his face - which would be an indicator of how well, or how soon, he'd acclimatise. Maybe he'll be okay, and the next time he leaves home (after his first annual break), it'll be easier to deal with the pangs of separation.
After snatching my suitcase off the carousel, I rushed to the taxi stand. I needed to go home.
- sushmita@khaleejtimes.com



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