December 8, 2009

{Alone at Mumbai Airport}

Soon I will travel to India for a short vacation.  Raka is traveling with her mom over Christmas, so I thought I would travel myself and return before she comes back.  As I plan my trip to India, I keep thinking of the time I was in India a few years back.  My flight got into the Mumbai airport (Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport) on time, close 1:30 am.  I picked up my luggage and walked outside to wait for my brother, Oni.  For security reasons, non-travelers have to wait outside the airport.

As I walked out the airport building, I faced hundreds of people standing across the railing.  Each one was there waiting in the middle of the night for their dear ones to arrive from an international flight.  I felt everyone’s eyes on me and I tried to find my brother in the crowd.  Usually when I arrive there, within a few seconds of me coming out of the door, I hear a soft deep voice saying, “This way.”  That’s my brother.  I walk to the side and he meets me where the railing ends.  He grabs the luggage cart from me and whisks me to his car and drive off in the middle of the night to his home.

But this time, it was different.  I had come outside and it had been a few minutes but still there was no Oni’s voice.  I was getting restless.  I started carefully screening each face in front of me in the night.  I could not see Oni.  I decided to walk with my luggage to one corner of the sidewalk and wait.  The cab drivers were swarming around me, asking if they could take me to a hotel. But I waited. Soon it had been nearly thirty minutes and I decided to walk down to a payphone and try to call Oni. He did not answer. So I waited. Then I decided to call and wake up my parents in Kolkata. They too had no idea where Oni was. I was getting worried. Finally I decided to call Oni’s father-in-law.  I felt bad waking him up that late at night, but he answered the phone and was happy that I was in town and had a safe journey.  When I asked him where Oni was, he had explained that Oni was at their place earlier in the evening and had left after dinner. Now I was extremely worried. Was my brother okay?

I kept calling Oni’s phone from the pay phone. An hour or more later, Oni finally picked up the phone and said, “I am on my way.”  It was short and abrupt. I was happy he was okay, but I have to confess that I was bummed that he was so late in coming to the airport.

Oh well.

Soon Oni was there and I was in the car with him.  We didn’t say many words about the delay as he drove through the streets in Mumbai in the middle of the night. 

A few days later when I was having dinner at his father-in-law’s place, the mystery was solved. Oni had been working nearly twenty-four hour days, non-stop for the last week in order to finish all his work before I got to town. That evening itself he had finished the last piece of work. Then he had gone to his father-in-law’s for dinner. After dinner, a tired Oni wanted to take a short nap before he came to the airport to get me.  But, sleepless and fatigued, sleep took over his body and he had no chance in hearing the wake-up call.

I looked at Oni, across the table, having his meal. I could not be angry with him anymore! What a brother!  He was trying to become free for me. Wow! 
I realized that his measure of our relationship is the number of minutes he can dedicate solely to me when we're in the same part of the world.
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