Monday, September 12, 2005

Travels to unknown places

At airports, when there is time to kill, I sit beneath giant flipboards that announce where planes are headed and what their current status is. These black boards, with their green and red lights blinking, are magnets for the mind. The plane to Reykjavik is currently boarding at gate 12, and there is a last call at gate 3 for the Emirates to Johannesburg. Beneath it a family dressed for a safari scurry somewhere; a lady struts past, her intoxicating scent whipping those in her wake; everywhere, different nationalities and colours are rummaging and talking and heading in similar directions as they weave through the airport's processes.

Everybody is going somewhere. I am too, but I know what lies there. And so the journey loses some glitter. I know the roads and paths at the other end. The streets will be tarred, yellow dashes painted against their dark surface, there will be a traffic jam there, and it is advisable to leave a tip no less than 17.5% of the overall bill. This is what I will find there. But the other names on this board, they will take me to the Palace of Versailles where forgotten history lessons will come back, to Uluru where the stories haven't changed for a thousand years, to the Bosporus, to cave paintings at Lascaux, to the mosque in Cairo, to the world's great libraries, to the gun markets in Somalia, to where Rai comes from, to the Northern Lights, and to other places that are significant in personal symbolism if not history.

And the names keep flipping, and the signboard taunts, "This is where you could go and you could go there too, and that, my friend, is another flight missed, but wait, there is another in that direction boarding at the gate nine strides away. Go on, you know you want to." And I think, "just wait, it's a matter of time. One day you will run out of names, run out of places for me to visit. Your flips will be useless, every name visited and learnt from in this lifetime. Then you can taunt someone else enough for him to turn red, loosen his tie and say to you, 'That's it, where's my rucksack?'"

But it's just a signboard. What does it know how much it says with a single flip?

2 comments:

Kusum Rohra said...

Just makes me realise how much i miss travelling!

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