For the hundredth time I tell my cousin that there is no place for him in the car going to the airport. With five people – my sister, brother-in-law, my parents and me – in the car, some of the baggage will have to be placed on our laps anyways.
Darn, where is the weighing scale? Isn’t only 46 kilo of check-in baggage permitted on the Lufthansa to Newark? The 6 months’ worth stock of ‘mollaga podi’ and the pickle must weigh a 100 kilo. And then there is the existential question of airport security permitting these items on the flight. Hope it’s not offloaded by American Airlines on the way to Boston? With the post 9-11 security checks, it’s Tam Brahms who have suffered the most. For a TamBrahm in the US, having curd-rice without homemade mango pickle– Guantanamo Bay is a day in Disney Land.
Finally, after squeezing in all the clothes purchased from T Nagar, sundry utensils and pans from Pondy bazaar, packages for Rukku mami’s cousin’s-sister’s-son-in-law in Austin we are ready to leave. Last minute check for tickets, passport and visa are done. Cinema poster sized printouts– also known as ‘address labels’ stuck on to suitcases – are checked yet again. Vibuti is applied on to the foreheads of all passengers traveling in the car and neem leaves (for good health while on the journey) are showed into hand bags. After wiping tears off paati’s eyes, earnest sounding promises to visit again during the Christmas break are made, good byes are said to the entire clan assembled at home. And the car is off to airport.
In the car, I strike off against my mental check-list for the trip that includes the final ‘all OK’ message post Security Check & Immigration. We reach the airport, I load the baggage onto the trolley and say good-byes and see off my sister and brother-in-law at Departure Gate 1. Like always, lamely promise my brother-in-law that I will definitely make the trip to America to visit them this year.
Thus ends my eight hundred and forty-sixth trip to the airport dropping people living in America.
From half a dozen college-mates like MSVLR (don’t you dare expand) Ramesh living in the ‘United States of Andhra-Pradesh’. To Jignesh, living in Massachusetts (the one who scraped through school copying my test-papers and couldn’t spell ‘Massachusetts’ to save his life), to Sheena, a college-mate. (who believed that Norfolk meant people from Norway)
Waiting outside the departure gate for my sister to give the ‘all-clear’ message post Security check, I scan the crowds milling outside the boarding gate – sons and daughters off for a Masters-in-whatever-as-long-as-its-in-USA, daughters leaving with the California mappilai, desi professionals from the US who stopped over for a week in India after a supplier visit in Singapore.
I am convinced that there are two kinds of people in this world – the ones who have the ‘Visa power’ and the ones who don’t. It’s very easy to spot the ‘haves’.
You post pictures of your trip to Pondicherry on Facebook; they post pictures of their week-end trip to Vegas. Start a conversation for a college reunion, they respond with a suggestion to have it in New York – half the class of ’97 is anyways back there. While shopping here, the Haves convert prices into dollars and appropriate exclamations are made. Their mothers –Mylapore-Mambalam-mamis – talk about traveling from Boston to New Jersey and California with as much ease as you talk about the route from Guindy to Chamiers Road. The Haves bitterly complain about missing India and life ‘back home’ without family. But, of course, they have no option but to stay on for at least three more years to get their Green card. Life is never easy, huh?
While you continue getting confused if New York is on West Coast or the East, everybody you know lives in America, and you are amongst the ones left behind.
Cheer up. Mera Bharat mahaan.