Original Text: Airport Conversations>>Who or How?
Date: 5th Oct 2011
ShitGodDamn son of a Transit Baebey!
I have luxuriously spent my last three nights on various airports. The first night was well spent at Luxor (Egypt) with Paritosh Bhatt, another womanizer type friend of mine, sleeping away to glory; the second night was fractionally spent at Cairo airport trying to locate a cheaper food option and ciphering out why do we find so many hot women at the airports? What’s the connection? Hmm…Anyways, currently I am at Changi in Singapore after spending an whiz-bang day at the Bangkok international airport.
Well, being in the world’s largest student-run organization has its own perks. I have been traveling for over 45 days now; attending conferences, seminars & training camps. There is something about Airports that makes me stay more and spend more time at these busy avenues. I think I have spent hours just sitting at an airport talking to friends online, chatting with random people, just looking outside the window while the planes would take off and land. There is something awe-inspiring about these places.
I think it’s ‘the connection’ & ‘the networking’ they offer that attracts me to these humongous learning circles. Luckily, I have a huge list of ‘networking’ experiences at Airports.
I think it was March 2010; I met two Indians at the Hong Kong International Airport. Three of us took a transit/on-arrival visa and joined a tour bus which took us around Hong Kong in 7 hours and believe me; we had a time of our lives. Another memorable instance was when I met this Mersk Employee (again an Indian) at the Istanbul Airport; who was boasting about the women he had been with in the past 3 years of his life because of Mersk. I also had a pretty hilarious encounter with an Australian woman over a breakfast in Beijing International Airport in early May this year; who was bitching about the Russian accent and the gayness of Russian males. Another one which was more like a dream come true was when I spent a night with two hot Swedish chicks sharing a couch at the Stockholm airport. I got lucky with a head massage that night. We could’ve had it all? Adele won’t mind that!
Any enthusiastic traveler would keep writing about such memorable instances and connections; but what I encountered today was something really special and awe-inspiring. I met a retired Captain of Air India at the Bangkok Airport; he had served the Indian air services first as a Fighter pilot and then as a commercial pilot for 44 years. Imagine, 44 years of flying; he had been to over 60 countries and had experienced landings at over 100 airports. In his courageous flying career he had seen engine failures, pregnant ladies delivering babies on the plane, heart attacks, communal riots, tire bursts, sexual controversies between ministers and air hostesses and above all, he had also experienced a plane Hijack.
Somewhere in 80’s his plane (Air India) was hijacked and was taken to South Africa (name changed). At that time the diplomatic relations between the two countries were below grades. They were in custody of 6+ militants for almost three hours. He told me the story of his brave captain who refused to fly to another African country. There were no casualties amongst the flight crew and passengers. Later the militants surrendered.
He still flew for another 32 years after the incident. Fudge my life!
This initiated a chain of patriotic conversations between us. “India? Young India…Dream India…and Political India” After a elongated series of patriotic conversations, I expressed my desire to be a part of Indian foreign services and that I wanted to give UPSC exams next year; he had this inspiring proud feeling on his face, like the one my dad had when I managed to enter an engineering college.
All he said, “In today’s era if India still has young talent like you then I am sure, India’s future is in safe hands”. All I could say was, “Thank you”.
He is a family man, has a son, a pilot who is an instructor at some training institute in Manila; also is a father to a talented young lady, who is a health consultant in a hospital in Powai. He goes to gym, pays golf, attends parties, in fact his favorite drink is Black label. He was just another inspiring Indian.
We talked a lot, about our lives, our families, our work, our future aspirations. The funny part or rather weird part was how a 22 year old and 69 year old could connect so much. Right from the taste of an Indian dish, to the favorite brand of alcohol, to the things we disliked about random cities around the world, to sports, to politics and even our views on marriages or as we together described it: a state of life beyond definition – it all happened in the span of two hours.
I think the reason we connected was because we had similar stories more importantly we had similar dreams; the only difference between us was that, he had achieved those dreams and I was still an aspiring applicant. I think such conversations motivate me, drive me to create a story of my own, beyond public definitions and beliefs.
During the entire conversation, I only had this one small thought running parallel in my mind. What is that I want to be? What is that I want to achieve from this life? What is my end goal? (I did not find an answer)
But as the captain left for his flight to Mumbai and I was waiting for mine to start boarding (for Singapore) I realized, I was asking myself the wrong questions. The questions I should really be asking were:
What’s more important: What we become? Or how we become it? The ‘it’ either being who I want to be? or who I really am?
I hope I can answer that someday.
–I am sending this post as an official entry to Diary of a Traveler’s Contest. I hope you undergo similar life changing experiences.
If you liked my post – Please vote for it: HERE