Jun 26, 2005

LGA and a Dream of India

While at LaGuardia Airport at an unGodly hour (the wrong side of 5:00 AM) this past Saturday, I remarked that the old main terminal was reminiscent of India in some ways. It wasn't that the security and other staff were predominantly people of color, or that our companions in line were predominantly people of color (with a good number of desis, it's true). It was the general sense of lagging behind the ultra-modern airports that seem to be popping up everywhere nowadays. LGA almost seems like a throwback to India now, with uneven lighting, unfriendly yellow signs proclaiming directions, destinations, and diatribes in monosyllabic hieroglyphics. We even had to walk outside between terminals, almost unheard of in this age of rapid transport from here to anywhere.

I was reminded of the overzealous, young airport staff in Mumbai International. I was reminded of the uneven lighting, and air conditioning (which in itself was a welcome relief from what I was expecting when disembarking from my long journey to the [m]otherland).

I remember the long queue, the particularly Indian way of using simple but effective rubber stamps and small pieces of paper (conservation and self-reliance seem to be embedded in the Indian consciousness). I remember the frenzy while trying to pick up my bags from the carousel - more difficult and trying because of the limited space than some peculiar pushiness or hostility from my fellow flight-weary travelers. I remember the blast of humidity and sound and excitement all wrapped into one as I stepped out of the airport, and into the bustling scene just outside its door.

LGA - where parking for one day is equivalent to the cost of a dinner for four at an outstanding restaurant - is nothing like Mumbai Airport, and yet, sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I had a fleeting wish that I was back in India, back in the comfortable chaos of 110 crore dreamers, each yearning for her own piece of escape, modernity, or peace.

Back where, until I opened my mouth, my nationality was never questioned.

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