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Monday, September 16, 2013

Airport City

Alexander McCall Smith, speaking for Isabel Dalhousie in one of those delicious Edinburgh based stories, writes that "....hell must be like an airport, with a surplus of artificial lighting and fake smiles...", or some words to that effect. I cannot remember (or find online) the exact quote, so if anyone reading this can point me to the book I'm trying to remember, I'd appreciate it a lot. Or we'll just have to wait until someone develops an exhaustive quotes page for this wonderful author.

New Delhi's T3, one of my favorites (picture from www.hok.com)
I remembered the phrase when I entered Dumdum airport today evening. I was weary, weighed down with Sunday evening blues. But I felt an instant lifting of spirits as I walked into Dumdum, and realized that airports always have this effect on me. Even when I'm grumpily taking 4 AM flights. I find that I'm seized with sudden involuntary happiness every time I walk into a terminal. Perhaps it is the chance to do unabashed people watching - there are people hugging, kissing, crying (or struggling to not cry), arguing - and all of it is fuel to my soul. I love the bright lights, the book stores and the doughnuts; I love the gleaming floors and tall ceilings. I even love the 'fake' smiles of the airport staff and sales people. Besides, who am I to say that the smiles are fake?

Further introspection reveals that what sums up the magic of airports for me is the air of anticipation. There's a feeling, that from this moment on, anything can happen. You're off to another city, another country, new and exciting experiences will follow. Even if it's a city that I'm returning to for the 97th time, the terminal whispers - you never know, something utterly different can happen to you tomorrow.

I think we're meant to feel this way about life in general, every minute of it - that there is just so much to look forward to. An airport perhaps is the place where the mind is able to pause, stop being mindless, and reaffirm that there are potential new beginnings, all the time, and everywhere.

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