Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Airport Tales

I was in the Mumbai. Yes. It was annual pilgrimage time for the marathon. But more on that later!
Usually I travel all by my own lonesome self. To and fro. I don't mind. I pick reasonable times of day to travel; these are familiar places; rusty though my hindi might be, I can get around. I carry a phone, I call friends, I keep my eyes open.

This time, on the way in, we were four of us from Chennai on the same plane. A kind friend web checked me in. I don't know how to do that, you see. We got the seats with the leg room. As the nice lady instructed me on the emergency protocol, the guys sniggered and I had to try hard not to giggle.

I memorised the instructions and repeated it back to my audience, no worries. I was whisked around royally without a worry or care from the airport to the expo, and lunch, and finally to our hotel. It was awesome not to have to do these things all by my own self. I felt quite pampered, and grateful for these nice people who are now my friends.

On the way back, as per our agreement, I met up with ludwig in the airport. He messaged me a lot of cruel things, claimed to have some communicable disease or the other, said he hated me and so forth, but I nevertheless sallied forth bravely into the tiger-cave, so to say.

As we downed a couple of beers and lamented our old age and tendency for anything we put into our mouths to turn into fat, I decided to discuss something seriously with him. You know, just like that. But it was interesting to see how scared he got when I whipped out the computer and started noting stuff down.

Ludwig & I are friends for like eons. We go back a long way. In a way things have a come a full circle - he was my 'junior' in college here; and in grad school in Amherst; and we occupied real estate in Cambridge together; and moved back to Chennai recently, within months of each other.

All my life I have acted like I am one of the guys. I think my older friends also treat me like that, you know, because I drink beer, and can swear a little bit, and don't wear nail polish or take forever during bathroom breaks. So I can get away with these questions I wanted to ask. Even if the generalisation is ridiculous, and I have taken to drinking less than before.

"Taser guns, missiles, and such armaments is what I recommend, to make this world a safer place for women," said my dear friend. I am a non-violent person, actually so is he. But things are getting desperate now, at least thats what I am inclined to believe. "Men are pigs, you say then?" I asked him. He nodded. "Turn the other cheek" - well thats old hat now.

I am a lucky girl. I have friends. I am independent. I have my invisibility cloak (ludwig has seen this - so has the deshvaasi - and it really irritates my husband because he thinks I do it on purpose) that shields me. But the world out there? Is not nice. Its not about men or women or definitions of molestation and rape and harassment. There is a reality, that we all need to accept, its not nuanced, this reality.

The world is not a safe place. Not for you, me, our children, or our parents. We need to learn, we need to speak, we need to work hard to make ourselves heard. I love to travel. My family enjoys my travels, through me. On this trip though, I was glad I wasn't alone. My idealism is taking a beating now. I was glad to hang with all of you. Real glad. 


Ludwig said...


Anyway, we must have words, you and I , about this and cabbages and kings and pigs and wings, preferably when you haven't spooked the bejesus out of me like you did. Minus the freak factor, I may actually have coherent things to say.

I've wanted to think that this whole public safety issue thing is in no small measure a culture/upbringing thing, but things like this disprove the thesis. Nevertheless, we should at least try to aim for a slice of Scandinavia, even if things aren't quite perfect there also.

Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

I should have warned you. Anyway life is long we will converse at length. First step is campus safety, on which topic I have much to say.