Any first-time flyer is awestruck by the grandeur and magnificence of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. The sprawling, state-of-the-art Terminal 3 is a chic, different world altogether. However hard one may try to look confident and act normally, somehow the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ look on the face of the person flying for the first time gives him/her away.
Finding the check-in counter of ones airline from the numerous counters, going through the security check and then racing down to the boarding gate that may be a few kilometres away -- the entire exercise can be taxing and intimidating.
I am not a frequent flyer yet I can easily identify among the crowd at the airport, the parents who are flying overseas to meet their children. Venturing on their own, the elderly parents look anxious and apprehensive. You can easily make out from the lost, bewildered looks of a middle-aged/elderly woman that she is travelling alone, most likely to visit her children settled abroad or to look after a newborn grandchild.
Not every first-time flyer looks lost and baffled. There are some who go out of the way to pretend and insist that it is not their first time.
At the swanky Delhi international airport, we were getting our baggage checked in at the counter of Thai Airways by which we were travelling to Australia, I noticed an excited middle-aged couple. Their check-in formalities had been completed yet they continued to hang around. From their excitement and curiosity, I could make out that they were flying for the first time but they appeared to be quite relaxed with no trace of any anxiety. I wondered why there was no worry or hurry on their part to move.
Soon, the secret was out. As we were hurrying towards the boarding gate tugging along our cabin bags, we saw the two of them being steered on wheelchairs. Without any trace of embarrassment, the two perfectly hale and hearty individuals seemed to be enjoying the joy ride, excitedly looking around.
As we boarded the plane, we found the two of them settled comfortably on the seats adjacent to ours. The supposedly handicapped people, who needed airline assistance to board the flight a little while ago, were fit and fine to move about inside the aircraft. Every now and then, the woman, who was the smarter of the two, would walk up and down the aisle.
On my interaction with them, I came to know that they were travelling to Sydney to meet their daughter. I asked them casually if it was their first visit to Australia, to which the husband said promptly, “Yes.” But the very next moment, he had to retract his statement as he got a nudge from his better half. “No, second,” he corrected himself.
As the wife went ahead on her customary walk down the aisle, the husband explained sheepishly, “The first time our daughter came to India and this time we are visiting her.”
The writer teaches economics at MCMDAV College, Chandigarh