For me, Covid’s biggest blow has been the one it’s dealt cruelly to the solar plexus of my travel plans. Sigh. How I yearn to take off again into the welcoming skies.
Given below, in no particular order, are all the things I so miss.
I miss waking up four hours in advance (my bowels need cajoling, okay?) to be able to make it to the airport two hours (I’m a stickler, okay?) in advance. I miss showing my ID to the Hindi-speaking security guy in namma Chennai who’s never convinced it’s me in the photo but lets me in anyway thinking, bah, what can this sap do. I miss having that guy behind me in the check-in queue bump his giant strolley into my foot repeatedly till the skin comes off my ankle. I miss taking my belt off for security and holding my pants up with sheer willpower when I’m made to stand like SRK by the (again, North Indian) frisker.
I miss the guy on the phone seated next to me, eyes closed, giving someone the uncensored, director’s cut of his anaesthesia-free haemorrhoid removal. I miss going to the airport loo one last time to be on the safe side and finding neither mug nor toilet paper and things I will need therapy to get over. I miss eating a samosa bought at the food court and watching a small family of rodents walk out cheerily from behind the stall.
I miss the namaste and smile of the flight attendant that says ‘I’ll kick you in the crotch if you call me more than once.’ I miss the large guy who comes just as soon as I’ve buckled up in the aisle seat (which I’ve paid extra for) who makes me get up to take the middle seat. I miss the even larger guy who comes to take the window seat after both of us have buckled up. I miss their stepping on my feet like Sunny Paaji in Yaara O Yaara as they go to the loo twice each on a one-hour flight.
I miss the family that sits behind me that uses my backrest as support to sit down and get up, catapulting my head into the backrest of the seat ahead of me every time they let it go. I miss their unannounced knuckle-sandwiches to my cranium (reminiscent of Pattu Miss’s kottus ) in their efforts to be seated. I miss the guy who sits in front of me who has to recline as soon as he is seated and remains that way till eternity.
I miss the two-minute upma priced at ₹ 300 that is apparently manufactured by Madras Cements. I miss fighting for one half of the arm rest that’s rightfully mine with a guy who looks like he eats puppies for breakfast. I miss trying to guess whether it’s the guy next to me or the guy in front of me who passed wind four times in quick succession. I miss trying to somehow convey silently to everyone else on the plane that the wind-passer wasn’t me. I miss being brained as I’m dozing off by a bag that is suddenly needed from the overhead locker above me by someone six seats away. I miss the guy who talks on his phone even as we are taking off and doesn’t stop till we land. I miss everyone getting up in unison, like the National Anthem is being played, as soon as the first wheel touches the runway on landing.
Ah, to travel again.
Krishna Shastri Devulapalli is a satirist. He has written four books and edited an anthology.