I miss travelling. (I know, I know, many of us do.)
When I had an opportunity to go to Delhi last month for a work trip, I was wild with excitement. There were hours to endure at the airport and on the plane, with multiple dabs of sanitiser and the face shield pressing on your forehead, but these seemed like minor inconveniences. I was going to see new people again, stay on my own for a bit (which is an important exercise in practising confidence), eat out, and buy Frontier Biscuits, which weren’t on Amazon then and had received enormous praise from my cousin and my aunt.
I wasn’t bored for a moment on the flight or at the airport. I have never been a ‘frequent flyer’ and airports hold a charm for me, despite the tediousness of security checks. I like pottering about the bookshop and discovering new writers. I enjoy reading the names of different destinations on the electronic boards, even as I envy those who are going to Agartala or Jammu or any other town I’ve never been to. Occasionally, there is some excitement afforded by a celebrity who pops up at the airport, as if to remind us that contrary to what we may like to think, they do not have private jets. I saw a music director once, signing autographs in a rather bored manner. On a trip to Goa, my colleagues and I found ourselves on a plane with a football team; unfortunately, we had little knowledge of football or footballers, and wouldn’t have known who the stars were. I don’t often see celebrities, and I like to think I’m all poised and wouldn’t bother them (unless they’re in F1) in public, but it isn’t really the case. When I saw Ranjani and Gayatri at the airport, I was gushy and delighted. It helped that they were down-to-earth and friendly, so I didn’t feel too silly. (If you haven’t heard these sisters sing, try this; if you want to hear them play the violin, here’s some beautiful Sindhu Bhairavi).
To keep up with these cravings, I started my slow reading this year with a travel book. I followed this up with some Sophie Kinsella, which involved shuttling between England and the UK. Then I had a craving for immigrant novels, which is why I’m now reading Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas — I get glimpses of both Iran and the US at once! I miss experiencing other people’s lives through their eyes, finding little pockets of comfort in new places, and coming home to them at the end of a long day. Reading takes you to these places when you can’t actually pack your bags and go, and I am very grateful for my Kindle and the Internet.
For when the fancy catches me, I can move to Ireland with Eabha McMahon. Or escape into Tibet. Forget that things sometimes spiral out of control, but it’s alright. We are here and we are home, wherever that home is. We will make do with well-etched characters in books and films for now, and when everything gets better, be back exploring mountaintops and flea markets in distant places whose names fascinate us.