this was 15 years ago. my dad worked abroad and i was traveling across the seas to stay with him during my summer break at college.
there were a lot of ‘new’ things, first times, to handle!
it was my first international flight, and just the third time i was traveling by air anyway. and one of those three times was when i was 8 months old, and i don’t think anything i cannot remember can be counted! so, my second flight ever!
i was traveling alone for the first time! armed with a barrage of instructions (from mom) and check-list… kept running through it in my head. (yes, i was a bit of a precautious person, maybe still am!)
passport – yes, ticket – yes, money – yes.
(traveling was way easier then.. no i-pods, camera with lens, covers, to leave behind!)
i was also carrying hazar instructions from my mother… who seemed at times more worried than me! it was a tearful farewell… she cried, i didn’t! i was going away for a month or was it two… she said, waaaah, i said yay!
it was my first immigration. indonesia (or so my dad scared me into believing) was very strict about travelers into their country. needed to have the right papers, the right answers. so, breathe deep i kept telling myself…
it was my first step on another country’s soil, where i was not the first citizen! the first time i was the foreigner. the first time i would be stared at for my different body structure, skin colour, features, maybe even clothes! and i would not understand a word anyone was saying either.
and with all this baggage i traveled!
the flight was a breeze. i had a comfortable seat. non-stop stream of movies (instructed by my brother to not sleep but watch movies!) i ate well, had pre-ordered vegetarian food! the stewardess was sweet and attentive…
immigration was easy, the man didn’t even ask anything! filling the form to be submitted at the immigration desk was also easy!
i was starting to wonder what the fuss was about…
then i begun to feel tired. it had been a long journey from pune to the international airport at mumbai, to waiting for the flight, boarding the flight before dawn, watching movies non-stop, identifying luggage, immigration and the long queue…
slowly, this feeling of homesickness started to crawl over me. it doesn’t take away from the fact that i was all wide-eyed and excited! who wouldn’t on their first solo trip! but, i was far away from all that was familiar…the smells, sights, people… i was surrounded by so many people i didn’t know…
and then, in the far distance, in this unknown land where i was a stranger, i saw a turban sitting on the head of a man who was too far for me to make out any features. it was bright, colourful and it was home! i felt happy!
ironically, i am a south indian who grew up in the west of india… with no turbans in my near vicinity! the turban hardly symbolised the familiar for someone like me in india but outside, the rules seem to have changed. the turban represented home!