“Air India regrets to announce a delay in the departure of flight no XXX to Mumbai”
An Ominous open ended announcement, with no concrete information of how long the delay
My elder colleague RR and I looked at each other and instinctively headed towards the seating area of the airport near the departure gates. I could hear similar announcements about other airlines too
We then got to know that there was an airspace curfew in view of some tests being conducted by the army and air force. We braced ourselves for some indefinite delay and headed to the food court area
On this fateful day, I discovered the joy of doing something new….
RR is not great at conversing, so I was getting myself prepared to start reading a book which is how I spend time on such occasions
As more and more airlines announced the delays, the waiting area was starting to get crowded
I was really feeling bored, how I wished that I would be on that flight and reach home so that I could relax and sleep, but here I was at the airport bracing for at-least 3 to 4 hours of delay
The conversation with RR was mundane, he was replying in his typical style monosyllables and it has a great rub off effect on me, if he asked something or remarked about something I also began to instinctively reply in monosyllables
In the crowded hall I saw many people around me, sipping coffee, some of them discussing animatedly, some joking and having fun. Slowly I started looking and observing more and more people.
At the far end of the hall I could see a group of 4 people. I could not make out what they were conversing, but at that moment it did not matter to me, I started to observe them, I started to script the situation. One guy who stood as if he is facing the rest: must be the BOSS. One of the guys was very active; he was trying to impress the BOSS. His body language was clearly showing he was going all out to agree to boss, trying to please him. The other guy was trying to interject, but the boss was rebutting. The guy must have got a mouthful during the review meeting in the office and he was still not able to make up. The third guy seemed like a rebel. He was trying to move away from the sphere influence, an occasional short comment is all that he seemed to offer. That guy must be disliking his boss. I started developing the story in my mind.
I had to be careful, and keep looking around once in a while so that neither the group feels being watched and gets conscious nor should anyone around me also catch me observing them deeply that would be very embarrassing.
I was looking for cues, what kind of an organization? What kind of business? My mind started to expand, different scenarios, a soap opera was forming in my mind
I don’t know how much time had elapsed when I asked RR whether there was any announcement? He replied in the negative. He was sitting there with and expression of a person bored in life. But he was always like that…..
I turned around I could see a young couple very close to where I was seated. Not young enough to be classified and “married recently” , but not old enough either. Interesting!
Middle class family! Not very rich- modestly dressed. Must have come to attend a family function, the “Mehdi” on her arm gave it away!
They were having an argument….surely! She was not in a good mood. He was trying to woo her. She was snapping. I think the controversy was on what to eat or something. I was playing the words in my mind. Her in between smile was a proof that their love was intact. But they were arguing on. He was pointing at the different counters at the food court. NO SAYS SHE. Finally as if picking up a “Bramhastra” she opened her hand luggage and took out a packet of Gujarati thepla.
This was getting interesting. How to stereotype these two? Their families and so on and so forth
Before I could realize, I had spent 3 hours and never realized the passage of so much time.
As I was boarding the flight, I realized I did something that day which I never did before…. I was observing people and interpreting their stories without listening to the conversation or intruding their space or attention.
Suddenly I realized that I had gained something. I realized this was a great way to spend time when you don’t have anything to do. Just observe the people around you and you will be reading great stories- some maybe true, most of them may be imaginary, but who cares, it’s just between me and me!
I had found a solution to the problem that had been plaguing me all through my career while waiting at a station, bus stop, or at the airport, over even when I am stuck in a traffic jam in a cab
Now it does not scare me. A delayed arrival of a train, the other day, set my eyes on a rural poor woman admonishing her child. She has so much to handle so many challenges, surely living in poverty, trying to make ends meet and so many frustrations being downloaded on the kid. What if she is working and her husband is blowing all that away gambling and drinking!
The discovery of the art of observing people without making them realize it, helps me these days to overcome any such otherwise boring situations.
The experience at the airport TERMINAL (a title inspired by my one of my fav movies) has rejuvenated my passion to work, travel and work
The other day I was stuck in a traffic jam in a cab which would not move… I just turned my head out of the window, and saw a mother and a daughter inside the car beside me surely having a fight over…..
But that story we shall keep for another day….