Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A city in a desert: Part 1

International airports in India are difficult to see. It is not that the government is torturing passengers (well not intentionally anyway), but it is the kind of people you see there that makes you stop and look, and wonder. And look back at yourself.

I was invited to Doha, Qatar for a film festival, where my documentary film "Words in Stone" about the poet Wali Gujarati was being screened. My flight was at 4am and as such, I was told to reach the airport by 1am, latest. This was the first time I was returning to Ahmedabad International airport since my return from France in 2004.

Age does not necessarily make you wiser, but it does change what you chose to look at and what you choose to see. Entering the waiting room of that airport, after the security check-in, I looked around to find a place to sit. My eyes were drawn to a certain corner, where there were many old people. Grandparents, perhaps great grand parents, aided by canes and wheel-chairs, waiting. At 2am. Wide awake. Ready to board a flight. Travel for many hours. To meet someone they love.

Many reasons convince people to leave their homes for other countries. Education, opportunity, lifestyle, economics, glamour, idealism, foolishness, love, murder, cowardice. But to the visitors these people receive, there is usually but one reason to travel.

And as I sat, watching these very people, I wished that money, that borders did not exist, at least for a few of us. I wished that we did not have to ask permission to meet our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. I wished that there could be no one who would refuse us this permission. I wished for idealism.

The clock ticked on. The TV continued playing at mute. And I turned to look out towards the tarmac, waiting, alone amidst a crowd of people, for my flight.

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