03 June 2011

Singapore finale: A place called here

I like airports. More than railway stations or bus terminals - at least the ones I've seen. Airports always instill in me a feverish excitement, a sense of exhilaration, the kind of feeling you get when you know that soon you're going to be up, up and away.

I had an early flight back home, and horrible as I am when it comes to waking up early, I barely got any shut eye at night. Trying to stuff all the purchases - mostly gifts, mind - into my tiny suitcase was no mean feat, but waking up at 5.30am was harder. I kept jumping up at hourly intervals to check the time, having left the light on to make it harder to sleep soundly, and when I was finally roused earlier than my alarm, I decided to get out of bed and prep.

There was something so surreal about watching the dawn in a taxi - just as I'd watched it from the plane when I left Delhi to come here. A fitting farewell. The city looked colorful even in darkness, and that's how I'll remember it, I thought. I was a bit nervous, not having done the whole airport thing alone often, and never at an international one, so I spent quite a while wondering whether I'd missed the luggage scan and, if yes, where it was. Too sleepy to shop duty free, I plonked my backpack and myself on a chair, pulled out a brown paper bag that contained my novel - Cecelia Ahern's A Place Called Here (wrapped up carefully to prevent scratches) and a packet of pineapple cream biscuits, and munched and read happily.

I had carried only this book as my trip novel, but understandably hadn't had a moment to spare. As I opened it to the first page, I wondered if I'd be able to concentrate amidst nervously checking the time to proceed to the boarding gate. But from the first line, I was hooked. Ahern's style of writing has always charmed me, and I wasn't disappointed. She's probably my favorite author after Rowling, and that's saying something. With just the tiniest sprinkle of magic, she makes a point. And this is not magic that heals or fixes, but just teaches, and then leaves. It's so believable because she uses plots that we could easily be in - an imaginary friend, a place where lost things go, a book that tells you what the future holds - but leaves enough ambiguity to doubt even that. Shocking pink cover aside, I think it's weird that some consider her books chick-lit; it's anything but. Maybe that reputation comes from having a largely female readership, but I really think men ought to open up a bit. They can't all be such Naipauls. Anyway, I digress.

I must have read for about an hour when I decided I ought to get closer to the gates - or at least find out where they were - so I tucked the book under my arm, itching to open it again. Past a few signs and a few people, I spotted the gate and chairs beside it, and down went backpack and me again, with my nose already buried in the book. This continued, with pauses for the security check (yay)(though they confiscated my lotion and deo)(mmpf), final boarding call, walk to the aircraft, and so on. With a window seat and two empty seats next to me, I couldn't have asked for more. The book kept me company as I strove to stay awake for breakfast - which turned out to be a forlorn lump of egg and two of chicken, a croissant, some exotic looking fruit and strawberry yoghurt. Boo Air India. After nibbling at it for a while - trying to find something on the TV other than Boyzone videos and some weird Indian reality show, gosh I hate reality shows SO MUCH, but that's another story - I couldn't keep my eyes open so I gave in.

Anyway, I didn't mean to bore you with flight details, and I know that's what I ended up doing. I'm just very distracted by the uber-awesome Federer-Djokovic match right now. So what I really meant to say was - Cecelia Ahern's books are great, and you should go read them. Bye bye.

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