Saraswati Puja, Chance Encounters and Delays – My trip back to London

22nd January 2018 was the date. It was the end of my holidays, I dreaded this day, it meant I had to go back to work after over a month of relaxation. I didn’t take a month off, this being just post the Christmas Holiday season, I didn’t have much work then and when the world returned from their holidays, I decided to take mine. No, it wasn’t some sinister planning I had put into play, just the timing. Bihu at home meant much more to me than Christmas.

Coming back to the day I was writing about – it was Saraswati Puja, an Indian festival dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom/knowledge. In Guwahati, it is a big celebration wherein all school kids dress up and go about. The girls drape themselves in Saris and the lads try and be as fashionable as possible trying to impress them girls. Now, I had to get to the airport and due to the festival, the streets were going to be packed. So, to catch my flight to Delhi at 3:30 PM, I decided to leave home by 12 Noon and take the National Highway which goes around the city and to the airport, a lot longer but would be faster due to less traffic than having to go through the city and make my way through the crowded streets/roads and traffic. Boy, was I wrong! The highway wasn’t empty either, we kept inching towards our destination at snail’s pace. Mum was freaking out, she was pretty sure I was going to miss the flight, I had thoughts running through my head – Is there another flight I can book if I miss this one? What if this was the only flight to Delhi today? There should be other flights. I don’t have to bother about my connecting flight to London from Delhi as it is at 2:30 AM, there would be plenty of flights to get there before then. My brother was the one who kept his cool and kept joking the whole way, keeping the tense atmosphere in the car at bay.  

We managed to reach the airport just in time, said my goodbyes and headed in, go to the Check – In counter and then, funnily enough, the flight was delayed by 2 HOURS!!! So, now I get to sit in the airport for 2 hours, doing nothing, just people watching. Only after I reached London, I saw the text stating that the flight was delayed, I wasn’t using my phone back in India, so I never knew. I sat there, plugged in my earphones, listening to the limited music I had on my phone, music I hadn’t listened to in ages – thanks to Spotify and YouTube.

People watching was the best thing I could do to pass the time, there wasn’t much else. I was done browsing through the books in the little book store. It felt good to see quite a few backpackers at the airport, Northeast India was always a backpacker’s and adventurer’s paradise, but was only now getting discovered by the rest of the country. My eyes shifting from one person to the next, making observations in my head and jumping to my own conclusions about the person, assuming backstories etc., my eyes then shifted to this person walking towards the direction where I was seated. In one glance, I saw who he was, but surprisingly, not many people realised. Walking towards me was Papon, quite a celebrity by now. He had become a household name nationwide gaining popularity due to his contributions to Bollywood and also in the folk music scene. I wasn’t awestruck, no. I had seen him earlier in concert, this time it was different. He felt like one of the crowd, just any other person. Don’t get me wrong, almost all of us Assamese people love him, his music. The term Axomiya Pride may be more apt here. I think I have something with this airport and Assamese celebrities – the last time I was at Guwahati Airport, I saw Joi Barua, another Assamese singer who is also doing well in Bollywood.

Finally, it was time to board the aeroplane. I made my way patiently to the boarding gate and beyond. I had already booked my seat almost a month back and so was able to get a seat right in front, well, the second row. I looked out the window, it was getting dark. I could feel a tinge of emotions, I was leaving my home till what could possibly be another year. My train of thought was broken by a conversation that happened to fall on my ear, I looked up. Another chance encounter! This time it was a politician, an union minister who had come to inaugurate/ participate in a Silk Convention.

He was interesting. I was now paying attention to what he was saying, there were a few people flocking to either have a word or introduce themselves to him. They worked for the government, weren’t local. You could tell they had come to Guwahati not to visit, but for some official purpose.  At the end of my trip, I couldn’t tell if he was really the nice, down-to-earth person he seemed to be or was just too good a politician but he for sure, wasn’t the politician that is showcased in every Indian (doesn’t matter which language, they always are the same) movie, the antagonist. The only thing that made him look remotely like them was his dress, he wore Khadi but given that he was there for a textile convention, it seemed appropriate. One of the people who came up to him happened to go to the same school he did, that led him to reminisce on how they used to take a shared taxi to get to school. He wasn’t one of those born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he belonged to a middle class Indian family, like most of us in the sub-continent. It was time to be seated, a member of his entourage asked him to take a seat in one of the Business Class seats that were reserved, which he promptly refused and sat down in the seat in front of me in Economy. Was it him trying to show the public he was one with them or was it how he was? If I were him, I would have seated myself in Business Class without a second thought. It could’ve been the fear Social Media has put in him/them, where now everyone has the chance to judge or even make mountains out of molehills. I don’t mind if it helps keeping things in check.

The flight to Delhi was 2 hours, 10 minutes long, we were nearly there now. It was about 2 hours into the flight when there was a PA Announcement. More delays! There was too much air traffic in Delhi and so the Air Traffic Control set the landing time to an hour later. So, as we flew around in circles above Delhi for an hour, it was clearly visible as to why it was one of the most polluted cities in the world. You could see the layer of smog, static, above it like a protector, but only doing harm. My 2 hour long flight was now 3 hours long, glad we didn’t run out of fuel mid-air. Guess they prepare for things like this. 🙂

The rest of my journey was mostly uneventful! Made it to London with no issues.

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