Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Airport 78/79

I have finally recovered from the whirlwind of last weekend. It was a fluttery of sightseeing, cocktails and flight planning. Since Manuel is here, I have been playing the tacky tourist. You know what I mean, the long shorts, sneakers, sunscreen dripping into the eyes, 35mm slung over the shoulder and digital camera in the hand, taking pictures of all the wrong things and offending the locals. I find a certain freedom in being the ignorant gora. If one is going to stand out, then one should do it with as much panache as possible.

Visiting temples in India during the summer is a unique experience. It is not possible to wear or take shoes into the temple and for some unknown reason which I am sure has a lot to do with logic, they seem to store the shoes about a kilometer from the temple itself. They lay down thin carpet like things over the hot coals of a walkway and the trek to the temple begins. People running from shade spot to shade spot and doing the hot potato dance in between. Little kids seem to be oblivious to the pavement, but my delicate feet sizzled like bacon. First stop was the Lotus Temple, which is one of my favorite refuges in the middle of the city. No matter what is happening outside or how hot it may be, the Lotus Temple is always quiet and cool. From there it was off to Akshradam Temple complex. It is a new temple, about 5 years old, but built in the old style so it feels as though you have stepped back through time in a sort of Disney meets Ganesh kind of way. It is a photographers dream, but no cameras are allowed.

After a few hours of sightseeing, it was time for cocktails and dinner with Stephen and Pierre. First up was gin martinis at their place, followed by dinner at Ivy and post dinner cocktails on their roof terrace. But not before Pierre dragged us to what is supposedly the new hip and happening spot in Delhi, Tabusalar in Saket. Of course, thanks to all of his planning, we spent our entire time there on the wrong side of the velvet rope. Pierre kept reassuring us how great it was, which made our inability to get in all the more frustrating. After about 20 minutes of waiting in the sauna like heat, we left and that is how we ended up on their roof terrace with Pierre force-feeding everyone more gin martinis.

Saturday found all of us nursing our hangovers in order to be fresh and perky for dinner at Ploof with the fabulous Danielle, who had freshly returned from Holland, looking as radiant and beautiful as ever… It was at Ploof when I came across yet another missing element from my childhood. Out of the 5 of us, there were only 2 of us that had not had a duck as a pet. A duck. What does one do with a duck? Well, apparently Stpehen’s used to follow him around, going into panic attacks if Stephen wandered off. Manuel had a duck. Danielle had a duck. Pierre and I were the obvious outsiders. I wasn’t sure weather I should be jealous or relieved. But then, Pierre dropped his bombshell… It is always odd when you discover someone’s hidden fetish. And Pierre’s is a doozy of one.

It seems he collects timetables from airlines. But not recent ones, mind you. The one I saw was from AerLingus for 78/79, which suddenly explained why Pierre often and quite suddenly drops a sentence like ”Do you know, if I had flown PanAm from Dublin to Nairobi in July of 1978, I would have had to connect in Cairo and then change planes 3 more times?” As if that weren't reason enough to call the men in white with their special little jackets, he then complains about how miserable his life would have been if he would have taken that flight and how his luggage probably would have gotten lost and don’t even get him started on the supposed issues he would have had at immigration due to the fact the airline would not have told him to arrange his visa in advance and the crazy taxi driver that would have fetched him from the airport. And that is how he talks when sober… Wait until gin martini number 6. Perhaps a pet duck isn’t so odd in comparison.

Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, she is free at last. My life, however has come to an end. Yes, she may have emerged smiling and looking like, well, 300 million dollars, but my life now has no meaning. As the president, founder and sole member of the Indian chapter of the “Free Paris Society”, I suddenly find myself feeling empty. My grief and feeling of uncertainty echoing in the cavernous emptiness of my previously full life. So here I sit in CafĂ© Coffee Day in Gurgaon (yes, Gurgaon, see how low I have sunk?) pondering what my next mission will be. The reverend mother says that when God closes a door, he opens a window somewhere. At least that’s what Maria would have us believe, but look as I may, all I see are closed windows and badly painted walls.

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