Normally my style would be a little different; for example huddled amongst my backpack and a wall under the cover of an alternatively utilized checkered scarf. A fort constructed by imagination and innovation. Slipping into the subconscious to explore worlds ordinarily veiled by reality.
But the scenery is different this time. A tacky neon sign has lured me to play another game. In the movies it’s all first class, sophisticated suits and cocktails. Elegant hostesses, men with international business and a tab taken care of with a platinum card. The adult game of waiting for a plane. I’ve got 330INR in my pocket, which is enough to buy a beer and a seat in the cafeteriaesque bar, the only one, at the Chennai airport.
My pint of beer sits on a candy striped, paper placemat along with a plate of fried cumin treats. The menu proclaims, “Golden Chariot,” in an overly enthusiastic way. An electric blue, double barred bug zapper sits above the bar, slightly below and to the right of an analogue clock that reads 11:27pm. I take another sip of my beer and place it back down on the placemat that, by now in its soggy state, has torn at the perimeter of the condensation left by the beer vessel. Some men sitting adjacent try to get my attention, “Madam. Hello. Madam.” They’re just not direct enough so that I can ignore them and go on writing. The One Straw Revolution, place marked at “Nothing at all,” sits alongside an empty side dish on the table in front of me and Sri Aurobindo’s Thoughts on Experience defragments in my mind. It’s a kind of lonely place, with a few Indian blokes, who wouldn’t smile at me even if it were culturally appropriate to do so.
Although the obscure corner that I occupy is the perfect place to snag a few hours sleep I revert back to thinking about my outdoor bivouac. I’m uninterested in this bar-game now. Walking back out along the flyover walkway I scrutinise the characters already occupying the passage and instead decide to assess the potential at ground level.
A few families and scattered individuals have sprawled themselves on the grassy area in front of the departure gate’s double electric sliding doors. In the middle of the lawn I spy a flowering frangipani tree offering a covered alcove to pass the night. I pull out my multi-use scarf and wriggle my backpack into a space to rest my head. Although it’s not too cold, it’s humid, and in the Indian winter the temperature will drop overnight – the scarf will hopefully keep me warm and protected from the ever-present mosquito army.
It’s darkest just before the dawn and time always passes slowest in the dense hours between four and six. I sleep intermittently and if I wasn’t so comfortable I would probably search for my jacket that’s buried somewhere deep inside my backpack. When a old man parks his bicycle, a vat carrying hot milk propped precariously on the back, next to my frangipani fort I notice that the other families and folk have long departed. The man, wrapped in a traditional checkered cloth like the one in which I’ve been cocooned, entices passers-by, “Chaaaii. Coffeeee. Chaaaii.” I wobble my head appropriately and he shuffles over, shoeless, with a steaming disposable paper cup. I rest back into my not-so-secret alcove and calculate 132 minutes before check-in opens.
Earlier the day before I’d boarded the Chennai Express and remained entertained by rolling scenery and tumbling thoughts; contemplating the future of agriculture together with fragments of the last 6 months. There’s something about being in transit, the movement, which allows my mind to wander and expand. Anticipating my advancing departure and return to a previously familiar place I feel an excitement of discovering what’s around the next corner. In this mode my world is unmasked, bare and an open book ready to be written.
Thinking about it I’ll miss the street goats, hanging out at my local temple and the seemingly un-coordinated chaos. Shit, I’ll probably even miss the ants. In the meantime I’ll savour the last of this hot chai as the evening darkness finally fades.