Nobody in my family in India knows that I am coming to check on my parents and inlaws. Dad and mom had been asking for some time when my next quarterly trip would be. I kept pointing to the fact that I have an important office project going on and that it would be difficult for me to predict when I might get a few days to go visit them.
Which is entirely true. I was mentally getting prepared to skip this quarter totally and shoot for a June/July visit. Then a couple of weeks back came the news that my dad got some bad lung infection. As it is, he has only 20% of lung capacity left – thanks to all the smoking he did in his life as well as working in a polluted environment of a steel factory. It seems he caught some kind of infection which brought his lungs to their knees. We have gone thru this before and know the procedures to be followed – including putting in quite some steroids in his system to get the lungs cells to revive and fight back. He still does not have the strength to get up from bed and go for his evening walk – which is usually the litmus test of normalcy for him.
When that happened, Sharmila suggested that I look for the cheapest tickets I could find and hop onto a plane. And that is how a few days later (yesterday), I got on to a flight to see my parents. My trips are usually short – this time it is extra short. But the most exciting part is – they do not know that I am coming. Only the driver who is to pick me up from the airport has any clue. Sharmila is half afraid that upon seeing a sudden visage of mine in front their door (or for that matter her parents’ door) they might get a heart attack and beat the purpose of why I go there.
Doing it with this level of secrecy has its own downsides. First, I will miss my brother. My constant companion in India will be in Hyderabad for his office work. I did not want to tell him anything lest he upsets his office schedules and tries to rearrange them. Second, my reception committee at the airport comprising of the two nephews will not be there since do not know either. In any case, this is school time for them. I will go see them for an evening but I will not be able to spend any more time with them. And finally, my brother in law won’t have much time with me either since I did not give him enough time to rearrange his hospital duties.
But I am excited about seeing my parents for three days and my inlaws for a day. And of course, since I am making the long haul there, whenever my parents get busy or take rest (by now you know, we need to get my mother to sleep for over twelve hours so her psychiatric conditions do not flare up) I am going to scoot off by myself to create more intersection points.
Whatever little time I get, my priorities will continue with the same themes I had for the last two trips – first, I will try to meet up with some of my teachers that taught me in my childhood and say Thanks to them. The next priority would be to meet parents of friends and other elderly people and give them some of my time. And finally, see if I can meet some of my old friends that I have not seen for a long time.
Three days of journey and five days of meeting people. Seven flights, four different airlines, eight different airports. Should be interesting…
Well, first of all, it was not a run really. Although, after I checked into the Skyclub in the airport – weary from a 8 hour translatlantic flight – and realized that I had a lot of layover time, my first instinct was to take out the running shoes and clothes from my carry on and go for a run inside the terminal.
A few minutes later, it dawned upon me that a brown guy like me running up and down Schipol airport without any apparent reason (or luggage for that matter) would undoubtedly get the carbine-toting security guards on my heels in a jiffy. So, decided to do the next best thing – go for brisk walking.
I think technically, the difference in brisk walking and running is less of speed and more about both feet being ever off the ground at the same time or not. But today, my walking speed varied between 14 minute mile to 18 minute mile depending on the crowd in the terminal. At the end, I had finished all the 6 terminals I was allowed to access (the other two required me to go thru immigration). A little over 5 miles, about 11,000 steps in about an hour and 20 minutes.
Now for a little glass of the bubbly and wait for my turn for the shower…
The airport has a big library right in the middle. You can pick up any of the books all around you and sit there and read. The second picture might be a dead give away – chairs and sitting places ensconced in tea cups and kettles.
This airport was also made famous by my friend Narayan Venkatasubramanyan who seemingly visited it every other day to miss his flights for ten years or so. Everybody here knows him by his first name. Of course, any of them who tried to remember him by his second name landed up with their tongues twisted up like pretzels!