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Landing at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, I was in for a surprise. The airport has got a face lift. Despite the bad press, the Commonwealth Games has made homecoming less depressing. It didn’t bother me much that the rather ugly brown and yellow carpets stank of dampness. Gone will be the days, hopefully, of people falling from escalators and dying. Indians are always in a hurry, so we are witness to all sorts of mishaps. It was also a relief not to be part of the great mix of unruly compatriots whose loved ones outnumber visitors at the arrival gate. Save for the diplomatic passport holders and the other privileged lot, the rest of us lowly mortals took to the queue waiting to be scrutinised with venom and envy by grumpy immigration officials. On one occasion, one went to the detail of asking me how I met my husband, married him and settled abroad – in the way you would expect from a frustrated moron, not a government servant.

But some things haven’t changed. Tired travellers don’t get a smile at the duty free shops. The taxi driver outside is lazy and does not want to ferry you despite a pre-paid ticket at hand. Instead, he is peeved at the number of luggage you have and expects a good tip. “Samaan jaada hain madam (too much luggage madam),” he frowns. I wonder if he has equated his engine to a mule.

I was once again back to the heat and dust, the clamour and people of the city which had been home to me for decades. When I commented about how suddenly I was transported to chaos, I met with a firm, “Oh you have forgotten your slum days so soon?” Of course, I was not complaining. I was just saying I had begun to lose the sense of the chaos and it all felt new again. Alive and aware!


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