Saturday 26 Feb. 2000. 11.30 p.m.
I left the villages on the outskirts of Pondicherry already missing India. I realized why I needed a scooter, because of these villages. Three girls standing dressed in bright flowers by a temple. Oxen with calves outside a village hut. The trees against the sky. Then rains came, a heavy mist. We arrive at Chennai airport in
pouring rain. I start this journal 2000 waiting in line for Indian Airlines to Bangkok.
10.30 a.m Bangkok time.
The flight was delayed, a ‘technical fault’. We changed planes, it came from Bangalore. We finally boarded at 3.45 a.m. It took off , hardly waiting for every one to be seated at 4 a.m. I had been busy all that day, cycling around Pondicherry on my bike until after mid day on calls I had to make. Got home, painted, ironed some stock, cleaned the shop, designed two new bag patterns and finally got in my taxi at 8 p.m. At 5.30 a.m the hostess wakes you up and offers you a meal. Who wants to eat a pre-packed veggie curry dish at 5.a.m I wondered? I took the coffee and the fruit and dozed until we landed.
I was pleased to feel relaxed upon arrival. I knew the drill. Welcome to the Kingdom of Thailand, a different world. The Land of Smile, they call it. I am the one who’s smiling. The airport corridors were banked with planters overflowing with orchids. Real, alive and growing, everything spotlessly clean.
Part of the paradox of loving India is that you accept its shabbiness, its disorderly chaos, the lack of comfort and cleanliness. The fact they offer you tea boiled with the milk and sugar from a dirty urn in an even dirtier airport but you focus instead on its loveliness, its captivating landscapes glimpsed from the train on a moonlit night, the perfume of Jasmine and the way you are accepted with innocent pleasure and grace by its people. The contrast, stepping off the plane is startling and instant. Especially if you had not left India for six months. I realized just how much my vision had become imbibed, accustomed to its sights sounds and smells.
Speeding along the express way into town in the air-conditioned taxi I am again reminded, as on my first visit, of space age Asia, or perhaps a kind of futuristic hi-tech Japanese animation. Young women perch gracefully on the back of neon colored motor bikes, their huge sleek crash helmets reminiscent of aliens, part fly part human.Thin legs in impossibly high heels wearing mini skirts and beautifully fitted suits, a nod towards Chanel no less, they whiz by us over flyovers, a city-scape of modern and ancient juxtaposed spread below.
Only problem was, my host had not received my up-dated email. They were not expecting me until the following day.
To be continued…