Adrift in the airport lounge

Adrift in the airport lounge

The short fiction series revolves around a group of people stranded at the Heathrow airport waiting lounge

Shruti Ravindran
December 31 , 2014
01 Min Read

The Tranquebar short fiction series targets the globalised soul, familiar with the blandishment and boredom that awaits those perpetually adrift in transit. Just about a hundred pages long, this tale provides brisk entertainment ideal for the grim limbo otherwise known as the airport waiting lounge... which is where, in a case of art-ironically-imitating-life, the action unfolds.

A motley group — including a saffron-turbaned Southall clan, a wheelchair-bound lady clutching a mysterious bundle and an inter-racial couple — are ejected off a plane to Bombay and made to wait in a gloomy Heathrow airport lounge. Once the airport staff doles out meal coupons, discreetly turns off the heat and bids them an “unfriendly farewell”, the wait increasingly begins to resemble a version of No Exit – directed by Gurinder Chadha. The Southall womenfolk lay into their stash of Baco-foil wrapped snacks and chocolates intended as gifts, while the men drain bottles of duty-free whisky. With cinematic efficiency, expository exchanges let us in on backstories — adoptions, weddings, funerals, which, like the famous Gauguin painting, pretty much cover the gamut of human experience.

Unlikely quirky dialogues give otherwise banal characters placed in a relatively banal situation a semblance of individuality. One mysterious character named Bhao Shinde, for instance, is a veritable aphorism generator, likening the discomfort of polar bears in zoos to "first-generation displacement, immigrant blues", snow to "rain's mute and stupid brother", and hate to "a good curry" which takes "effort, time and masala". At the denouement — a flaring out of barely restrained tensions between the conflicted Southall desis — Shinde can be counted on to provide a bite-sized bit of wisdom, like a Greek chorus speaking via fortune cookie: "It's time to make a choice or you'll be foreigners everywhere and forever. Fake as the fashions you make."

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