Earlier today, I and my partner boarded a Boeing 777 for
Paris and from there an A340 to Boston, USA. That’s where I am now, as I write this. Between 1.15
a.m. and 3.15 p.m., on the 12th of April 2006, I entered the curious limbo of the modern traveler, surrounded by strangers, eating
food that has been processed and packaged by hundreds of unseen hands, compressing the awesome distances of the earth into the space of less than one complete day.
For a professional recluse like me, being immersed in a sea of anonymity is like walking into a cocktail party wearing a burkha. Even though everyone sees me, in a true sense, I am invisible. My personal history collapses to the size of my passport and ticket. My identity merges with everyone else in this horde of itinerants to such an extent that when I see my reflection in the miles of glass lining the corridors, I become unrecognizable even to myself.
The food on Air France is wonderful, the red wine is good and the soft tide of French lapping around me awakens the Closet Francophile within me. I find myself responding to air-hostesses in high school stock phrases and feel obscurely thrilled when they actually work.
For long moments before immigration, I try to convince myself I’ve left out some vital detail in my paperwork that will result in being instantly deported. But no: we sail through and within minutes are enjoying the snappy sunsine of early spring, as we wait to be collected by a friend.
I’d spent the final three days in Delhi packing frenziedly, furious that I’d yet again left this vital activity till the last minute.
But it’s behind me now. All that remains is to relax and enjoy myself... just as soon as I’ve sent off this column.
This article originally appeared in Delhi City Limits, April 30, 2006