Sunday, April 7, 2013

For the love of airports

Picture this scene:

Timeline: 1988 - 1998

Wake up call: 2 AM

Time to get ready: 30 minutes

Pick up vehicle arrives: 2:30 AM

Destination: 135 kilometers from home

Task Assigned: Receive guests

Return home: 7:30 AM

For any person who reads this, the above mentioned activity could sound quite mundane. For me this was a far cry from being a boring task. In fact I’d looked forward for days together for this very special day to arrive. I am proud to say that I’d done this multiple times and with each time the interest levels had only gone up!

As strange as this may sound, the scene above was a reference to one of my most favorite days of the year. This was when I would get a chance to go to the airport to receive an uncle and family who used to come visiting once a year from one of the Gulf nations. Needless to say I was thrilled to see my uncle, aunt and cousins after a long gap of one year. The obvious anxiety of the gifts they would’ve brought made the trip even more appealing. But, what made it such an anticipated event was the fact that I could get to see the airport again after a year!

I do not exactly remember when I developed such a passion for airports and aircrafts. As many other kids, I also remember rushing out of my home hearing the humming of an aircraft engine. Day or night didn’t matter. The height at which the aircraft was flying didn’t even bother me. All what I wanted was to catch a glimpse of the metal bird. There was even a competition between my brother and me on who spots the plane first. It was considered a skill to follow the sound and look at the right direction to identify the aircraft. We’ll be rewarded with a gleaming tiny silver bird or flashing red and green lights depending on what time of the day you spot the aircraft.

Airports were even more fascinating where you could watch multiple such moving wonders in action. All the activities surrounding an aircraft generated so much of curiosity in me that I even doubted at times if I was addicted to this concept. I distinctly remember the visitors’ lounge on the upper floor of the airport building which could be accessed by paying an amount which was not that small. That’s where you could wait and watch the people disembarking from the aircraft on arrival [these were the pre-aerobridge days] as well as see them walking towards the aircraft on departure.

Unlike the heights of happiness experienced during arrival when I could see the airport as well as meet my relatives, departure created mixed emotions. I was happy that I could see the airport again though the happiness is shadowed by the fact that uncle and family were leaving. My cousin used to say that he’ll open the window pane and wave at me after he boards the flight. Those were the days when I used to believe that people who are aboard the aircraft could see everyone standing at the visitors’ lounge and wave at them. The inverse relation between distance and vision never really rang a bell then! I could see hands waving from the tiny oval shaped windows on the aircraft and I always believed it was my cousin bidding farewell to me. It was a beautiful feeling and a painful one too.

Memories are plenty about aircrafts too. One of the most mesmerizing scenes etched deeply in my mind was during the Sri Lankan civil war. I was completing my tea and biscuits on one of the most beautiful evenings a couple of decades back. I could suddenly hear a distinct buzz of rotors. What was even stranger was the depth of the sound generated by the blades and I could figure out that it is more than just one chopper. I had already dashed to the backyard of my home and was expecting to see two helicopters flying together. The air space above our small town was not that regularly visited by a chopper, let alone two of them!

What happened next was a chapter directly out of the biggest of the dreams I would’ve ever had! That tiny little town, where one of highest decibels of sound is created by a road roller crushing the granite during road construction, witnessed the mother of all strange sights. We were blessed with a glorified view of a full-fledged military operation with a large group of helicopters doing a fly by right above my head! I was flummoxed to say the least! It was one of the best experiences of a life time to watch all those grey colored metal species unique to the world of aviation whizzing past my home with their blades in action as if they were waving at me. Guess that one sight filled me with so much of happiness that I never wanted any gifts for the next several months :)

The love of airports have grown with me and it is a pleasant surprise when I look back and realize now that I am living my dream, working right next to one of the best airports in the world here at Dubai International for one of fastest growing airlines in the world, Emirates!

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