6 AM

Airport this morning. A handful of us. Plane to Kolkata has pushed back. It is on nearly full capacity. We line up next.

On the way here, the cabbie pinched off platform’s commission by asking me to cancel the ride. He ducked paying for toll as well by taking advantage of a break in the median at one of the checkout gates. He managed to keep the entire fare, without paying the due to the platform and toll. I joined him in this. Cancelled the ride with as best an enthusiasm that one can have in these days.

Terminal 2 stands like a ghost town. Thousands of workers were busy constructing and upgrading a large airport terminal for this city. When the lockdown began they starved in their worker camps. By now, everyone has left, the cab driver says as we drove past the site.

At the gate, bought myself a cup of coffee. Almost ritualistic on most mornings of flying out from here. Looked around for the usual staff at Tiffin Express. Was glad to see familiar faces. They are serving only two items on breakfast. This airport’s 6 AM look and sound was never this. The conditioning blows cold.

On a large TV I watch a muted news bulletin. News tape reads ‘masks become the new political divide’ (in the US).

Can’t spot the sparrows. There is a row of parked and cordoned of airplanes in bays that would usually see high activity at this hour. Seating at the gates have alternate chairs marked with ‘please avoid sitting here’. A few families with kids. A few elderly couples. Plenty of single men. A kid sits wearing adult sized latex gloves on his tiny palms.

The men at security peer through their shields into identity cards that passengers stand holding in display.

FabIndia, HiDesign, Relay and all other stores stand frozen.

I look up again. The news tape reads ‘WHO steps up funding efforts’ and the organisation is busy raising ‘significant new funding’.

The plane for Kolkata begins moving to the runway.

The airport stands frozen as a poster with intermittent queues of passengers.

Stepping out


Day 59

Stepped out into the city for the first time in 59 days. I spot overgrown tree branches hanging low on the avenues. A homeless woman squatted on the pavement with her two kids. The golf course is open. About half a dozen men along the course playing. The woman who sells snacks and coffee to the caddies is open for business. Two flasks and a container are arranged on the pavement. She is wearing a mask and looking out to the road.

On a signal, the Cannon Ball tree makes a striking sight. Have not seen fruits on its trunk all the way down. Lived in that neighbourhood for more than a year.

The impatience of city’s traffic is making it’s way back. Why were we expecting anything to change?

A slow drive back from the doctor’s clinic. Injury healing is on track. Graduated on to a crutch now. Cleared for mild cycling too.