During the earlier stop at Dubai, I had done some bits of window shopping and evidently nothing on sale was really up my alley. I had a few shopping lists for dark chocolates etc. and so I did get a bit of stuff from the candy stores. I was pretty zapped due to the insufficient sleep in the earlier flight and very soon I was perched near the departure gate and curled up in the chair. The flight was announced soon after and by the time the other passengers trooped in, it resembled a domestic Indian flight. Nearly everyone was a desi, and most of them speaking Gujarati. Even the announcements in the flight were in Hindi.
This time I got a window seat and while taking off tried to crane my neck to spot any of the Dubai hot spots like the Burj hotel or any of those artificial islands. Sadly nothing, but whatever was down there looked straight out of a town-planner’s desk. Beautiful and wide highways, neat neighbourhoods and some grand villas, with patches of green lawns and swimming pools, amidst the brown desert dust. We were flying over the sea most of the time and sometime later the map showed us the southern coast of Gujarat. Outside, it looked like a faint stretch of land. The inflight entertainment did not offer much choice this time and both me and Ankit settled on watching ‘Kambakkht Isqh’ on one of the channels (its too cheesy). With really thick clouds, landing at Mumbai was pretty turbulent. The stewardess was collecting headphones then and nearly fell down on the aisle when we hit a rough patch. Anyways we finally made it in one piece.. plane, luggage, us et al. With nothing to declare, we were out of Immigration and Customs soon and on the way to Pune in another 20 minutes. Reached home sometime around 7 in the evening to some piping hot dinner.
This trip was special because it was the first time that I traveled outside the country. And to a place which was beckoning for a long time now. Especially, the names and some voices with which I have made connections over the past half-decade. When the travel itinery was shown to me, I nearly lost sleep looking at the 2 long hauls of 14 hours. (To be honest, the last time I genuinely enjoyed flying was at the age of 9. Those days we used to travel in teeny tiny Donear planes run by Vayudoot and I was unconcerned about the turbulent North-East Indian skies. ) Well, it was’nt so bad at all. Rather it was pretty good. Perhaps, if I have to travel such long distances again, I would rather prefer a non-stop flight that takes me as much near to my destination as possible. Maybe it might take a few reassuring warm phone-calls from friends to build up the courage, but yep its not scary anymore
We stopped over at Dubai (I know, I know its the wrong direction… ) both times. As luck would have it, the first thing I notice as I step out of the plane is an Airbus A380! Oh boy… its huge. To be honest, I found the Dubai airport more like a super-sized mall than an airport terminal. And secondly, IMHO, airports which are hubs for transit passengers should have movie theatres and more restrooms. There are snaking queues inside the restrooms, thankfully they are extremely clean and organized. However, once inside a lounge through the departure gate, the crowds thin down and the rest rooms are less occupied. Anyways, other than these gripes, spending time at Dubai was not much of a problem. I put on my music player (with Tum Mile on a loop.. ) and walked around the terminal checking out the glo-signs of the famous brands from all over the world. The most colourful was the Haagen Dazs parlour. Also for the first time I saw a Starbucks coffee shop and an elegant restaurant with Caviar on its breakfast menu!
Moving on to Brisbane, if there was one thing I was allowed to carry back home in its entirety, it would have been a coffee shop. I just fell in love with all the places we used to frequent for our breakfast. The people behind the counters were friendly, the food always great and affordable. The streets are beautiful, clean and there are hardly any crowds that one has to push through. Although the deserted streets were a bit uncomfortable, but the business district and the mall areas had people all around. Traffic was disciplined, pedestrian crossings were marked and even for an out-of-towner like me it was hardly any trouble getting around.
Which brings me to the wonderful people that I met during those 7 heavenly days. My workplace is multi-cultural and our team even more so. I met people from more than 20 countries, across continents. Due to the upcoming holiday season, a lot of people were planning trips back home. And ‘Home’ meant places like New Zealand, Colombia, France, Brazil, Japan, everywhere. So Leticia told us her plans about going to the Carnival at Rio and watching it from one of the ‘boxes’. It sounded like out of a dream, I could not believe that I was listening to someone talking about *The Carnival*, that I have only gotten to know through magazines and television and is always half a world away. There were travel plans being discussed about the pros and cons of taking a route via USA or Chile to Colombia. Some good-natured Aussie vs Kiwi jokes also floated around. Its intriguing how sometimes the setting for a conversation remains the same everywhere, but the elements within take them to a wider horizon. Hedda, my colleague from Germany was telling us how her mother made syrup from ripe Elderberries. It reminded me of the many conversations about pickle and chutney making we have during lunchtime back home. Most of these people have traveled across various countries and always have wonderful stories to tell. Shall miss them all😦
Everyday of that week was a revelation. There were new things to see and hear, nuances of a new culture to understand, and lifestyle lessons to learn. Urban living is mostly similar to what we have back home and it just takes one to keep an attentive eye out and learn the things that work differently. In Australia, it was an easier culture to blend in, lets see how Europe treats me. Thats not planned for anytime soon, but yeah sometime before I kick the bucket.
p.s. Considering its summer time in the southern hemisphere, this year I actually got to see Summer twice… with mangoes and gulmohurs and the news of heatwaves…the total works!