The Terminal


Krishna Monga smiled, as he watched the British Airways flight to Mumbai, BA0257, taxi up Heathrow’s runway number 2 and take off into the twilight sky. He always timed his allotted one-hour break to coincide with the flight’s 1935 departure time. Neither him nor the flight had ever missed their “scheduled date”. Not once in ten years. As the flight transformed itself into a little speck against the setting sky, almost disappearing to the naked eye, Krishna leaned forward,  the tip of his crooked, aged nose making contact with the icy glass windows of the terminal. The sudden change in temperature caused the  tiny goosebumps all over his body. In the distance, he heard the familiar voice of Ayesha Phagun announcing the successful departure of flight BA0257 from Terminal 3, London Heathrow Airport. He smiled again, as he fondly thought of the young Ayesha, who was probably only old enough to be his daughter, had he ever married and started a family. Ayesha’s thick Hindi-encrusted English accent was what had secured her the job as the passenger service announcer for all India-bound flights. Hers was the only familiar sound that a lot of Indians could associate with, amongst a cacophony of thousands of other English accents. He still remembered the time, he’d first heard Ayesha’s voice over the Passenger announcement system. He had used all his sources to find out who the owner of the “Hinglish” voice was. Today, Ayesha’s familiar voice over the passenger announcement system was the only thing that signified a bit of “home” out here in a land that he still felt alien in. Taking a step back from the window, he looked around. The terminal was a hive of activity, as always. Everywhere he turned, there were all kinds of passengers and people going around their business. The long-haul connecting passengers had taken over the entire corner between Gates 3A - 3G, most of them trying to catch a quick nap in their sleeping bags before the connecting flights to their destinations. The first time flyers were pacing up and down near their boarding gates, their faces visibly taut with the tension of flying. Families with infants and little kids in tow, were comfortably settled in their large boxed cubicle, that was reserved for them and packed with everything that a family could potentially need to make their stay in the terminal as enjoyable as possible - from thick blankets to a children’s play area where a few small kids seemed to be collectively  bullying a larger kid. The frequent travellers were sipping their complimentary drinks and furiously gesturing at their portable devices pretending to make world-altering decisions. The shopaholics, who always seemed to have plenty of time to kill, were busy wandering in and out of the various luxury shops that the mile-long World Duty Free section provided. During his tenure here, Krishna had seen all kinds of air travellers. From the downright whiny ones who picked on every little thing to the ones for whom flying had become almost second nature, like walking or sleeping.

“I’ve been here a long time!” he thought as he stole a glance at his name badge which once had the letters KRIS engraved in golden ink, but now had turned a strange dull metallic copper. As he ran his gloved fingers over the badge, he felt a strange twinge of remorse. He’d run away from both his family and home when he was a teenager. Stealing every single dime from his grandfather’s rickety old safe, Kris had paid his way onboard a cargo ship headed for the magical desert kingdom across the Arabian sea. He knew his family would never forgive him for what he’d done, but he had always wanted to go abroad and work in the travel industry, which was starting to bloom. And once he had failed his plus two exams three times, he knew he was going to have to join the family tradition of magic and puppeteering. But fate had intervened in the form of Rasool chacha, a friend’s uncle who had started a shipping agency specialising in exporting cargo to the gulf. So he’d done what he’d needed to do, in order to go abroad and make a living.

Over the past three decades, Kris had travelled across various countries and worked in various roles, from a lowly labourer, toiling away his life and health in the blazing and searing Arabian sun for a measly daily wage to his present role as the maintenance supervisor for Heathrow’s Terminal 3, one of the busiest airport terminals in the world. He had travelled the world like he had always dreamt of. But there was always something that had been gnawing at his brain, like an unreachable itch. Despite his biggest wish having come true, he was a nomad. He had lost touch with his parents and extended family years ago, and despite having spent almost a decade in London and having successfully managed to secure a British nationality even, he still had no home to speak of. All he had, was a career built from working around the globe.

A loud crackling over his walkie-talkie snapped his attention back to the present. He quickly glanced at his watch. His break was almost up. He looked outside the window and noticed that though darkness had set, the skies over Heathrow were still lit up with the flashing lights of the numerous flights taking off and landing. His walkie-talkie crackled again. There was an emergency in the one of the air-conditioning ducts downstairs. As he walked across to the maintenance lift, he threw one last look around the terminal. Yes, this terminal with zillions of yearly passengers and thousands of fellow team mates had now become his “home away from home."

 [This post is written for the Project 365 program at We Post Daily aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. If you had the opportunity to live a nomadic life, traveling from place to place, would you do it? Do you need a home base? What makes a place “home” to you?" ]