The airbus a320 comes to a smooth halt on the seemingly nicely paved strip of concrete. As a swarm of ants vehicles in all kinds of shapes make their way to the aircraft. The lights around the airport create chaotic shadows on the grey ground. A mechanical sound pierces through the aircraft as the after landing checklist is being rundown by the captain and his first officer far away in the nose of the metal tube.
My body feels as it has been forced into positions that it hardly knows. Broken and tired I shift my body in the uncomfortable seat once again. ‘Why did I book these budget airlines ticket again?’ passes through my mind. The moment the seatbelt light turns off the relaxed orderly space changes into an oh so common marketplace scene from India. People rushing out of their seat to find their precious belongings. Three rows in front of me my newly met India friend waves at me. She was sitting next to me on the flight from Jakarta to Bangkok and coincidentally we had the to same flight to the colorful and hectic Chennai, India.
I’m collecting my belongings from under my seat and make my way to the exit of the airplane. I feel relaxed and tired at the same time. Knowing that everything will work out in some way. Much different from when I arrived in India for the first time this May. I make my way through the old hall way. Looking up I spot a large hole in the ceiling as if somebody wanted to reach above it into the endless space behind. In the middle of the corridor a dusty randomly placed fence tries to separate the space in two lines. I smile. I have no idea why this piece of ‘art’ is placed there, making it even more difficult to find the the light at the end of the tunnel.
The immigration shows up in an old low concrete grey hall. I place myself in front of the desk. At least three officers are having a heated debate about something. I can catch a few words “body change”, “physical appearance”, concluding that they are trying to understand some kind of protocol. For several minutes I’m patiently waiting until finally the woman, barely looking at me, pushes a piece of paper towards me. It doesn’t need much explanation, I need to put down all my details. I ask for a pen pointing at the pen in front of her. ‘no, no, no’ she replies and vaguely points in the direction of a small wall of about 1 meter high, weirdly placed between one the immigration lines. Confused I start to walk and soon I notice that on this narrow 10 cm wide wall, a few pens and papers are lying unused. A big smile appears on my face with seeing this completely disorganized process. For certain in ‘modern’ airports they would have a nice tables to transform the white paper into something the officer can use. They would have signs everywhere and would certainly handout the papers before entering the line of immigration. But then again somehow it works and gets the job down. I’m walking back to the desk and handover the paper. Without asking any questions the officer seals the deal. With a smack the stamp lands in my passport.
Quickly I’m following the signs of ‘baggage claim’ to meetup with my new friend. Before entering the hall I come across a weird looking X-ray machine. It is dusty and old and doesn’t seem to work. I look around me. An older lady wearing a typical colorful dress sits just a few meters away. She shouts something in her local language and suddenly the belt slowly comes to life. A bit hesitant I put my bag on it and walk through the metal detector. Nobody is paying attention. I make my way to the other side and see the responsible person in heated discussion with some other Indians. He is standing a few meters from the machine with his back to the screen, fully engaged in his important discussion. I hesitate for a few seconds but realizes that this guy doesn’t pay any attention. I take my bag from the belt and make my way to the almost empty baggage claim hall. A smile. This is such an example of India. Good to be back in the chaos!