Airplane passengers are funny people. You see them queuing for check in. Respectable people with good quality suitcases, prepared with their passports and tickets in their hands, charming to the ladies over the counter wishing for an upgrade, they are well-mannered, civilized people. Going through the security, taking their belts and shoes off might have something to do how they behave afterwards. May be because they kind of get undressed in public, they forget their inhibitions. After a long wait, they rush to the boarding gate ignoring the families with children who need more than a life time to sit down and get settled before everybody else, old ladies on wheelchairs and young men who have broken their legs during holidays who also need to be looked after before us mere mortals. Those respectable men push in. They shuffle around with their newspapers, magazines and their eternal duty free bags bulging full of cigarettes and rakis and whiskies and maneuver through families and broken legs and sit down before everybody else. Then they remember the duty free bags and push everything they have in the places above their heads invading everybody else’s space for bags.
This pattern does not change in India either. Going to Goa , only 45 minute flight, there are the same generic type people pushing in, sitting at the wrong seat, and not putting their ‘seat into an upright position’. The flight is half an hour late, I am dosing off slowly. The in flight magazine says it all. It is fully read, several times, the cross word puzzle is filled in. The wrong entries have been corrected by a second or third reader. Now, that is desperation of a long wait!. Luckily, we are off and the food arrives. This is a lovely spicy country, the two broken biscuits; a sorry replacement of a microwave in flight dinner are also spicy. Who would think of adding cumin seeds to sweet biscuits? They taste interesting accompanied by gourmet mango juice drink served at room temperature. As soon as these are chomped down the journey is over we are landing. Those lovely respectable gentlemen, with their biscuit filled bellies are getting ready. I can see it in their eyes, in their twitching little feet the urge to get home as soon as possible. The minute the wheels touch the tarmac they undo their seat belts and they are up. As if there is a portal open only for a few seconds between the thug of the wheels and ‘cabin crew mumble mumble mumble’ of the pilot, and if they miss that opportunity of that portal they will stay stuck on this miserable earth for eternity, they need to get up and get their duty free bags. The lovely ladies in airline saris have given up hope and do not interfere; they do what the pilot has told them ‘mumble mumble mumble’. The plane is landed and everybody is standing cramped next to me in the aisle. They wait standing their shoulder bags rubbing into the man in the front, duty free bags clanking; an uncomfortable restlessness is hanging in the air. They have missed the portal, the next portal is downstairs before the bus arrives. They look at us, three people still sitting in our seats looking at them, looking at us.
The road to the hotel reminds me of the road to Cesme. In the ac climate of the suitcase filled car the flora and fauna looks similar, small bushes, black new roads, dogs, moppets, cows, small crosses and churches at the cross roads, little temples. But no, this is not Cesme at all.
The hotel is big and comfortable. Like every big hotel it has lost the sense of place. It could be anywhere in the East. There are big pots for decoration, abstract Hindu furniture and paintings of small local artists good enough to satisfy the hotel management that they are helping the local economy. The front office is efficient, but Alas! :No ‘namastes’, no little red dots to be put on out foreheads. This is a different India. Goa is an ex Portuguese colony. This means Mediterranean food, olives, cheese and steak! Our room is overlooking the pool; the cicadas are at work already. A big banyan tree is trying to reach the pool with long branches. If we stay under it long enough probably like Buddha it will grow around us. The night is warm, balmy ,there is a sweet taste to it. Not far away the waves on a sandy beach splash timidly. There is no moon tonight. Yellow flowers below the balcony are closed up for the day. It is time to have a late dinner and slide into cool white bed sheets for a well-deserved sleep. It is going to be good holiday.