The place is Departure Lounge of Jaipur Airport. Flight number CD 492 for Delhi scheduled to arrive at 21.40 hours is nowhere in sight. I am the first passenger to have been given security clearance. I came here out of my own choice, so that I could relax, ponder over the marvellous paintings and hoardings to interpret the essence of Rajasthan and that I could also scribble a few lines about the mesmerising charm of the Pink City and its erstwhile feudal surroundings.
Waiting here, I am reminded of a word of caution by a dear colleague that I should not be surprised if I land up spending rest of the night in the irresistible Rambagh Palace Hotel, owing to further delay of the hopping flght from Bombay.
Each visit to this enchanting and planned city compels me to think about our rich cultural heritage and the sincere efforts to preserve it in view of the onslaughts of the so-called modern civilisation. Ever since I came here first in 1984, rapid changes have been noticed. Yet, it remains as attractive to a person from the East or West, as it was, may be, fifty years ago.
The time now is 22.15 hours, yet, there is no sound of the flying machine touching the quiet and serene run way of the Pink City. The solitude of the departure lounge is suddenly broken by an announcement that the passengers travelling by CD 492 are requested to proceed for the security check up. I heave a sigh of relief. Upon a visit to the 'rest room', it is a pleasing sight to see a beautiful young foreigner with her chubby infant making a hurried entry. Further, the appearance of a naughty boy in the que enlivens the atmosphere. Slowly and gradually, other haggard passengers (majority of them half-asleep) also follow suit.
A deafening noise draws the attention of all. It is 22.45 hours. The plane appears to have finally landed from the Mayanagari. Not to play further with the sentiments and sensibilities of the passengers, their friends and associates, a loud announcement confirms it. We all pick up our belongings and proceed like nursery kids in a straight line towards the tarmac.
The whole air-strip is beautifully lit. Its beauty is enhanced by the gentle and cool breeze. Getting fresh air is more than a welcome and refreshing feeling these days. It helps in overcoming the chronic fatigue syndrome inherited during the day.
Once inside the flying machine, one comes across the cold, immune and official reception of the hefty and heavily made-up hostesses.
When light is dimmed, I attempt a nap but I fail. An effort to browse through a newspaper and a periodical also is an exercise in futility. The flight to Delhi is a relatively short affair of barely thirty minutes. A walk down the aisle is, therefore, completely ruled out.
My boredom gets over with the sight of sparkling and twinkling lights of the historic city of Delhi. The Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Humayun Tomb, India Gate, Lotus temple, all present a marvellous and breath-taking sight. One wishes that the aircraft should not land and that my visual romance with the monuments, structures and flora of Delhi continues. An announcement in English, followed by an atrocious anglicised version in Hindi, however, shatters my wishes.
Once on the ground, it is a long wait for the luggage. There after, I begin searching for the vehicle. I find it ultimately but as expected, the driver is traceless. Who knows, he may be immersed in playing cards or smoking like a chimney!
It is well past midnight when I reach home. The call-bell disturbs the slumber of my wife, who opens the door with the usual 'sound and fury', while my son is found sleeping to glory. The element of displeasure on the part of my life partner is a momentary affair. She loses no time in quickly grabbing the sparkling flight dinner packet, which I often ‘save’ for her.
While she is fully engrossed in getting the gastronomical delights, I jump onto bed, touch my son, feel his innocent face, his quiet breathing and hit the pillow.
The stirring sojourn with Jaipur is over. One is reminded of the ‘black’ Monday after a well spent, cheerful and meaningful Sunday. I close my eye-lids while thinking of the inevitable encounter with the files, letters, faxes, endless telephones, demanding bosses (pushing you often in caught-in-cross-fire kind of situations), over-expectant colleagues, irresponsible peons and last but not the least, the defiant struggle of we DONKEYS, ‘fond’ of working in company of monkeys (of North Block).