It all seemed so very strange to be going to the airport without Rajat sitting beside her. The journey was silent. Aloke had not said a word. She did not mind because her thoughts were with Rajat and what all he would have done if they were travelling together.
When they reached the airport, Aloke paid the driver and gave him extra money. ‘This includes waiting charges,’ he said to the driver, ‘please wait here till I get back as I have to first sort some things out.’ Turning to Monisha, he said, ‘Ma, I will complete some of the work inside and check out the counters, etc., so that we don’t have to wait. Also I need to see if the flight is delayed or on time.’
‘Why can I not come along, Aloke?’ Monisha enquired.
‘It would be much faster, Ma, if I go alone and check things out first,’ he responded. ‘I will also get a wheelchair for you.’
‘Why wheelchair? I am perfectly capable of walking,’ Monisha had responded.
‘A trick,’ Aloke replied, ‘we can then jump the queue!’
‘Will you be gone for a long time?’ Monisha enquired.
‘Back before you know, Ma,’ he said.
Monisha nodded, as Aloke left, carrying his hand baggage.
Over two hours had lapsed, since Aloke had left. She began to panic. Did something happen to her Aloke? ‘Driver,’ she said, ‘my son has not yet come back. Can you please check what is happening?’
The driver, an elderly Sikh gentleman, had fallen fast asleep. He woke up with a start and looked at his watch. It was past midnight. ‘He has gone for more than two hours! No flights take off from here at this time,’ he said.
‘Of course they do,’ replied Monisha. ‘All international flights take off only at this time and even later.’
‘Yes behenji,’ he replied, ‘but this is the domestic airport. The international airport is further away.’
Monisha was stunned. ‘Domestic airport?’ She did not know what to say. Then she told the driver, ‘Can you check if my son is inside?’
The elderly Sikh driver went to the security guard to ask but was turned away brusquely.
‘Can we please go to the international airport?’ Monisha said. ‘My son must have realized he was in the wrong place and gone to the international side to sort things out. He hasn’t been in India for many years and might have got confused.’
‘Your son had asked me to drive to the domestic airport, behenji. He never mentioned international airport at all!’ the driver replied.
Monisha frowned but tried not to think about it. ‘I think he got confused, driver sahib. Let us go to the international airport please!’
The driver nodded. When they reached, she asked him to wait and went to the security and told them her problem. ‘Your ticket please and passport,’ the security guard had said.
‘My ticket and passport are with my son,’ she had replied.
‘Sorry madam, cannot allow you inside without ticket and passport. Security regulation,’ the guard responded. ‘You are flying which airline?’
‘Air India,’ she had said.
The security guard seemed to take pity on her. He saw an Air India official and called out to him. ‘I need your help,’ she said, as the official came by, ‘I was to take the Air India flight to New York with my son, Aloke Biswas. But I cannot seem to find him anywhere. Can you please help me?’
The man looked at her. She looked terribly distraught. Perhaps it was her age that also worried him. He had the passenger list in his hand. He looked at it and said, as gently as he possibly could, ‘The flight has already departed, auntyji. A certain Aloke Biswas was a business class passenger on the flight. He had no checked in baggage. For a Mrs. Monisha Biswas, we have a no-show, as the passenger did not turn up.’
This is an extract from the book’ House and Other Stories’ arranged by the publisher – YODA press.
CultureBowl had also reviewed the book which may be read here
The book may be bought here:
Author: Amit Dasgupta is a former member of the diplomatic services. His last book, Lessons from Ruslana: In Search of Transformative Thinking, was published in 2015. An avid amateur photographer, he enjoys cooking and recently joined painting classes.