In 1986, I watched the Jungle Book. It was my first time ever at a cinema, in Berlin as far as I remember. The first lines of the movie stayed in my mind…”India. Close your eyes and say: India”.
In 2009, I was suffering from a bad break-up. I was in that state of mind where you need a backup-concept for what to do in your life if you don’t want to break down entirely. My backup-concept consisted in buying the Lonely Planet India. Other breaks and break-up followed. My back-up-plan remained: I can still go to India.
October 14 2011, at 4am, a taxi was waiting outside my brand-new place in Vienna – Währing. It took me to the airport, I had a weird beef-something-breakfast burger at Mc Donald’s, went to the Lufthansa-desk and checked in for my flight to Mumbai.
And the big trip, started in the most boring way – an almost-domestic flight and 4 hours waiting time at Munich airport.
When I boarded the plane to Mumbai at 11:30, I’d been awake for 8 hours already; but finally, I realised that it was going to happen…for real. I sat next to a woman from London who was going home to Maharashtra for Deewali festivities. One of the air hostesses was Indian, all announcements were made in German, English and Hindi. To be efficient, I took advantage of the hours flight time to finally read the culture-shock book about India that my friend Anissa had given me. In a reading-break, I watched a Bollywood movie, and really enjoyed it, because it was sincerily funny.
I also had a good view on Aserbaidshan, Iran and Pakistan from above.
And still, it wasn’t real. Descending to a huge area of lights, quite neatly organized. They called it Mumbai, they called the sea the Arabian Sea…but could it be for real?
It was. I hit ground in India. Listened to airport employees joking in Indian English. At baggage reclaim, I was standing next to a family that was discussing about “Kijk maar! Daar komen onze spullen!” Distracting my thoughts again.
However, I went through immigration services, and there was the question: How do I get to my hotel. I admit it: I was being naive. Just because the domestic and the international terminal are in the same area, and my hotel was supposed to be just across the domestic terminal…it doesn’t forcably mean you can “walk” there in Indian dimensions. That’s what the guy at the information desk found quite amusing. He called the hotel for me and arranged a pick-up service.
Leaving the terminal building, following the guy from the reservation desk…and all of a sudden, breathing Indian air. Hot, hot, hot. Estimated 28 degrees at midnight. And then…so many people, in coloured robes. I got in the car. And it felt like a final scene of an Austrian movie…where the main character, against all odds, all of a sudden, is in INDIA. Close your eyes and say…I am here.