It’s the perennial contest. And both sides love to be a part of the tug of war. So, yours truly, the diehard city fan was, once again, faced with the entertaining (and engaging) task of observing Dilli junta, courtesy a delayed stopover at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI). The terminal, we’ve always felt, is the proverbial melting pot where the human race is at their best and worst, but also at their most amusing.
Mumbai’s winters are a pleasant aftermath of the muggy monsoon — we give our overused cottons and linens a rest to show off our chic knits, ‘Pashmina’ shawls and US university-hung-over-type sweatshirts. In contrast, the Dilliwallah can boast of a real winter and takes it seriously, even if the temperature doesn’t demand it.
So, there we were, at the massive IGI, for a connecting flight, only to learn that a two-hour delay was in the offing. Breathe, we told ourselves, as we jostled for elbow room. And for once, we were in agreement that both city airports, at their crowded worst, could resemble slightly glorified versions of bus terminals. It’s where the similarities began and ended. Strolling, rushing and crawling in front of us was an entourage of the fur coat-sporting community — black, browns, purples, maroons, pinks, blues even. The stomping was army-like — thigh-high boots, wedge boots, penny boots, fur-lined boots and whatnot. It was unlike anything we’ve seen before. The temperature indicator read: 20 degrees Celsius but then, Kim Kardashian would’ve approved.
As we warmed up to this couture takeover, there was another intervention. For lack of a seat, we had to settle for a tiny space on a flight of stairs that offered a view of the gate departures. There were many like us. Out of nowhere, a strict woman in a sari and kadak jacket, sporting an airport staff badge (visions of the women in India’s contingent at the Olympics came to mind) commanded all of us to vacate the stairway; “Yeh baithne ki jagah nahi hai; chalo utho!” The crowd followed her instructions, “but, to where?” someone asked, with no empty seat in sight. Suddenly, our matronly bais and tais who clean washrooms and mop hallways at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport seemed like incarnates of Mother Teresa.
So we found niches and corners, lest we got knocked over by misdirected strolleys and toe-crushing pencil heels. The fashion parade didn’t let us down. There were Victoria-David Beckham wannabes, Daler Mehndi lookalikes, and Rihanna hairdos. “Babes, we’re gonna rock the hills. Weekend, here we come,” laughed a kohl-eyed, Prada-clutching fur-wearer to her friend; “Traffic jams, late parties…we need a break from Delhi, bhai,” the friend agreed.
The delay didn’t matter anymore. Dilli never ceases to amaze.
mid-day’s Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city’s sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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