Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sitting at the gate.

About 4 weeks ago whilst sitting in BIA waiting to board my flight back to London I thought that I should record all the thoughts going through my mind, specifically how I felt about coming home. With apologies to all for the poor quality of language but this is pretty much what I wrote in my diary word for word. There are some sentences I may have edited slightly just to make readable but the rest is as I wrote it. It was just what was going through my mind at the time:

"Airport lounge and I'm surrounded by all the people who I'll be spending the next 11 hours with. There's a lot of bright lobster coloured couples on their way home after what has probably been their dream holiday, or even honeymoon. It's funny to think that most of them, like me, have lived a life of luxury and extravagance for their holiday, but we'll all return to the anonymity and hard work of our day to day existences.

Opposite me is a rather majestic looking Archi or Pati, she reminds me of my own special Grandmother who died nearly 20 years ago. Grey hair and saree and a look of supreme elegance and wisdom. She may never have been on a plane before or may be a seasoned and frequent flyer but there's a calmness about her that comes from contentment. Or food poisoning.

There's also a few business types scattered around, probably looking like me, just not as handsome. I'm trying to spot the guy my brother mentioned, who he met last night and is due on this plane, but I can't see him. There's one bloke who fits the bill but just doesn't look stylish enough to be an architect. I've tried to make eye contact with him but he's not having it, so he's probably not the fellow.

I may be wholly incorrect in my visions of all architects displaying a sense of style and panache in their choice of clothes, but it's an assumption I'm happy to live with. In my mind the average architect is one who designs all those picturesque and stylish places, the Bawa looking ones and the exotic and Guggenheim type ones. But, there must be some untrendy and dorkish chaps who spend their life drawing up plans for public toilets and industrial units, like my office. I can't believe, even in my wildest fantasies, that they are people who would be featured in top magazines as epitomes of style and high fashion. I should point out that my wildest fantasies don't actually involve anything dubious like architects and public toilets. No, they are centred around normal stuff like drums and cranes.

Who else can I see? Locals who look as if they are going to London to work and make their fortune. Some of them probably will and may return as captains of industry or Radio 1 DJs. Others won't be so lucky. They'll end up working for one of the smaller radio stations. They all look apprehensive, I wonder if they're judging me as I'm judging them. I feel both admiration and superiority towards them. Admiration for the courage it takes to leave your home and try to better yourself. Superiority because I'm lucky enough to live that life already. Maybe I shouldn't admit to that though.

There are some traveller looking types. A rather cute looking blonde. Cute but in need of a good wash, a definite sign of a backpacker type, as is the backpack.

Just opposite me are a pair of Sri Lankan wannabe hip hop dudes. They make me almost laugh out aloud, they're doing such a crap job of looking cool. One is wearing Nike trainers, jogging pants and a white vest, with a strange goatee thing on his chin. There's lots of jewellery but it's not enough and his baseball cap is perched precariously on his head with the peak facing backwards. It's a look that I see almost every day in Hounslow or Southall on every 14 year old kid who is a couple of years behind the latest thing. But, this bloke is about 35 and he's got a large pot belly under the vest. He may do well to wear jeans and a baggy black shirt next time.

It is amazing really to take in the sheer mass of people at the gate. It's a large crowd and it looks way too large to be on one plane. When you're sitting on the thing you only see the people immediately around you, not everyone else at the other ends of the aircraft.

The journey to the airport was chock full of all the mixed emotions I always get now. Since '83 every time I have left Sri Lanka there's been a little seed of doubt in my mind about whether I'll ever return. It's silly really, I've returned every time and at an increasingly frequent rate. But the island of serendipity pulls at me in a peculiar way. Many Sri Lankans living out of the country say the same. But, I've never even lived here, just fallen for it as I've got older. The airport drive always affects me. I spend so much time in the centre of Colombo and then leave it behind, through fort, over the bridge and I watch the City just kind of dissolve as we head to BIA. It's my last chance to soak up the sights and sounds and smells of my motherland before I hit the mass and organisation of London.

London, with its crap and unpredictable weather, its ability to make almost everyone feel anonymous, its sky high cost of living and all its multi cultural diversity is home and it's been good to me. But still Colombo contains many of my best friends, my favourite places and my best memories.

The airport itself has changed almost beyond recognition in the last 30 odd years, the bulk of that change has taken place in the last 12 months too! When I was a 10 year old coming here it was like something out of a James Bond film, a small tin pot airport with a couple of planes scattered around and hardly anything going on. My how you've grown into a fine chap! Now a true international airport with shops like Odel and Hameedia charging prices far higher than they do in Colombo. Granite flooring done by my good friend all over the place, a BMW raffle thing. Only a 520 mind, you wouldn't catch me driving one of those! It's even got a smoking area now that smoking is banned in all other parts of the building. With only a small stretch of the imagination I can look around and forget which country I'm in. All the old quaintness is gone and it's been replaced by a fully grown international hub of air travel. That is progress. Or so they say.

I'm off then. I've had a superb week with the academic bro. I've got a new found respect for him and only he knows why. I met Electra, Indi et al. That was good. I saw probably the least enjoyable weather I have ever seen in SL, I ate lots and I got to play 4 songs with a band. Weeks don't get much better than that!

Bye Colombo - See you soon I hope."

I'm not really very good at this evocative and poetic style of writing but I'll post this entry anyway. In future I'll stick to drums, cranes, cars and gigs and leave the "proper" stuff to Sach, Electra, IanS, Co25 and those coves.


sach said...

Awesome post. I read every single word. 'Tis one of your longer posts. And if this is how you write in your diary, you should most definitely publish your diary!! ;)

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Awww Sach, you're too kind. But if my diary was published I'd be arrested soon after!

Electra said...

what a great post. i loved every minute of it, every single word. it feels quiet and calm, i can picture you wearily casting your eyes around the airport and letting them drink in all the drab detail, all the boring little day-to-day observations. it was so purely interesting and well written. its warm and endearing, familiar with its surroundings, yet wide eyed and alert, its silent and observational, but content and tired, its funny at moments, and wise at others. i loved it.

we hope we see you soon, too.

Venus-Metamorphosed said...

That was beautiful..reminds me of how I feel each time I leave Sri Lanka.