My arrival in India was not smooth, though at least I had my luggage. The upside to packing all of your clothes in a carry-on and struggling with it on the plane is that the airline has no opportunity to lose it for you. I arrived with all my clothes–if not my sanity–intact. Twenty-three hours shoved in a sardine can hurtling through the atmosphere does take a toll on one.
But anway, Mumbai. I was surprised to find that at 1:30 am, three days after Christmas, they were piping smooth jazz Christmas carols into the Mumbai passport control area. A little Christmas saxophone while you fill out the customs forms. I noticed a plant arrangement in the entrance to the passport control area that was surrounded by tiny red clay (maybe) balls that I had originally made seen in planters in the Frankfurt airport. (Yes, I was the crazy lady in Frankfurt, shoving her hands into the planters to figure out what the weird balls were.) They are light, about the size of marbles, and very (if not perfectly) round. They are red like Oklahoma, or like Mars, depending on your context. I wondered if there was some kind of airport supply catalog that one could order them from, as they were a really neat textural element.
I wrote this while I stood in line.
“I am in Mumbai, standing in a passport control line that appears to go on forever. I am too hot, in my layers made for Oklahoma winter, and the sweat coats my skin. I have been awake for more than 24 hours, and I swear if the kid behind me bumps into me one more time, I will shank him. It is taking every ounce of willpower in my body not to turn around, box his ears, and give him a culturally inappropriate, if not downright racist, lecture on personal space. It occurs to me that my hatred of crowds might make this trip problematic for me. I am desperate for a shower. The music piped in is Christmas carols on the saxophone. Purgatory. I have four hours in a taxi to look forward to.”
After about the tenth time that the kid behind me bumped into me, his father, no doubt alarmed by the glares I directed at his child, moved the poor kid behind him in line, so as not to annoy the overstimulated, cranky American.
As it turned out, a kid bumping into me over and over again in line was going to be the least of my arrival-time woes.