The Play's The Thing: Chennai Airport

Landing at Chennai airport is fairly uninteresting in itself but the individual and collective sense of relief that we can get off the plane and stretch, walk, perhaps even run, is tangible. As I am allowed to undo my seatbelt I start to consider many things, not least the oft-related words of advice from travellers who have gone before: “The first thing you will notice is the smell, then the heat then the noise”. Well, wrong. The first thing I noticed was the heat, a huge blanket of warmth that I had travelled several thousands of miles to be wrapped up in, the contrast made even more noticeable leaving the air conditioning on the aircraft.

Walking from the plane I am reminded of a couple of stories reported recently in the Times of India about the airport, about monkeys living in the roof and scavenging off passengers, and about the internal roof collapsing in one section. There were also stories about the airport being for sale. I am not surprised.

Actually, it all seems safe and structurally sound, though I do not look too hard despite having to spend the next hour and a half or more clearing the medical inspections and then collecting the baggage. The standing around is a blend of the tedious mixed with anticipation, like waiting in the wings of a theatre, early and eager for my cue, before being allowed on stage for my first, very small part in a very large play.

We retrieve the luggage, walk out of the building and onto centre stage. The audience, who were also the players, confront us head on, waving, shouting and smiling. I hope that I can remember my lines.