Most of the time one doesn’t even have to make an effort to find stories inside airports. They are there all the time for anyone caring to look up from the kindle that one isn’t anyway reading… or if one just stops pretending to look busy or important or appropriately hassled or even thinking. Airports are full of characters ready to jump into any story that comes along.
A story begins to take shape every time you watch some guy fumbling with a sheaf of papers to take out that all-important print-out of his ticket or the next in line attempting to break the queue because waiting for another few seconds is so like standing on a railway station… from the group of people staring inconclusively at the screen that doesn’t seem to showing details of the flight that is still five hours away to the thin and tall man mumbling, ‘So many Spicejet flights. Whatever happened to my airline? Why isn’t my airline showing anywhere?’… from the bored girl at the check-in counter nodding every time a passenger requests for a window seat to the airport security guy peeping into the screen and smiling every few moments as he says, ‘That bag! It has something large and cylindrical. Check it.’ Yes, airports are treasure troves of stories only if you stand there watching a few sentences opening up slowly.
So, are there any rules to discover the best stories while you’re travelling by flight? Well, I follow a simple rule that I call KAHANI. It is a small acronym that I created a few years back and in simple terms it means:
K = Kick the temptation to pretend you’re disinterested in others.
A = Ask someone some question and a story will pop up.
H = Have the time to observe people around.
A = Assume there is a story waiting… and it will surprise you every time.
N = Never sit in just one place. Move around.
I = Inclination is the keyword to finding stories. Be like a persistent explorer.
Over the years I have found that my formula helps. Well, I do sometimes use my smartphone camera or even my DSLR to help me catch some well-hidden stories. Like the time I took a panorama standing at a vantage point and later discovered a family of four nervously devouring parathas that they had packed before starting off. One such picture even captured a couple holding five open cans of a beverage and gulping them down painfully because the only other alternative was to hand them over to the security guys!
And, by the way, stories aren’t populating only the departure areas. Even arrivals have their own set of stories playing hide-and-seek all the time. I remember the time when I noticed one of the helpers going around murmuring something and so I went closer and heard him say, ‘Hotels in New Delhi… ?’ and then adding swiftly, ‘Any help with your luggage sir?’ I also remember the time I stood for over an hour at one of the belts waiting for my checked-in baggage only to be politely asked by the security there, ‘Can I help you sir?’
‘I am waiting for my luggage,’ I said, ‘Is this the belt for the luggage from the Delhi-Ahmedabad flight?’
‘No sir. It is the other one there.’
I looked to my left to find my lone cabin bag almost in tears as it thought I had abandoned it.
Airports and stories go together. Always. Every time. And they are all different each time. Next time you’re travelling, find some and write about them.
09 November 2016