The taxi driver taking me to Mumbai airport was initially nonchalant. He arrived at my hotel at the requested hour early on a Sunday morning, turned up the air conditioning, provided me with a small bottle of dubious water and asked, just to check, as we hit Mumbai’s inevitable stationary traffic, despite it being a very early hour on a Sunday morning: “What time is your flight, Madam?”
“One o’clock,” I said.
He was baffled. You are required to turn up early for international flights these days, so that staff can consult databases to see if you might be harbouring a bomb in your carry-on, or so that they can sell off your seat if you appear to be non-committal about actually undertaking the journey you have booked and paid for (happened to me once in Delhi). My driver considered the timings and was appalled. “But you will be one and a half hours early, Madam. One and a half hours early for the three hours early.”
I knew. I also knew that there was little to do at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport that I hadn’t enjoyed doing on a previous trip a few weeks before. I wasn’t getting to the airport early for the shopping; I was getting to the airport early because I didn’t want to miss out on the plane that was taking me HOME.
“I am a nervous traveller,” I said. “I like to make sure I am on time.”
I was in Mumbai during Ganesh Chaturthi, the festival that honours the birth of the much-loved elephant-headed god. “Have you seen the celebrations, Madam?” asked my driver.
I admitted I hadn’t. I had been in a recording studio every working day and had made sure to finish with the team before 3 o’clock so that voice artistes, sound engineers, my Hindi-speaking guru and myself could get back to our respective lodgings before the streets clogged up with families taking their idol to bathe in the sea.
“Then I will take you to see the god.”
We went to see the god.