I step out of the jet bridge into the airport. Others are still shuffling around, gathering their belongings from overhead compartments and from under their seats and making their way out of the aircraft. I walk slowly, looking for signage saying baggage claim. It’s easy to find. I pick up pace and walk in the indicated direction. I sniff the air like always. It has become a tradition now every time I land here. Familiarity washes over me after my first deep inhale. The smell of rain, and fried dough. Maybe samosa. A hint of masala dosa. The one with red chutney. You will smell cow dung as soon as the aircraft door opens, someone once told me. And garbage. Not a hint of either. Just the aroma of oil and spices. Breakfast is being made. At 3am.
A glass wall separates those waiting to leave and those who’ve arrived. The latter glad to be on their side of the wall. Others from my aircraft have begun to catch up with me. Some overtake me. Some walk in tandem. Just like that I’ve become part of a crowd. All walking hurriedly through immigration and then customs. All waiting to exit. Waiting to cross the boundary that says you cannot reenter. We walk through it all. We walk as a group. Strangers bound together by the aircraft we traveled in. Bound together in wanting to leave the airport and enter the city. We walk into the hustle bustle at the exit. Friends and family waiting to greet the arrivals. Tiny pop ups selling items I can recognize and want to eat.
I am back here after a year and a half. It’s been six years since I moved out of the country. For work and for family.
Yet just like that I am part of the crowd. I have blended in like I never left.
I am familiar with the head-shakes meaning yes and the head-shakes meaning no. And the ones indicating nonchalance. Facial expressions and hand gestures speak more than words. The intrusions into one’s space as people walk past. Or fall in line. The lack of excuse-mes and apologies. I am familiar with it all.
I don’t have to repeat my name here. Or spell it out. It’s a common name. Too common you could say.
I am not an outsider here. Not a temporary worker, who can be asked to leave the country based on the whims and fancies of the government. Not a resident alien for tax purposes. Not an immigrant. Or a non-immigrant.
I have crossed the point of no reentry. I see familiar faces waving at me. I walk towards them. Our faces bursting into smiles. Arms outstretched for hugs
I am home now. This is where I belong.