“Never mind, my toothbrush is with me,” same thought under same situation. I was waiting for my luggage at the airport. It was still no where to be seen on the conveyor belt! My teeth, being the most vulnerable asset, what with very few remaining to test the adroitness of the dentists, always remain on top of my priority list. Surely, I am not one of those lucky people, who, despite not being very diligent about brushing their teeth after every meal, can very well be the poster person of the ‘Raju tumhare daant toh motiyon jaise chamak rahe hain’ ad. After having lost my checked in luggage once, which also carried my oral care stuff, I am particularly careful to always pack them in my cabin baggage. Now I can be fine if my baggage hasn’t reached yet. Of course, 'being fine' has come in its own time. Packing tooth brush in my cabin bag is just a fragment or better still a metaphor for feeling the sense of 'being fine'.

But then eventually, I do see the purple of the satin bow, that I had tied on my luggage as a marker, peeping through the luggage window and then finally emerging on the belt! Mine was one of the last few remaining. And this was not just one-off time. I feel that I have a very idiosyncratic relationship with the conveyor belts at the airports, despite the extra efforts that I put in to stay in its good books!

One instruction that I always pay extra attention to, is the announcement that the flight crew makes about the conveyor belt on which our luggage is going to arrive! As the second level precaution, lest I forget the number of the belt, I mentally tag few of my co-passengers- that lady with a huge bouffant, that smart looking man with purposeful strides, and a young mother with her incessantly crying baby. When I approach my belt, I also look around for those familiar profiles. The best scenario and assuring one is, when both match- the number that I thought was announced and the profile of the people going towards the same number. The third one is to keep seeing the display screen over the belt, once I reach it. You never know, you see- last min changes and all.

I remember, last time while travelling to Bangkok, we had opted for Visa on arrival facility. After queuing up first to submit the visa application papers and then queuing up to collect our passports with visa stamp, by the time we reached to the arrival area to collect our baggage, the belt was empty. We checked the flight number displayed at the screen. It wasn’t ours. Maybe we registered a different number when the crew was announcing it. We went around to check all the belts without luck. All this while I started thinking as to how we were going to survive without our stuff till we got it (if). “Thank fully we are in Bangkok, a shopper’s paradise," I was thinking, maybe we could hit a mall instead of our hotel!! Though I knew that the idea wouldn’t be very palatable to either my husband or my son- the reasons being different for both though.

Ultimately, we went to the help kiosk of our airline. He simply pointed towards a pile of luggage, which remained unclaimed and had been taken off the belt. It was the same one which we had checked first. Busy belt! It had to be used for other flight luggage. Apparently, ‘visa on arrival’ process had taken too long! Ahhh….my ‘contingency’ plan to visit a mall and shop, dissipated into the thin air.

However, with more solo travelling of late, the trepidity of losing my luggage or delayed arrival of the same, remains my worst nightmare, especially having gone through that once. No drill at the airport, including security check feels as daunting as waiting for the timely arrival of my luggage on the belt.

The belts too seem to have sensed my anxiety and somehow look forward to having some fun at my expense. The other day at the T3, where I had reached from Leh, I realized that after a while I was the only one left, a couple of other passengers besides. As is the thing, we always develop a kind of sisterhood/brotherhood with people going through the same difficulty. Proving that theory right, we exchanged some inquiring, some assuring (okay, you too are there types) glances, “we too shall get our stuff,” it conveyed.

Suddenly an airport staff emerged. He needed to clean that area and wanted us to leave. “But our luggage is coming”. He looked at us with a certain level of incredulity. Are you living under the rock! “Your luggage is coming on a different belt now," he informed. I looked around. There they were. Some of my co-passengers, and I also saw my fuchsia sky bag on the ‘merry go round’!

With time, I have learnt to take it in my stride, while having some cool fun alongside, with the guessing game of my own. Leaning over my trolley, I observe the bags arriving on the belt. Some sleek looking latest bags, “hmmm, this guy is an affluent corporate,” I think. Trudging along comes an over sized duffel, “a young explorer or University student,” I look at the guy picking that up. I seem to be right! A pink poly-carbonate Voyager trolley with a dainty design, “a fashionista with deep purse,” I conclude.  A new hold all wrapped in sheets of plastic, “someone who has worked really hard to earn money and is on his way home,” I think, as a rugged hand moves to pick that up.

Sometimes though, I must admit, the belt acts benevolently. Like this time. I was travelling from Kolkata to Guwahati. After de-boarding, I reached to the designated belt to collect my checked in bag. Knowing fully well that my bag would be the last one to appear, I thought of freshening up first.  “let me make some calls before I go to the washroom,” I lingered for a minute or two more around the belt. It had started moving. And Surprise!!!!!! Mine was the first bag to emerge. Gosh!!!! Was I daydreaming! I almost floated over the crowd around the belt. “My bag, that’s my bag,” I was almost choking with emotions!

Suddenly, the meaning of living the moment, acquired altogether a different meaning!  😊 😊

Copyright © Aradhana Mishra