Jun 19, 2009 - travelogue    Comments Off

Thoughts from an Airport

An airport

An airport

I am sitting in one of those little food courts in Newark airport. Straight ahead of me are a row of windows that show the most famous skyline silhouette in the world: NYC. I can see the Empire State building and the many other beautiful modern buildings of New York. The view I have though is kind of funny. Underneath that, as if there were a sea, I see only the tails of planes moving back and forth like they were shark tails! They slowly move back and forth as if searching for prey.

I drink my Dunkin Donuts tea and hear my stomach growl. How can I be hungry at 8am, I’m never even up at this hour.

Looking at the sea of planes moving, I wonder how many planes I have ever been on. Trips when I was a baby from India to Australia, to the UK, to the US. Growing up and visiting grandparents, aunts & uncles & cousins in India every few years. All the trips going to conferences, ISNA’s and ICNA’s in Daytons and Indianapolis and Chicago, visiting Texas. Then traveling to Damascus, to Cairo, to Amman, to Dubai, to Umrah, to Hajj. Even at Hajj I flew from Makkah to Madinah. And then all my work trips to Cleveland, to Miami, to San Antonio, to Pennsylvania, to Kansas City. Perhaps dozens?!

So many trips on a plane, not even counting each leg of a journey. How is it that I have been on a plane so much in my life, flying through the air, as if this kind of travel were normal. How many airports have I been in, how many flights have I been on. More than any person has a right to be I think. Alhamdulllah nothing has happened all those times but one day my luck could run out.

Sometimes when I’m flying I look down and I see these beautiful houses surrounded by land and trees isolated in wilderness with maybe farms around it and a pond nearby. Like it’s own little kingdom down there. Why do I keep flying from city to city instead of settling down on some such emerald green isle?

As I travel, I meet people who have lived in the same place their whole lives, indeed generations. Unfortunately we can’t seem to go back to that beautiful village kind of life, where you grew up in the same ancestral home of your parents and grandparents and stayed there and had your kids and raised them there. I think life for most people has been the same for hundreds of years until these last 50 years. These last years have brought the greatest amount of rapid changes…cars, air travel, computers. We will never be the same.

Some changes are so amazing like access to Hajj. Millions of visitors from all parts of the world that would never have been able to perform the pilgrimage or would have perished on the way can now travel easily and see the House of God. Could that be worth all the changes of the last 50 years? I am amazed I live in this era where I travel to India and back, and Damascus and back, and New York City and back.

Hundreds of years ago there were those invertebrate travelers like Ibn Batuta. He never stayed in one place. He just kept going. Maybe I am more Ibn Batuta than villager. Even though I yearn for both. I think though I am a traveler at heart. Every time I remain in the same place for a long time I feel depressed. Traveling I think brings out different aspects of yourself. You break your routine, you’re out of your element. It’s just you and nothing else. I think it brings out the best in me. When I meet new people I feel like I can start again, be the person I want to be. I can look back from afar and contemplate my life, I can see what is out there in the world, what my choices are.

When I was younger and first started traveling for work, it made me realize I might never have the ‘things’ other people had ie their ‘wealth’ or ‘perfect lives and families’ or ‘lifestyle’. But I think time brings maturity and now I know to be content about who and what I am. I could never be those people and they could never be me. I know I have much to improve. Every time I come back from somewhere I’m ready to try to fix the past, tackle my problems again, ready to try to change anew. Perhaps this is my way of repentance.

Sometimes airports make me feel extremely lonely especially when I’m traveling by myself. And then sometimes they give me some kind of solace. Perhaps the same kind of solace I’d get watching fish swim in the sea. I watch all the people pulling their suitcases behind them, pushing baby carriages onto the escalators, talking on their phones, hurrying to their next destination. It’s fascinating yet what does it mean.

The odd thing is that on all my travels I’ve never actually met someone I knew randomly. Only after ISNA do I see some random Muslims taking flights home at O’Hare or something, but traveling so much, to so many cities and countries, I’ve never met anyone I know at all. It’s just amazing that there are so many people in the world. I keep seeing newer and newer people and I have no idea who they are. How small we are. Flying over cities of millions of people each one with their own lives and concerns and problems. It makes my problems seem small and petty. I can’t question why any more. Why me? I am me. I can’t change it. I have to accept it and move on. Work with what I have. Believe in the uniqueness of me.

Who was it who said traveling was like leaving home a sharp ragged rock and coming home a smooth stone. Surely someone who was an avid traveler :)

Here’s a little ditty for you that you can sing while you swig back a few of those mini cans of something on ur next trip. :D

A Traveler

Airports, Airports

Travelers weary;

Crying babies,

Hugging lovers;

Laptops aplenty.

I wish I may,

I wish I might,

Travel to Acapulco


Engrossed in spreadsheets

While your flight’s delayed,

You miss the moving sidewalks

Speeding visitors by.

Ancient caravanserais,

Modern lounges,

Both beg the question:

Why bring more than you can carry?!

She’s carrying a Coach,

But I think it’s fake.

A little giggle,

Over the guy that’s asleep;

But I wonder over

The 6 inch stilettos

On that Swedish stewardess!

Hudson news,

Selling gum and the Times;

Borders books,

Browse but don’t buy.

(at full price)

Drinking a Snapple

As I spy the pilot,

His luggage one bag

Now that’s a real traveler!

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