When John Denver wrote his famous country music song Leaving on a Jet Plane, he meant it as a nostalgic goodbye to a loved one. But my preflight departure process at home (not at the airport, if I may emphasise) is nothing remotely nostalgic - in fact, it is full of tension, bordering on panic.
In today's globalised world, it is a common occurrence for people working abroad - yours truly included - to regularly visit their loved ones back home. Even after dozens of such visits, spread over two decades, the events leading up to the time of departure remain stressfully the same.
Forty-eight hours before departure begins the official count-down. While my parents are exclaiming, "Is it already time for you all to leave?!" I am busy finding floor space for our many suitcases to be placed, open and ready to receive the plethora of items that will certainly arrive. As the starting point, my family starts throwing in a bewildering array of 'local' stuff that they have aggressively acquired over the past few weeks.
The clock is slowly winding down to the twenty-four-hour mark. Frantic efforts are underway to identify and take corrective action on missed meetings with a host of friends and relatives - through phone calls and lunch/dinner meetings, fit to put to shame itineraries of visiting dignitaries and heads of state. Each such meeting, of course, results in additional goods for packing, either for us or for a random set of strangers merely on the basis that they live in the same continent that we are returning to.
It is now a mere twelve hours to H-Hour (since international flight departures are invariably at the ungodly, wee hours of the morning, there are only a few hours of civilised time left) and it is crunch time. Our house is like a mini airport departure lounge with unknown people saying their goodbyes and wishing us happy journey's.
I am struggling to close suitcases, after distributing contents with an eye for balancing weights based on my long-forgotten principles of Physics involving mass, density and volume - even as more items of food are brought from the kitchen. It would appear that I am carrying enough raw material to feed an entire army.
It is time to leave home for the airport and, as is the norm, the taxi has not arrived. After several calls to his mobile phone, the driver is traced to a nearby street address where he has been wrongly dispatched by his cab company. As I load my overweight suitcases into the cab, I am perspiring like a man in a sauna. My parents expectantly ask, "When are you coming again?" to which I stoically respond, "Soon!"