One of the things I love best about my home in Vasant Kunj is that it’s extremely quiet by Delhi standards. The fact that I’m surrounded by trees and can hear birdsong and the breeze reminds me that there’s still something akin to quality of life in this suppurating sore of a city. We’re not in the flight path, we’re set back from the main road enough to not hear traffic, the market is walking distance but not close enough to be disturbing, and our neighbours are, for the most part, too old to be a nuisance (except for one little grandspawn of the devil, upstairs, who likes to bounce his ball inside the house late at night, but I have plans for him). My home is my sanctuary, my oasis of peace and quiet.
So, when a plane suddenly flew into one of my ears and out of the other, the other day, I thought it must be crashing, which would be consistent with my theory on planes anyway. I looked out of the window expecting a searing explosion and towers of smoke, but there was only a little boy picking his nose. And then, a minute or two later, it happened again: another plane roared right overhead like a beast in pain.
Since then, for the last several days, my days and nights have been poxed by the constant arrival and departure of aircraft after aircraft, sometimes nearer and sometimes further, but all much too close for comfort.
Last night was the last straw. I ground my molars to dust trying to ignore the constant roar. I tried to remember that everything, including the urge to homicide, is transient and that this too shall pass. I wondered if someone might still be selling anti-aircraft weaponry at that time of night.
Finally I got up out of bed, turned on the light with an extra pissed-off click, banged open the door, swearing loudly, and went to my study where a pair of orange ear plugs have been festering on my desk since I nicked them off a China Airlines flight in 2005, alongside a human skull in plaster, a Buddha from Nalanda, a framed paper pig carrying a spray of pressed flowers, about a hundred and ten bits of bills and other unidentified paper, and a dental cast which I use as a paperweight (all festering on my desk, not all nicked off the plane). I swore loudly again, put the earplugs into my ears, got back into bed with an aggressive flounce, and burst into tears for good measure.
If I finally got any sleep at all, it was because of those earplugs (made out of some excellent quasi-putty substance that you compress like plasticine and stuff in your ear and hold in place for thirty seconds—they puff up magically and fit like, well, like the inside of an ear).
The next morning I called the office of the manager at Delhi Airport and got someone who sounded as if he might have a martini in his hand and not a care in the world. I asked him whether the flight path had changed, and if so, whether it was a permanent change.
“What do you mean by flypast?” he slurred.
Someone else got on the line.
“Maybe it is temporary,” he said mysteriously. “We have no idea. This is the ATC’s decision.” I demanded the ATC’s number. “They won’t tell you, though,” said the man sadly.
I called the ATC, and sure enough, they said: “No, madam, this we cannot tell,” and hung up.
I’m teetering on the brink of madness. Consider this a cry for help: will someone tell me what’s going on, and if it will ever end? You can contact me in the psychiatric ward of Fortis Hospital in Vasant Kunj; if they don’t have a psych ward yet, they will soon.