The old order changes yielding place to new, but the new order we watch in awe at the all-new Muscat International Airport has a dash of old in its fold. Prasad Panicker walks down Mumbai-Muscat memory lane
It was past midnight when I landed at the then Seeb international airport close to three decades back. That was my first flight out of India to live and work. As I stepped into the bus a dark, ugly, unknown fear crept in.
The guy at the immigration counter, dressed pleasingly different than anything I had seen until then, looked intimidatingly serious. No hint of smile as he flipped through my passport taking occasional glances
As I picked up my luggage and walked out staring at the faces lined up near the arrival gate, some with placards carrying the names of persons they were looking for, I felt like going back to India. Luckily, the world was not really connected then and smartphones were not even on the drawing board. Otherwise I would have called up my employer to enquire about the possibility of catching the next flight to the then Bombay.
Three years later I walked out of Oman for good through the departure gate at Seeb international airport, and walked back into the Sultanate a year later after a short stint in Dubai. No confusion or anxiety the second time around: I stood with a smile at the immigration counter as the guy, a different one of course, stamped my visa. He too was serious, but I was happily occupied with the “back-home!” euphoria.
I quit Oman four times — twice to take up another job elsewhere in the region, and twice to retire back into my own home country — and somewhere between these years the name of the airport got changed from Seeb to Muscat, but the change was mostly in the nomenclature. Everything else was so perfectly, comfortably familiar.
That wouldn’t be the case anymore. If — if at all —I get into a flight to Muscat again and land at the all-new airport now, I might find myself a stranger. But someone in his mid-twenties could be on that flight landing here for the first time, as confused and unsure as I was years ago.
And the story would repeat itself a couple of decades on.