India lies before me…
Midday in Mumbai. Outside the airport doors, it is a hot, blue day. A haze of dust hangs in the air. I can see palm trees and mynah birds, a flurry of taxis, a cohort of buses and a knot of people waiting at the kerb for their turn to depart the airport.
The sun is at its zenith, casting hard shadows onto the ground. The tinted glass of the windows and doors gives an impression of coolness but I can almost feel the heat of the day outside. I have cleared customs and immigration. I have my backpack on and directions to the nearest metro station. All I need to do now is to walk through the doors and out into Asia.
Travel is a disappearing act. My departure from home, thirty-six hours earlier was the usual heady mix of anticipation and eagerness, tempered with the melancholy of goodbyes. Leaving is, in itself, an adventure: a transition from the mundane to the outlandish, from the ordinary to the extraordinary. The adverts on television, the city bill-boards, the newspaper headlines: these things spoke to other people. I was leaving. I was setting my ordinary life aside for a month and disappearing into the haze of another continent.
Asia is vast. It spans the world from the edge of the Bosphorus in Turkey to the islands of Japan and beyond: a distance of 11,000 kilometres, or 8,000 miles, or 36 million feet. Someone who lives in Istanbul is as much an Asian as someone from Jakarta or Aurangabad or Kobe. Nearly four and a half billion people walk on the continent of Asia. And now, my two feet are about to join them.
The doors slide open with a sibilant hiss. I smell the hot breath of the city: the aromas of dust, vegetation, drains, closely-pressed humanity and the background whiff of kerosene from the jet engines roaring overhead. India lies before me. I step through the doorway and out into Asia.