The Gulf Air flight lands in Calcutta’s airport. Biju looks out over the unruly crowd, filled with a variety of people returning to India: rich people, poor people, those who lived abroad or traveled abroad. One student returns bringing back a blonde woman, trying to shake off the looks of others judging him for falling into a stereotype.
Even when he arrives back in India, Biju sees how globalization is seeping into the culture. The student with the blonde woman is particularly noticeable because he is judged for succumbing to Western ideals of beauty.
Many bags don’t arrive, and Biju hears that the airline is only giving compensation to nonresident Indians and foreigners, not to Indian nationals. The official tries to argue that foreigners need money for hotels and toiletries. One woman complains that they are treating people from rich countries well and people from a poor country badly.
The way the airline deals with the missing bags is another small example of how poverty and privilege can both be experienced in a cycle, as those who can afford to travel or live outside India are given money for missing bags rather than those who live in India and do not travel as often.
The nonresident Indians, holding their green cards, wait patiently in line, as if to prove that their manners make them more deserving. They try to make sure their passports are turned up so that airline officials can see the name of the country and “know right away whom to treat with respect.”
This next piece of the airport episode then demonstrates how difficult it is to break this cycle, because people innately want to take any advantage they can get. At the same time, it is clear here that they are not only playing into bias towards the wealthy, but a cultural bias towards foreigners that is borne of colonization.
Biju’s luggage finally arrives, and it arrives intact. He steps out of the airport in Calcutta. He sees thousands of people outside, some laughing, some eating, some praying. He feels his anxiety ebbing, happy to be able to disappear into a crowd. He feels he can see clearly for the first time in a long time.
The description of Biju’s return captures perfectly what constitutes “home”: sharing similar values, beliefs, and even appearance as others, and with that shared culture finding a sense of belonging.