(Originally written: August 24, 2019)

It was twenty four minutes past midnight at the airport (and every other place in that timezone). A time that, from the look of the darkness outside, should be cool. With the calm full moon, cloudless sky, and streetlight brightened cities, you could feel a gentle breeze if you imagined it. But your mind would be wrong. Muggy is the word you would use instead if you felt what Radhey was feeling as he stood among the mob of people going about their business. As this was an airport, everyone’s business had travel at its core. Except the chaiwala that had set up shop – through the power of bribes – outside the airport doors. Chai is a means to a fiscal end for that wala.

Radhey’s parents had given him a task: “Get us a cart to put our bags on!”. He was currently failing because there was an acute scarcity of carts. To him it seemed that every family, except his, had a cart upon which to place all their baggage. A particularly rotund, sari-clad woman had even acquired a spare cart to park her immense frame upon. In fact, she was adding to the weight by scarfing down samosas (provided by the aforementioned chaiwala) at a rate that was inversely proportional to her running speed. Add in the emotional baggage she was carrying from her unhappy marriage to a gay man, and it was a wonder that her makeshift bench hadn’t crumpled.

Radhey didn’t know that her husband was gay. After all, he was a stranger. But Radhey made judgements when he looked at people. From the way that the husband talked to his wife, with an effeminate lilt, it made it seem that the man would rather have a husband. Or he was a straight man that just happened to talk that way. Radhey didn’t know. He didn’t care. He was just trying to pass the time while he waited for a cart to be free. He wandered a small area of the airport, fruitlessly waving his hand in his own face to cool himself down. It was like trying to put out a bonfire by blowing on it. It does nothing and you look like an idiot in the process.

The boy saw that certain people had no qualms about taking a cart from someone that was using it. He watched as a man targeted a lone woman with a single, large bag on her cart. When her attention was on the TV displaying flight information, he put her bag on the ground and took her cart. The way he took her bag off added to the rudeness. He wasn’t gentle with it. Instead, he had treated like it was his own luggage. Just tossed it to the floor like people do when they arrive at their hotel after a long flight. Radhey watched the man take the cart to his partner and load it up with their singular piece of luggage. The boy didn’t like that. He could slightly justify the theft if the man had many bags. But he had the same amount as the woman he had stolen from. In fact, the thief’s bag was smaller. Radhey decided to punish the selfishness. His mom hadn’t raised him to steal. But she had raised him to be just. Thinking himself as a Robin Hood of luggage, Radhey strode confidently towards the thief.

All hell broke loose. Not because people noticed a small boy about to steal from a grown man. Radhey remained under the radar of everyone present. No it was because a large, metal door had been opened to reveal a garage of luggage carts. The poor worker tasked with opening it stood no chance against the wave of people that emerged to get ahold of a cart. Radhey wondered where they had come from. Clearly there had been just as many people without a cart as those with one. Of course there were also people that just wanted something to sit on. But many were in Radhey’s boat. So they all pushed and shoved and jostled, not carrying who they were doing those verbs to. Everyone wanted a cart and each one would do what it took.

That doesn’t mean everyone got one. Many did not have the power to match their will and were left still empty handed within a few minutes. Radhey was amongst those individuals. He was left, like a few minutes ago, looking for a cart that was miraculously still free. The man he was planning on taking from was nowhere to be seen.

Radhey sighed, waved his hand in his face, and continued wandering in his small area of surveillance.