I begin to write this just as the plane is about to take off. That makes me the only douche to whip out his laptop before being airborne. Also, I think this post should have been written at the airport, en route to the airport, while packing, while considering when to pack, while having a very emotional conversation with my parents about upholding perfectly acceptable family values and exercising sound financial judgment. Writing would have been preferable to all of the above. While being fairly necessary, all of the aforementioned activities happened to be significantly depressing, and sufficiently discomforting. Except packing. Packing I hate. And the hatred stems from very dark and unexplored depths of my heart, mind, soul, and kidneys.
This should ideally be divided into two parts; first chronicling the entirety of my experiences in feeling immense love from people around me, how uncomfortable it made me, the sadness of leaving teary-eyed parents back home, and the second one hating packing. But since I am told that flights with alcohol are entertaining and you can watch movies for free, I am going to conflate the two and make the most of my time here.
To finish off the people part first. I met a lot of people in the last 240 hours. I love these people. I grew up with them, in a manner of speaking. I have made memories with them, in a manner of literally. They seemed genuinely sad that I was leaving. They expressed it in a lot of words, and hugs. That was touching. Tears were shed and I did cry once. Okay, twice. And this was just Delhi! Bombay was like a drug induced emotional roller coaster. See. Pack. Meet. Pack. Greet. Pack. Goodbye. Pack. Done. *Insert heavy doses of melancholy between every stage.
And that was the humane part.
Then there are my diabolic bags.
I am carrying two suitcases. Two whole i-am-moving-to-another-country-I-have-indian-stamped-all over the contents-bags. And that makes me very sad. I am yet to be hit by the fact that I am actually leaving my country, for another country, for a long time, to do stuff which I may fuck-up. And all of this I have no real control over. I mean sure I can work hard and have a higher chance of not-fucking up, but you know what I am talking about right? In that case, I would like to believe that the only thing I could have any say in would be what I decide to take with me when I make this transition. Simple right? I sure as hell thought so.
Apparently, it is far more complicated than that.
Packing involves very real and nuanced decisions. Decisions about what is it that you own/will purchase, that you truly value enough to carry with you. Why do you need to carry it? Can this really not be substituted by anything else that markets provide there? Is being economical the only reason for this concerted effort to cram in every last bit of allowable weight (this is true. I wish you could see the complicated calculus applied to weight division, optimal spread of objectionable food products, and the ideal response strategy when confronted by amused customs officials), or is there a nostalgia associated with all that you carry? I don’t know. My mother thinks that the Americans, with over 300 years of Independence, are yet to figure what ought to constitute a decent meal. This is clearly not true. I hope.
Packing becomes an additional headache, when it assumes the form of a community problem. Consensus building measures are therefore required to arrive at a societally acceptable list of things which represent; all that you need, all that you are, all that you will be; food wise. Needless to say, there is a mass mobilization resources to ensure creation of commodities which markets can’t provide for. Or can they?
Why do I have a problem with this? I don’t really, as long as you do it with you own bag. I do appreciate the concern, I really do. I also acknowledge the appreciation of my financial constraints as a student, the idea of convenience, and a need to create a familiar space in an otherwise alien environment. All of this is fine and perfectly acceptable. However, this comfort is slightly disconcerting for me. A friend of mine (two of them in fact) commented how my luggage weighed about the same as them! Apart from the fact that I have way too many thin friends, it disturbed me that I was carrying enough to constitute an entire person. An actual person! How does this not bother anyone that you need (absolutely need) to carry enough to make another person? The amount of baggage you carry, in my opinion, should always be non-tangible. This is far more important than the tastes you crave. At least to me, food is replaceable, convenience and maneuverability isn’t. The less you carry, the less you are responsible for.
Now all of this could be because I genuinely worry about cleaning the stuff I own, actively avoid responsibility, and would like to live with as little as possible. I also like the feeling of walking out of an airport with nothing but a bag-pack and a sliver of smugness. Just slightly. Oh also! Another reason I feel uncomfortable with all of the preparation for foreign travel is the inherent disdain and inferiority associated with the culture of the destination country. While I am not qualified to comment on the objective ranking of any culture or society, to say that an entire people have no culture or lack culture simply because it is not similar to yours is downright unacceptable. And food becomes the vanguard of manifesting this belief, that if you are retain your source-culture, always remember where you come from. Never forget. And not forgetting may involve both passive provision of source materials, as well as active avoidance of new experiences.
I may just hate this new country. I may come to love it. I have no idea. But I may as well give it a chance, eat new food while my body allows it, and add to my list of lived experiences. I wont be 26 and in a new country again. Ever. And if I am going to be here and now only once, I don’t want to be eating that which I grew up on. I’d rather eat more and feel more. And if I can ever reach a stage where I can realistically even compare different foods, cultures, and societies on some common parameters, I would have a good story to tell.
Meanwhile, strange things have begun happening on this flight. I have kids in front. Abhay deol is in an air safety video. So is Rajeev Khandelwal. Everyone on the crew looks positively disinclined to the idea of smiling, and I am fast hurtling into a long night (from east to west) towards my first jet lag. Someone just ran across the aisle yelling for a doctor. Apparently a passenger is ill. I hope it isn’t anything serious. I am still in Bombay, and it seems, will be for a while.
PS (0210 hrs): My bags weighed 48 kgs in all, and I was let off with a knowing look from a very ambivalent lady behind the counter. She probably clears far too many students carrying that extra kilo of Indian sweets. Also, my plane didn’t take off for another 50 minutes.
PPS (0244 hrs): The plane still hasn’t taken off. Now I am worried about the health of the person in question.
PPPS (0258 hrs): Overheard from an elderly gentleman: a child with malaria was brought onboard. His fever went very high and started convulsing, and hence the clamour for a doctor. Thankfully (and the first part is legit) it happened before being airborne, otherwise the flight would have to be diverted to save the child’s life, and the plane would have had to dump all its fuel, since (apparently) it can’t land with a full fuel tank. This may not be the best time to point out that the gentleman saying this seemed just a little bit too excited about saying ‘offload fuel tanks’ and ‘divert flight’. Mansplaining at 3 in the morning 🙂
I am glad the kid is okay though. And now we fly. And now I end. Bye.
PPPPS: I saw it! I fucking saw it!
My seat was uncomfortable, and the jack for the headphone slot was loose. So I watched three movies back to back with my thumb holding the headphones in place. And as I was about to drift into a rather uncomfortable sleep, I saw the in-flight map. Our route was charted out, and it was a damn interesting one. We were flying over Moscow, parts of northern Europe, close to Iceland, and then over Canada. I did not sleep at all. I don’t know why they keep the shutters closed. The wonder of seeing these lands, with all their history, references in popular culture and possibility of never seeing them all was enough to keep me awake to catch but a glimpse of it all. Here are a few pictures.