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Archive for November, 2012

A Thousand Seas

Parting is such sweet sorrow.  Goodbyes felt different this time in India than they have ever before.  This time, there was something that held me back, made me long to stay.  I love Vermont, but I think I may love Calcutta too.  Five months ago, if you had asked me to live in India, I would’ve thrown a fit.  But lately, I’ve been wondering what it would be like to live there for a year or so in the future—growing up in a place where I should’ve grown up.  I’d love to report for Times of India for a few months, or take a long break and explore the country.  I have yet to do so.  Taj Mahal is first on my list, but the list continues onto many locations around the country—Jaipur, Goa, Kashmir.  India is endless.   I have seen only a corner of the country, so I can’t say I know it.  It’s like basing the United States off of Vermont.  I should add this to my bucket list.

On the other hand, landing in Vermont brings a euphoria that nothing else can explain.  After unpacking and cleaning up, I huddled under my covers and watched re-runs of Glee while drinking tea.  Returning to your own bed is the greatest joy in the world.  However, my favorite part of returning from trips is reuniting with my friends.  They make me feel loved, and I simultaneously appreciate them even more.  My day back at school was filled “Welcome back”‘s and gift-giving and innumerable stories (the tigers were a hit).  However, I especially enjoyed the announcements—unleashing all the pep I had in store during my vacation.  It’s good to be back.

I’m more in the holiday-spirit this year than I was last year.  It may be the anticipation that has been building for the past few months, or perhaps an adrenaline rush of being back home.  Car drives with holiday carols immediately bring about a smile on my face, and for the first time, I think I’m whole-heartedly falling in love with the snow.  I only have things to look forward to, and no reason to look back on the not-so-good things.  Pablo may be coming during Christmas, and I think that would the best present of all.  Be prepared for countless five-year old stories, recollections, pictures, video blogs, etc.  New Year’s will signify the second year anniversary of Translucent Roses!  It all started with a New Year’s resolution….and hopefully it’ll continue for years to come.  And then spring, summer, autumn, winter, etc—the cycle continues.

My posts have progressively moved from purposeful thoughts to rambles, which is never a surprise coming from me.  I have some creative writing ideas, so after I organize my thoughts a bit, maybe I’ll post some!  Until then, happy December, and enjoy the winter weekend!

-B

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Traitor Genes

My genes have failed me.  I come from two families of talented artists.  Even Pablo has become an artist (though perhaps this is because of his name).  My mom’s dad has a sketchbook filled with mind-blowing artwork—sketches of me, paintings of countrysides, meticulously drawn flowers.  The other day, he asked me very enthusiastically, “Do you ever paint or draw?”  I think he was disappointed when I told him I couldn’t, and that I was a writer instead.  Every time I visit, he shows me his newest work—most recent is a failed sketch of my grandma, but every artist makes mistakes.  He ripped out two pieces from his sketchbook for me to take back to Vermont, and every day, I’ll be able to wake up to my genes taunting me.  I have tried to fit into this group of artists—I have had my fair share of trips to art stores and water color paintings and attempts at sculpting.  It’s just one of those things that will never come to me!  Anyways, I love looking at my grandpa’s work.  He isn’t the most precise—he might have sporadic colors or sketches that are more bent than they should be, but everything he creates has some sort of meaning, and he’s always there to explain.  When I was young, I remember I took a month off of school to visit India.  For that month, I had to make a collection of journals, and although I hadn’t discovered my love for writing at that point, I still preferred to write.  Fittingly, my teacher had me draw pictures.  I spent hours in the beating heat, trying to perfect the head of the zebra I saw at the zoo or tracing the intricate designs of my henna.  My grandpa was always there to rescue both me and my art—I think I ended up having him draw everything under my direction.  But I remember how much I admired him as he worked, pursing his lips as a furrow formed in his brow—just as I have learned to admire any artist at work.

I can’t get the tiger stories out of my head.  Every time I recollect the way the villagers explained the tiger with this continuous fear, I get goosebumps.  Being back in Calcutta is nice, I suppose, but I think I miss the little village by the resort—the quaint, homely feeling of it, as well as the serenity of the water all throughout the day.  I’m not a city person, and I attribute this to good old Vermont.

My dad and I went down to Gariahat yesterday, the quintessential Calcutta market, in order to shop for gifts.  I have learned the art of bargaining, though I do so shyly, hesitating to speak in Bengali and having my dad translate instead.  Places like Gariahat are becoming infested with shops that sell Western clothing, ruining the vibe of the old-fashioned place.  I have never been a fan of Gariahat, but it’s where I go to buy all the “true” Indian goods—reasonably priced, hand-crafted, and traditional.  It will never compare to the bustle and glimmer of Park Street, but it’s a place you just have to go to in Calcutta.  It’s like vegetables—good for you (that was a really bad analogy but you get the gist).

This post has to have broken the world record for shortest TR post ever.  I suppose I’m just not feeling it—the tigers have me in a trance.  I’m going home soon; this trip has felt short, but I’ve come out with a lot of good stories.  Christmas is coming up soon!  I can’t wait for the holiday spirit to boost up my November blues.

Have fun at school/work everyone!  I’ll be on my 35-hour journey back home—fun.

-B

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A tiger always sees you before you see it.

These past two days have been incredible.  Early Thanksgiving morning, we left for the Sunderbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the largest mangrove forests in the world.  It lies where two rivers, the Ganges and Brahmaputra, converge, between India and Bangladesh, and is best known for its population of Royal Bengal Tigers.  To get to the Sunderban Tiger Camp, a 5-star resort catering to outsiders, we had to drive three-hours through quintessential Indian villages, like the ones outlined in travel books or magnificent NatGeo articles, and take a two-hour ferry ride on the water to the camp.

On this trip, I met a man who watched his uncle be mauled by a tiger, who escaped with his own life but is marked with distinct scars, who was threatened to life in jail for illegal poaching, and whose life has been documented by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, and BBC.  His name is Niranjan Raptan,  the “Mowgli” of the Sunderbans, and he was our tour guide.  Speaking in broken English, he explained his deadliest encounter with a Royal Bengal Tiger while collecting honey many years ago.  As the tiger approached his uncle, attacking from behind (a tiger always attacks from behind), Niranjan defended himself with a stick, luckily surviving.  Niranjan used to be a poacher, but was offered a job as a tour guide by the head forest ranger in exchange for an end to poaching.  After accepting the job, he began to develop his love for the jungle, as well as his English-speaking skills, all while having no education.  But he knew he was talented; he was the most knowledgeable about the jungle.

About two months ago, one of the employees at the Sunderban Tiger Camp lost two goats and a cow to a tiger who entered the village in the middle of the night.  Early this morning, he invited us to his house, and showed us around the village.  As we walked past the green fields, his wife was washing dishes in front of the house, using muddy water that automatically caught our eyes.  She, like the other villagers, was incredibly hospitable, which made me love the village all-the-more.  They showed us the small hut beside their own, where the goats used to live, and how the tiger broke down the door, leaving behind nothing.  Years ago, the man had another encounter with a tiger when it took away his father, never to see the body again.  He spoke nonchalantly, as if this happened all the time, but each of the villagers had a different look in their eyes when they talked about the tigers.

Stories like these seem eerie, mythical, words from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, but in the village of Dayapur, tigers are one of the biggest concerns.  Every day is spent worrying about them, setting up precautions, and having to live with the haunting memories.  Tigers in the Sunderbans are especially dangerous as they’re man-eaters, mostly because humans are more abundant than wildlife.  And while tourists happily come to see them, villagers would do anything to keep them away.  Dayapur, like other Sunderban villages, thrives off of honey collecting and fishing, but the dangers present in the area make both of these occupations life-threatening.  Before going out in the morning, families pray to Bono Bibi, the jungle goddess who supposedly wards off tigers.  But many have found that even prayers can’t guarantee anything.

Last night, while we were sleeping, a tiger crossed the river to another village on a different island and attempted to attack some of the livestock, thankfully being scared away by something.  In the morning, a group of men went to observe the nets that were previously set up to prevent tigers from crossing the river.  All of it finally seemed real, and it felt like more than a 1960 Disney movie.  The thought of having to worry about a tiger attacking every night is absolutely frightening.  I couldn’t imagine what it would be like knowing I’m in danger every moment, and that there’s very little I can do about it.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see any tigers on our 5-hour trip on the river.  There’s one tiger for approximately every 20 km, which isn’t as much when you consider it.  In the immense jungle, it can be difficult to spot one.  A few days ago, some tourists on this trip were fortunate to see a tiger up close, though that can be a rare occurrence.  However, we did see a crocodile in the early afternoon, basking under the fervent sun on the muddy river banks, and that was frightening enough.  Additionally, we saw a few water monitor lizards, deer, and monkeys (regardless of my fear for them, they were my favorite).  Unfortunately no king cobras, though those are prevalent in the Sunderbans.  But I realized through the entire trip that while I was there to see the wildlife, the stories and villagers proved to be much more interesting.

I feel like there’s so much I need to say about the Sunderbans, but it’s also one of those places that has to be visited.  It can’t be explained even with the right words or pictures.  The confluence of the rivers was simultaneously the most peaceful and beautiful place I’ve been.  It opened my eyes up to a new side of India I had never imagined.  To me, India has always been Kolkata, and Kolkata only—-an out-dated, polluted city.  But the villages are quaint, strong in their roots and proud of their culture.  As the boat floated along the river, I suddenly felt a sense of pride in my own roots, which hasn’t always been the case.  But I also felt guilty that I was seeing the strife of the village and doing nothing about it.  I wish I had continued with my science research from last year in determining more effective methods to purify water.  Unfortunately, I gave up on it, and that’s a regret I’ll have for a while.  But we can all do more.  We can set up funds, we can tell these stories to others, we can gain support for this cause—and I strongly believe that  with time, we can change an entire village.  It’s optimistic, and I’m on a post-visit adrenaline rush, but I hope I have the drive to do something.  India will always be my birthplace, where my roots are, and if I can’t help people in my own birth country, then I don’t know what I can do.

I said before that the villagers were extremely hospitable, and I find this to be true amongst Indians in general.  India may not have the most polished environments, but the people are so caring, especially in rural areas.  They will always treat you as one of their own, regardless of who you are.  However, our resort was more than “polished”—it was easily one of the best places I’ve stayed at.  The villagers who worked there accommodated to every need we had, never hesitating and always showing genuine enthusiasm.   Without them, the experience wouldn’t have even been close to what it was.

I don’t think I can emphasize how amazing this trip was.  I also must be omitting many details that I had originally intended on writing about, but the village was what struck me the most.  I have grown up hearing and learning about small villages, but I have this belief that you can’t ever understand something until you experience.  And while I may never have a chance to stay a night in a village with no electricity, where tigers periodically visit and steal lives, talking to and seeing the villagers in their natural habitat was enough.  I say this every time I travel, but I don’t think there’s anything more interesting than stories.  And I like putting pictures to life, written words to spoken words, and mental images to reality.  Here’s my tip to anyone who ever wants to see something interesting: visit the Sunderbans.  You won’t have to stay in grubby cities or even poverty-stricken villages, but visit and learn and understand.  It changes perspectives.

Here a few pictures I took:

Water at sunset

People going across the river

The village, Dayapur

The crocodile!

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A House is not a Home

The lime green house with the well is infiltrated with swarms of mosquitos all throughout the day.  It’s been like this for the past 16 years I’ve been going there.  The house is in a dingy corner of Behala, but the alleyways that diverge from the main road are all-too familiar.  Part of my mom’s extended family lives here, the ones I am most familiar with, the ones who I have seen for years and loved unconditionally.  We call this house the “Behala Bari”, meaning the “Behala House” in Bengali.  It consists of 10 or so people, but this number has been steadily decreasing, as unfortunate as it is.  The house smells of mosquito repellent and cooking fumes, sometimes doubled with the aroma of the mango tree that sits out back.  The large iron-cast gate isolates the house from the city.  For me, this house is the one thing that has remained steady in Calcutta.  My grandparents have shifted an infinite amount of times, but Behala Bari has been there since day one.  When I was young, I used to spend hours there, as it was the one place I loved.  Every time, someone from the house would summon the Pani Puri vendor (my favorite street food), even though the amount of Pani Puri I ate could never have been good for a tiny child (I still eat a scary amount of it).

Lately, I find that I can’t return to that same house anymore.  The rooms are inundated with a kind-of grief that replaces light.  The family has split into secluded sectors, no longer exuberant like those years I used to remember.  Six years ago, the house thrived with my mom’s three uncles, their wives and daughters, my grandma’s cousin (one of my favorite people ever), and finally my grandma’s aunt (her cousin’s mom).  These relations seem so distant, so far apart—-by uncles, I mean my grandma’s cousins—-but here, the distances are irrelevant.  This family has grown up tight-knit.  In India, it’s more about who you’re close to.  My mom is closer to this family than her own first cousins.

About five years ago, one of the daughters I mentioned above passed away at about age 17.  Of the three sisters, I was always most fascinated by her.  She had this elegant, taut smile that would bring out her dimples, and I always used to try to emulate it.  She stood out from the others, tall and poised, with a rippling laugh—and she always made everyone smile.  Since then, I’ve been back at the house three times.  In 2008, right after it happened, the house was silenced by her hanging pictures, festooned with flower necklaces that represent mourning the death in our culture.  Last year, my grandma’s aunt passed away at about 97, the eldest and most venerated relative of the entire family.  But her death was received with a solemn acceptance—she had lived a fulfilled life.  The house I once knew isn’t the same, and going back is never the same.  It was the house where I first discovered a rotary dial phone, played Call of Duty computer games, and nurtured my love for street food.  But those memories are drowned out with sad eyes that lighten up with our visit, as well as the flood of mosquitos by the door.  Nonetheless, I love that place.  I may hate to visit, I may hate to see the mourning and the silence, but nothing can replace what that house has meant to me, in my years as a child and even now, for the people it represents.

My grandpa grew up with 11 brothers and sisters, in a 200-year old house in Chetla, Kolkata.  Apparently I used to spend a lot of time at that house, but I don’t remember it.  Yesterday, I visited after maybe 10 or 11 years, with no recollections whatsoever.  But my inner curiosity came out.  The house has only a couple of people living in it, half broken down.  Three cats swarm the premises, cuddling with each other and hiding beneath the verdant plants in the back.  The rooms are separated by decrepit olive green doors, and the walls are plastered with endless pictures of deceased relatives.  My family expected me to be repulsed by the feeble structure, the half-broken roof, the flickering white lights—but I have never been so fascinated by a place as I was yesterday.

I think my photography bothers my grandparents, but they don’t realize that I do it because I appreciate everything.  I appreciate it, and I understand that everyone else will too.  Everyone here assumes that people outside find India repugnant, but there is something beautiful about all of it that I try to convey with my blog posts and pictures.  During one of my photo-opps, I took one of the most beautiful pictures I think I will ever have the chance to take, of a woman in a striking red sari standing beside her dilapidated house and a blue wall that starkly contrasts with her attire.  It explains both the poverty of some places in India, as well as the richness of the culture.  I love it, and I hope you will too.

Just a couple other light-hearted things and disconnected thoughts about the past few days:

  • I finally went to visit the Victoria Memorial!  It captured the allure of European architecture perfectly, which is understandable as it was built during the British regime.  I realized that the British rule in India is a subject I have always been interested in.  Indian history, in general, is incredible—the country has built off of so much, and I find that today, it has lost a lot of its roots.
  • I talked about the craziness of driving in Calcutta earlier, which is why everyone has drivers.  Drivers happen to be the most entertaining people I come across during these trips.  They have this need to contribute to every conversation that occurs in the car, but their input is often witty and humorous.  We can hardly be annoyed when they’re so funny.  Sometimes if a driver has been with a family for long enough, they learn everything about the family—-where their aunts and cousins and parents live, where their favorite places are to go, who is in their family tree—almost as if becoming a part of the family.  But what saddens me about India still is the immense disparity between social classes.  Lately, there has been more respect for those who work in lower ranks, but still no equality.
  • There’s a grocery store here called Spencer’s, which looks exactly like the inside of Price Chopper, including the products carried.  Sometimes it seems as if living here can be so similar to living in Vermont—we can still buy Barilla pasta and Nutella and Oreos.  They have frozen hot dogs, steak filets (though eating beef here is a no-no…..the cow is sacred in Hinduism), as well as every kind of peanut butter we can find in the US.  People carry around Coach purses, wear Abercrombie and Fitch, drive Mercedes and BMW’s (occasionally), take French in school, listen to and watch Western music and films, respectively, etc.  Sometimes it doesn’t even seem like I’m in India.
  • A man with two monkeys approached us yesterday, asking if we wanted to watch their show.  After my mom and I were assured that there would be no harming of the animals, and that they were cared for, we agreed to watch it.  It was fantastic—the monkeys were incredibly intelligent, able to respond to any command given.  After clapping for us, playing the drums, and showing us a circus trick, the man told one of the monkeys to come shake my hand.  I am terrified of monkeys, absolutely terrified.  I used to have nightmares about monkeys taking me away, which would induce me to toss out any monkey stuffed animals I had.  As this monkey tried to reach for my hand, I was squealing, drawing the attention of many people.  Thankfully, it never got to me, instead reaching for the money my mom offered as a tip and giving it to his owner (talk about intelligent…).  The little guy was kind of cute, so I suppose I could’ve shaken his hand.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I would’ve started crying from fear after.  Thankfully I didn’t have any nightmares about monkeys last night.

I just merged a cloud of thoughts into one blog post, so sorry for the length.  Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving, and I wish I could celebrate this day of eating food (and being thankful).  Maybe I can have my own little celebration with food.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I’m truly thankful for so much—my family, the chance to come to India and see the world, my friends, Sam and Wookie, music, and, of course, the readers of this blog.  Keep reading and subscribing!

-B

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Tiktiki

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose—a name I can’t pronounce, yet see on every descent into Calcutta on a large airport sign.  A cloud of haze swathes the city from above.  The runway is always dimly lit by lights where mosquitos whizz around.    As I stepped off the plane, the same sweet stench and humidity of Calcutta hit like a wall, but as much as I dread the former, it reminds me that I’m back in my birthplace.  Although it was never, and will never be, home, it will always carry some meaning.  Walking into the terminal with decrepit walls and dusty corners, I finally realized I knew the airport as well as BTV.  That’s when you know you belong somewhere.

Anyone who read my blog last year will remember my seething letter to the myopic Immigration Officer who told me I was “royalty” because of my last name, insisted that I didn’t understand Bengali even as he continued to speak to me in Bengali, and kept interrogating me unnecessarily about my life.  This time, I was prepared to handle this.  I had a list of contemptuous answers prepared, ready to set my foot down.  Thankfully, that was unnecessary, as this officer was less-than-interested in interrogation.  At the baggage claim, a deluge of people insistently pulled at our bags, offering their help with some tips in return.  Most tourists would be appalled by this, frightened even, and it would be hard to explain the strife these people face and their immense need to do something for money.  They’re very helpful, though.  But watching the Americans from the flight struggle with these people is incredibly amusing.  Their persistence is difficult to resist, though experienced Indians have learned to combat it (ie. my parents).  After we had collected 9 out of 10 of our bags, we realized our 10th one was missing.  Conveniently, this happened to be the bag with my Chang chemistry textbook and my laptop charger.  At this point, I broke down.  I just lost it.  Either it was the fatigue and pollution, or it was the realization that I had so much work to do.  Thankfully, the bag appeared today, so all my worries have been alleviated.

On the outside of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose airport (aka Dum Dum Airport), a line of poverty-stricken people beg for coins, food, anything.  They send their kids up to the incomers, glossy eyes glimmering against the street lights.  In my years of coming to India, I’ve learned to ignore this.  It’s one of the most heartbreaking scenarios I think anyone can run into in their lives, but I’ve learned, in bits and pieces, the truth about most of these beggars.  Some use kids to get money, using it for their self-seeking reasons.  And while we can never truly know the background behind a beggar, it’s difficult to satisfy all of them.  Best solution: don’t give money.  In other places, like Europe or the US, giving money can typically be hazardous, as a lot of theft occurs.  Don’t give money.  It’s kind of a life lesson I’ve learned from traveling, as well as from horror stories of being ripped off.

Driving in Calcutta is a sport that should require a degree.  Drivers have perfected their sport to such an extent that they have the confidence that passengers lack.  Every time I step into one of these cars, I’m prepared for the worst, and each time, I find myself jolting and letting out screams.  I almost believe that they could drive with their eyes closed, accident-free.  Driving in Calcutta is about aggression: it’s about honking and swerving and yelling.  Niceties don’t exist on the road, and this is simply an accepted fact.  I can hardly drive in downtown Burlington—Calcutta is a nightmare to me.  My grandmother took it upon herself to boast to her driver about how well her granddaughter could drive, and I’m sure he had a nice chuckle about this.  Real drivers are the ones who drive here.  (They also drive standards, which increases my respect for them).

We’re 10.5 hours ahead of Vermont here, which makes Facebook and Twitter dull on the occasions I go on them.  It’s an odd feeling not to be connected 24/7, but eye-opening, I suppose.  My phone feels purposeless.  My grandpa carries a small Nokia phone, constantly attached to it….a familiar sight: “Oh I’m just calling the electricians…just calling the plumber….just adding your number.”  Nobody has iPhones here, but even the man on the street who carries a basket of fruits and vegetables on his head is attached to his phone.  It’s a world trend—the progression of society.

Every India blog post has to have a little bit about food.  I talked about this in my last trip, but I think we’re going to a restaurant called Peter Cat tonight, on Park Street (main street of Calcutta), which has always been my favorite restaurant.  The health reviews are less-than-ideal, but there is no way in the world that I can forget years of memories there, as well as their infamous Cello Kebab.  I have a certain obsessions with kebabs, which are, simply stated, pieces of meat marinated with spices and grilled in a tandoor (a grill).  Additionally, I love street food.  Everyone here is in awe of my iron stomach: I have never, ever gotten sick from street food (knock on wood).  It’s my gift.  This year, I have no fears, no hesitations—here I come.  Speaking of food, on our connection from Dubai to Calcutta, my mom and I were surprisingly upgraded to business class, which has some of the best airplane food ever.  The leg room is endless, the seats fully reclinable, the service impeccable.  My only qualm was about the continuity of service.  While I appreciate the relentless food and drink offerings, being woken up twice is less-than-ideal.  Nevertheless, I felt like I was being treated by royalty.  They addressed me as “Ms. Mukherjee”, noted down my food interests, and continued to check on my comfort.  I was even offered complimentary champagne and wine twice during the trip—customer service at its finest.

Going out to dinner in town right now!  I enjoy blogging every day, though my followers’ emails may not.  Sorry about that 🙂

Quick note: just found a lizard in my parents’ room (Bengali word for a lizard= tiktiki…fun fact of the day).

Welcome to India.

-B

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Middle East Memories

Quick addition to my last post (this is my favorite part of blogging during vacations): we are currently above Iraq, near the Tigris River.  The sky is clear, so we can see illuminated portions of whatever city lies below.  The sun is just beginning to rise above the horizon—the plane is surrounded by an amalgamation of a rainbow gradient and black sand swirls from the deserts below (I’ve attached a picture).  The plane is fairly low, and it looks as if there are flames scattered across the land.  I imagine there must be army bases around there, as well.  Watching in-flight maps while flying puts 2-D maps into perspective, sparking my interest in the world even further.  Seeing Iraq is like seeing the strife at hand, except all I can do from the plane is imagine how it must be down below.  It saddens me to think that down below, on lands that look absolutely beautiful from the skies, life is unbearable for most people.  Even though I can’t see it at first-hand, flying over Iraq, a place I’ve heard and read so much about, is enough to bring about realizations.  In general, I have a fascination with this portion of the world—I am fascinated by how passionate people are to fight for their rights, and simultaneously enervated by the immense oppression that occurs.  Sometimes I read articles or books about these issues, and feel powerless—what can a 16 year old girl do to change this while sitting in the United States?

Anyways, what makes me excited about being in the Middle East right now is being close to Saudi Arabia.  Although I was quite young while living there, I have an eternal connection with the place—it was once home.  Riyadh means almost as much to me as Calcutta, although for the former, I’ve lived vicariously through stories and pictures.  Sometimes a certain song I remember hearing in our small apartment over the smell of my mom’s famous fruit salad is enough to spark memories.  I remember more than anyone gives me credit for.  However, I regret having forgotten Arabic, when was once fluent.  Hopefully I can pick it up again, one day.  Riyadh is a place I’m determined to return to sometime in my life, either to validate my memories, or to hold on to that significant part of my childhood.

-B

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Musings from the Sky

I always wonder what keeps me going on these long trips.  I can hardly push through an 8-hour school day, but I am invincible on 35-hour journeys.  The past 9 hours on this flight have been occupied by Bollywood movies and half a season of New Girl.  I fit in eating somewhere, though I mostly picked at the concentrated airplane food.  Emirates, however, does have some of the best airline food, though this doesn’t say much.

Everything so far has been deja vu from last December.  The cycles are being repeated—the same gates for the flights, the same bags we carried, the same food we ate, the same shoes I wore.  I’m practically re-living my life in December 2011.  The greatest provoker of deja vu is the Emirates check-in counter at JFK, where there are more Indians than in India itself.  In minutes, I become a part of the majority, and I’ve come to realize that I don’t enjoy this.  I guess I like standing out, which is easy in Vermont.  I’m fascinated by the implicit camaraderie between Indians, though.  Indian-to-Indian interactions always carry a trust that typically appears after years of knowing someone.  As my mom and I were waiting with our bags in JFK, an Indian gentlemen asked us to watch his bags for just two minutes.  He had no hesitations, fully confident that he could trust us because of our mutual race.  I’m not sure if this applies to other cultures as well, but it’s definitely ubiquitous amongst Indians.  Coming from Vermont, where I’m not so used to being surrounded by Indians, this type of behavior continues to appall me.  Perhaps this speaks highly for the community in India—the feeling of trust and unity all throughout.  I don’t understand it, but I respect it.

Airports are always cruel reminders of the places I have yet to have travelled to.  On the way to the gate, I passed by flights to Johannesburg, Kingston, Las Vegas—places I’ve never been, but would visit in a heart beat.  I’m not spontaneous (this should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me), but I’ve always wanted to embark on a spur-of-the-moment journey to any place in the world.  I suppose that I long for a whimsicality that will, unfortunately, never come.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve been to so many places, but the truth is…..there’s always more to see.  There is an endless amount of places to travel to, and endless ways to see each one.  This is my 8th or 9th time going back to Calcutta, and I have a list of places I’ve yet to explore.  There are millions of places I haven’t even visited in Vermont—from restaurants to ski resorts to VSO concerts (this last one is my fault….a result of my laziness……and something that I plan to accomplish soon).  The sky is truly the limit when it comes to adventuring.

I’ve reverted to jotting down notes on my phone every time I’m inspired for a blog post.  My list for India Post #1 is quite scattered, which should explain the drastic transitions.  I’m also writing this out in my notebook, a practice that I’m still not comfortable with.  But I’ll admit that it’s nice to step away from my phone and laptop—here, it’s just black ink (except when I type this onto WordPress).  Besides being a figurative type of art, writing can also be visual.  Unfortunately, my penmanship resembles that of an angsty pre-teen, but I try to be neater…I really do.  I’ve never really been an artist.

I would like to briefly make a tribute to my family for having reached an all-time high for packing.  Ten bags (I felt that to be worthy of bold).  I personally am carrying two—a backpack and a rolling bag—plus my camera bag, which makes three.  One of the other bags is solely for presents for infinite family members; another is for household items for our apartment in Calcutta (curtains, food, carpets, etc).  The others consist of my parents’ handbags and personal items, for which I take no responsibility.  However, after 16 years, I’ve learned to embrace this.  I’ve lost millions of battles about overpacking, and endured hours—days—of painstaking labor in and out of airports.  I have reached a point of no return.  I have concluded that I am proud to be from a family notorious for overpacking, and I am proud to be an overpacker myself (ie. TIE France for anyone remembers my packing shenanigans).  Perhaps this is my moment of “self-realization”, or something of that sort.  I have obsessive-compulsive-packing disorder—I’ll face the truth.

With that last thought—I figure that I should take this time to catch up on sleep, but why sleep when I can take 13 hours to fulfill a multitude of things?  I rarely watch TV, but New Girl has instantly become a favorite on this flight.  I also took a moment to skim through my notebook, jotting down some more musings.  I jumped through some pages of the book I’m reading (though I have been lazy about that….it’s going slowly).  Who needs sleep?  I suppose that at this moment, I’m just thrilled to have an occasion to blog.  The past few months have felt painfully dreary.  In my mind, the best adventures and stories come from traveling.

Alright, I’m bordering on hour ten of this 13-hour flight….which means only a few more hours to catch up on movies and reading until Dubai.  Happy vacation everyone!

-B

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