- travel (v.)
- c.1375, "to journey," from travailen (1300) "to make a journey," originally "to toil, labor" (see travail)
- travail (n.)
- "labor, toil," c.1250, from O.Fr. travail "suffering or painful effort, trouble" (12c.), from travailler "to toil, labor," originally "to trouble, torture," from V.L.
This is by way of a personal update, partly because nobody Stateside really knows what’s been going on and partly because what I went through to get to Bangalore really does deserve a bit of a tell (I haven’t yet given it its due).
I left the Nashville @ 5:30 pm on a Saturday, got to JFK at 10 pm, and learned- after an hour-long wait in line- that Delta had lost my bags and further, that they would not arrive in time to make my 7:30 am flight. I therefore, after filling out the appropriate paperwork and finding my way to the international terminal- by which time it was 1 am- settled in to wait. (This involved, as I previously noted on my Facebook and MySpace statuses, sitting on the floor and jacking a plugpoint that rightfully belonged to a self-check-in machine.)
When the Virgin Atlantic counter (on which airline more at some other time; in the meantime let the following tale speak for itself) opened at 5 am, I trudged over to check in and was informed quite rudely that I couldn’t take on my cabin baggage, so I zipped it apart and requested that she check the duffle portion to Heathrow and not through to Mumbai. She asserted that she had and handed me my boarding pass, upon which I made my way though Security and onto the plane.
There I and some 300 other passengers proceeded to sit stationary for 3½ hours while being assured every few minutes that we would soon be ready for takeoff. Naturally, we arrived at Heathrow 3 hours late, and I (and practically every other passenger on the plane) missed our connections. We therefore, at 11:30 pm, trooped first through Security, then through an hourlong line at the Virgin Atlantic counter. At the end of the wait we were all informed that no, Virgin would not be providing a hotel or food, and I personally learned that the next available flight to Mumbai was at 9:50 pm- the following night.
Thankfully during the flight I had made friends with a charming and very lovely woman named Monet, who told me that she was renting a room and that since she’d be paying for one anyway, I was welcome to share it. The airline’s tasteless in-flight meal by then 7 hours in the past, she proceeded to buy us both dinner, hail a taxi, and check us both in to the Park Inn (a rather swanky digs five minutes from Heathrow).
We washed up and crashed on soft and extremely comfortable beds for a princely total of 3 hours before rising, washing our faces, and grabbing another taxi back to Heathrow to find out about getting on standby for our flights. Upon arriving at the Jet Airways counter I was told that Virgin had got the schedules wrong and that there was another flight in 2½ hours, and that I could get a confirmed seat- if I could make it back, with my bags, within 45 minutes. Bidding a fond and thankful farewell to Monet, I did so.
The frankly incredible staff at Jet Airways, after some drawn-out (and, I gathered as a captive audience, rather involved finagling), got me a confirmed seat- aisle, no less- but told me that Virgin had not yet transferred my bag to Jet Airways and that it had, in any case, been checked through to Mumbai. Thus my checked cabin baggage- which, as I had known, would be perfectly acceptable as a carry-on to Jet Airways and which in consequence contained 2 changes of clothing as well as jewelry- might not accompany me to Mumbai. Which is to say that I might well arrive in India bearing the grand total of the clothes I stood up in and a laptop, travel soap, and a toothbrush.
By then I wanted desperately to just get to India, and agreed, hoping all the time that when I arrived in Mumbai the bag would be there.
We were (naturally) 2 hours late in taking off from Heathrow, though the flight was much more comfortable and friendly this time around, and so I was in a fair way to missing my connection when I arrived in Mumbai if I experienced the slightest delay there- and of course as a consequence I did.
When my bag didn’t turn up on the luggage carousel I approached a woman named Leela and asked her about my bag, and she asked if my name was Sumi Rebeiro. Knowing that having a total stranger address you by your given name is seldom a good sign, I admitted that it was.
She informed me that Virgin still hadn’t handed over my bags, whisked me over to the luggage counter to fill out a luggage authorization form and assured me that they’d ship the bag to Bangalore as soon as it came in. Whereupon I smiled, handed her the form unsigned and assured her that there would be no need for such exigencies because I would just stay in Mumbai until my bag got there on the next flight- 12 hours later.
When she told me that there was no hotel close by and I replied that I would just sit in the waiting area, all the counter staff erupted in furious whispers and sidelong glances. (I gathered that such intransigence in already-battered travelers was, er, exceptional.) I got my exit papers stamped, changed $40, made my way to a washroom and washed up, and settled myself across from the Jet Airways check-in counter, propped my head on the backpack and purple-and-orange travel pillow which now comprised my luggage, and dozed fitfully.
There were several delightful little interludes and fascinating people during the 12 hours I waited there- the most notable being the old gentleman headed to Goa who was, as he explained in a fascinating mixture of Marathi, Hindi and English, waiting for his wife’s flight from Pakistan, and with whom I took turns watching our luggage as the other stretched his/her legs; and Karima, the girl waiting to be escorted back to claim her luggage, to whom I lent my fleece vest after she explained that she’d accidentally been flown to Delhi (where it was freezing- and she really was wearing very little clothing).
Karima, bless her, upon claiming her baggage came pelting over (in 3-inch heels!), gave me a hug, and handed me half a bar of dark chocolate filled with Remy Martin VSOP, telling me- absolutely correctly- that I needed it more than she did.
The flight from London duly arrived- without my bag. Shawn, taking over from Leela, went so far as to go out and poke through the containers of luggage himself, with me waiting and watching, trying to find the pathetically small duffel- but it was as absent as it could possibly be.
Trying to decide if I should wait another 12 hours for the next flight to come in, I called my aunt in Bangalore, who greeted the suggestion with a shriek of outrage, a demand that I come to Bangalore immediately, and the statement that I “couldn’t just keep waiting in airports.” To which I replied, “Demonstrably I can. Whether I should is a different matter entirely.”
She reiterated her urgent request and I acceded, making sure Shawn had the appropriate authorization to ship me the bags and thanking him for his help, and got in line for the bus to the domestic airport- in which line I spotted, if you can believe it, a woman wearing an SIUe t-shirt. Upon my incredulous question of whether or not she actually went there, she replied that she did, and we chatted about SIU politics for the hour it took us to get to the airport and checked in.
I got to Bangalore, walked out of the airport, and called my aunt, who told me that she was waiting at a certain sign. I went to greet her, whereupon she burst out laughing, hugged me, and took me to the car. (She couldn’t help it, she explained to me later; seeing all the people come staggering off the Mumbai flight with enormous bags, and me hailing from the States with my backpack and a grin, was too much for her sobriety.)
So, about 52 hours after leaving Nashville, I’d finally got to Bangalore.
My family, who as some of you may know engaged in some rather sticky politics eight years ago, hadn’t seen me for that time, and (I think as a consequence of the time lapse, though I don’t remember being a wimp 8 years ago either) were shocked when what I asked for on getting to Nana’s house was strong, sweet black coffee and a bath- in that order. I then proceeded to stay awake till 10 pm, get up at 7 am the next morning, and carry on. But the carrying on, as Rudyard Kipling would say, is another story.
To end this one, suffice it to say that getting here reaffirmed my experience: that most people are kind; that most people will offer help to strangers and those whom they see in need of it with no reason other than compassion; that most people are friendly and decent even under the most trying of circumstances.
And that was worth the trip.
Happy New Year, ya’ll.
Labels: diary, india, travel
Sort of a “cheater’s post” for now- I dislike posting less than twice a month, and in truth have several essays sketched or half-finished; but I never post anything without editing it at least twice, never mind finishing it.
And since it’s finals time here at t’law school, and I leave the country in less than two weeks, it’s unlikely in the extreme that I’ll have anything decent done before that time.
So here, for your delectation, are some quotes and prose excerpts (the latter in italics) from things I’ve read this past year, attributed whenever I can remember the correct author. No pattern, no method- writers ranging from personal friends to Jay-Z to Seuss to Freud to Franklin to Plutarch. (If you see something by yourself or someone you know and it’s not attributed or misattributed, please email and let me know so I can correct it.)
Slainte, my comfits. Keep well.
The object of art is to crystallize emotion into thought and then give it form.
Eroticism is like a dance: one always leads the other.
Let me tell you the truth of love, what life and death have taught me of it. Love is woven of chains, chains that bind you to your lover’s fate. Love makes you bare your throat to God’s sword and your chest to the Devil’s. At the whim of either one, a sickness, childbed, those chains will drag you under with the one who owns your heart. I’m a coward, dearest, you know the truth of that, but death showed me what the afterlife can be if you’ve never risked those chains. Endless, empty, no voices, just the rattle of regret and hollow freedom.
Violence is the first refuge of the incompetent.
Revenge is an act of passion; vengeance of justice. Injuries are revenged; crimes are avenged.
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think... you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
–Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson
Difficult takes a day; impossible takes a week.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
Man has always engaged in pernicious acts of foolery: imperialism, murder, war among others. Of all of them, by far the worst is love.
Those who know how to win are much more numerous than those who know how to make proper use of their victories.
Many a man thinks he is buying pleasure, when he is really selling himself to it.
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.
-The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
Whenever people say 'We mustn't be sentimental,' you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add 'We must be realistic,' they mean they are going to make money out of it.
Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking.
The art of illusion is the art of love, and the art of love is the blood-red heart of the world. At times I think there is nothing else.
-The Illusion, Pierre Corneille (translated by Tony Kushner)
Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.
La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid.
-Les Liasons Dangereuses, Pierre Ambroise Francois Choderios de LaClos
Too many people spend money they haven't earned to buy things they don't want to impress people they don't like.
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
"If anyone, and I mean anyone, mentions this... this... incident ever again, anywhere, under any circumstances whatsoever, I will know about it. And that person, and their children and their children's children even unto the seventh generation, will know no rest. I will devote the remainder of my natural life to that end. If necessary, I will add special provisions to my will to ensure that that person and their descendants live lifetimes of suffering beyond imagination." He looked around the room. "Do I make myself absolutely clear?"
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?
The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers.
- James Baldwin
The problem with you- it’s worse cause you’re so damn smart- is that you have to be logical. 30/20 vision, sight down things like a telescope, every leaf in the forest coming clear further than most’d see trees. And you miss the pissed-off cougar coming at you from the side. Logical doesn’t mean practical, Sumi.
-Email from a personal friend *winces*
An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.
Dissent is what rescues democracy from a quiet death behind closed doors.
No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.
"Watch your tongue," he said conversationally.
"It's not long enough," John said. "I'd go cross-eyed."
Whenever morality is based on theology, whenever right is made dependent on divine authority, the most immoral, unjust, infamous things can be justified and established.
To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.
"Is it so hard to believe that an attractive, intelligent, spirited, gentle woman might be interested in me? That she might be able to see past the man you all think I am?"
He exploded. "Of course it is, you damned fool. Listen to yourself, for God's sake!”
The radical novelty of modern science lies precisely in the rejection of the belief ... that the forces which move the stars and atoms are contingent upon the preferences of the human heart.
What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books.
It started softly, like a tuning fork lightly struck, but grew, a pure note, blown by a trumpeter of inexhaustible breath, till there was nothing but the sound. The sound of Astarael. “Astarael, the Sorrowful,” whispered Sabriel. Astarael was the banisher, the final bell. Properly rung, it cast everyone who heard it far into Death. Everyone, including the ringer.
-Sabriel, Garth Nix
Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.
A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery
John was about to snap back at him, but she laid a hand on his head. "Blessed are the ignorant, for they cannot be tortured for information."
The courage of the poet is to keep ajar the door that leads into madness.
"I heard a lot of the same speeches… the failure in my responsibilities, the throwing away of my potential, my certain poverty and disgrace- but in the end, it was a matter of making the choice I, myself, could live with."
"…But I don't know what that is," she whispered. "I have to choose between giving up my family or... or myself, everything that I am."
"No, you don't. You have to choose between leaving one of your families and giving up what you have been... I know what you mean, I said the same things to myself, but they weren't true. You won't give up yourself, no matter what you decide. You are your own, and you can't be given away…”
“And you will still be yourself, no matter what path you choose. It's important that you know that. It's... so much less frightening when you know that."
The trade of governing has always been monopolized by the most ignorant and the most rascally individuals of mankind.
Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.
It is not possible to find in all geometry more difficult and intricate questions, or more simple and lucid explanations… No amount of investigation of yours would succeed in attaining the proof, and yet, once seen, you immediately believe you would have discovered it; by so smooth and so rapid a path he leads you to the conclusion required.
…The charm of his familiar and domestic Siren made him forget his food and neglect his person, to that degree that when he was occasionally carried by absolute violence to bathe or have his body anointed, he used to trace geometrical figures in the ashes of the fire, and diagrams in the oil on his body, being in a state of entire preoccupation, and, in the truest sense, divine possession with his love and delight in science…
-Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, Plutarch (translated by John Dryden)
Labels: diary, excerpts, quotes