Sunday, September 15

All the love from London!

 This is going to be a long one – bear with me. I’ve been sitting in a hotel room all day with nothing else to do. ;)
Well, this time at the airport my bags went through with no questions asked. They are not too heavy and they are not to many, praise the Lord. After getting through the checkin last night at Indira Gandhi airport, I was relieved, but there was also the note of sadness in my heart. I’m really leaving India now, I thought. I walked toward the security checkpoint. I tried not to use too much Hindi - I know that my Indian friends really appreciate it knowing I made an effort to learn their country’s language, but even though my Hindi is nowhere near comprehensive I also know that using it makes me look like a showoff in a place like an airport where everyone knows English.  But when I got through to the pat-down, the lady asked me for my boarding pass, which I’d sent through accidentally with my hand luggage, and on the men’s side of the luggage operation. Oops. I couldn’t get to my bags because they’d passed through security and I hadn’t, so I had to get help. To expedite the process, I walked up in front of all the men and spoke directly to the policeman working the machines.  “Bhaiya,” I spoke loudly but sweetly, “Meri boarding pass udthar hain. Maf karna, lekin zarurat hain. Mujke ko dedijiye? Dhanyavad.” Brother, my boarding pass is over there. So sorry but I need it. Can you please give it to me? Thank you. 
He started looking and I knew it wasn’t out in the open, I’d packed it away. So I said, “Bhaiya, brown bag me hain. Nahin, nahin, Chhoti chhoti walla me. Hannji! Dhanyavad!” Brother, it’s in my brown bag. No, no, the small one. Yes sir! Thank you!
He looked at me amiably and instructed me to be more careful with my things and to close my bag properly. He smiled as he took it back to put it with my other luggage again.
I waited again in the line for the patdown and when I entered the small curtained room, the lady looked at me and started a conversation – she spoke only Hindi - “How long have you been in India??”  She’d heard my exchange with the policeman. I told her about my time in Delhi and that I was leaving for marriage. “But,” she asked carefully, “aren’t you going to come back?”  I told her that I had met Andrew here and that we had plans to return after I get a PhD. “You should really come back. Come back, okay?”  “Thik hain, di. Hum aungi.” Okay, sister. We will come.
I smiled in my heart as I left the curtained room. India wants me back.

As I was reaching my terminal, I passed one of the duty-free shops in the airport. I had kept some money in rupees just in case I needed to make calls on the payphone again, and I figured I’d better use them before I got out of the country. I stopped in at a shop called Lotus just to see if they had anything cheap enough for me to buy. I asked the store clerk, in Hindi again, if he had anything cheap to show me. We talked a little in Hindi, too, and he was so delighted that he took me through every item in the shop that was within my budget, along with figuring out how many of each item I could buy with the money I had left. He was very kind to me. I found out he’s from Tripura, and he’s here in Delhi alone working to support his mother and his little sister. He complimented my Hindi numerous times, gave me a little discount on the goods, and I wished him all the best as I left the shop.
I feel very accomplished when I can communicate effectively in Hindi, even with all my grammar and vocabulary deficiencies. I’m going to miss that.

I was sitting at gate 7b waiting to board the plane to London and Lufthanza was making an announcement. They made it in English first. Then in Hindi, which I understood. Then they made the same announcement in German. In high school I studied German, and I probably knew almost as much of it then as I know of Hindi now.  I was really tickled to understand the same announcement in three different languages.  I smiled and looked down at my lap, pleased with myself, and just then I noticed my name on my British Airways ticket.

It reads:
“Terrall, J. 
World Traveller.”
That’s right.
Okay, one last amusing Hindi story.
The night flight from Delhi to London, on which we had two screaming babies and one lady who laughs hysterically in her sleep (real weird), was mostly fine. I got some sleep and skipped the terrible food and had an aisle seat next to a guy with a cane, so that was a little obnoxious. As we were landing, though, I listened to the overhead announcement from the cabin crew. It was a very typical “Welcome to London, we hope you enjoy your stay if this is your final destination, it has been a pleasure serving you today.” Then came the translated announcement in Hindi. I have always assumed they translated them fairly directly for both sets of passengers but I was amused to find that in the Hindi version, there was a lot less cordiality. “You are most welcome in London,” I caught, and, “we have not stopped yet. Do not get crazy. Stay in your seats. Wait for others. Please have patience! Don’t push and shove!"  Yes, that is a rough paraphrase, but it was the translated meaning of the message. I chuckled at the appropriateness of the announcement tailored to fit the situation and the temperament of the different  people groups. Oh, Indians. Oh, India. Incredible India.

As it should be, It’s raining in London.
I was dealing with a good bit of culture shock just standing in the customs line at Heathrow. One too many fuzzy sweater+short shorts+patterned tights+ankle boots combos had me feeling dizzy. Everybody’s copious scarf lays perfectly around their neck in Europe. The ladies’ hairbuns perch high on their heads and their fashionable tattoos peek out from beneath their shirtsleeves.  At least three quarters of them have incorporated leather into their outfit in one way or another. I saw a girl wearing a vest as a shirt under a heavy down jacket and hotpants above bare legs and winter boots in some kind of bizarre layering fail.  (what season is it, anyway?) There was another girl in the line with us and – I kid you not – she was wearing two hats. One right on top of the other.
I was really struck by the strength of the feeling that I did not belong. Having done a fair amount of traveling, I usually don’t suffer from culture shock, but coming from saris and salwar suits into the London airport turned out to be a lot to handle!

I was proud of myself for taking my 150 pounds of baggage and figuring out the bus system – instead of taking a $47 one-way cab to my hotel five minutes away, I sat out at the correct stop (there are about 40 different ones in the Heathrow parking lot) and got my stuff on the shuttle which took me to my hotel. I realized once I got here, I don’t think I’ve ever checked into a hotel alone before aside from the one time I had to crash in the airport hotel in 2010. The concierge who checked me in seemed to sense my impending weariness and as a woman in her twenties herself, caught onto the fact that I was alone. She told me she’d get my bags up to me – yes, those three heavy ones I stashed in the corner back there by the door because they were broken by the airline and I didn’t make the effort to put them on a cart before checking in. I thanked her and went to my room. About five minutes later, there was a knock on the door, and there was the same sweet lady standing in front of me with my bags! “oh my goodness! YOU brought them up yourself?” I was blown away – a line had formed behind me downstairs at check-in, and I knew she must have left them to help me out. “Oh, not a problem,” she said in a thick cockney accent, “I got one of the taxi drivers down there to help me with them.”
She asked me if I was going home, so I told her I was coming from Delhi. We exchanged a few questions; I thanked her warmly and then in terrible form, asked if I could tip her. She flatly refused money and wished me well, leaving me in a beautiful room with a soft bed, a terrible view, and complete silence.

I remember now the coming home from Delhi in 2010 – the contrasts are so stark.
 Sitting alone on a 60-degree restaurant patio this evening all to myself, I think of the feeling of sharing public transportation smaller than an SUV with ten strangers in the 105-degree heat. Even on the way to this hotel I had the entire bus to myself.
It’s hot in Delhi and it’s raining in London. But even the predictability of the places doesn’t prepare me for the leaving, the going.  There is so much leaving in this life and so many people to miss in the world.
Regardless, I’m thankful to be missing them because it means I met them and I loved them. I’m thankful to find kindhearted people, like the payphone operator in the airport on Wednesday and the security baggage girl there yesterday and the man in the lotus shop at my terminal and the concierge at this hotel, no matter where I am.  I’m thankful for another day to live and breathe, wherever I may be.
All praise to the One who keeps me living, keeps me serving, keeps me going. I know that He is Good no matter what I am.

Love from London,
Julie, gone.

No comments:

Post a Comment