32 Pieces of Porcelain


On my first ever international flight – I travelled alone. Actually it was my first ever flight. Period. 
On my return I decided to buy gifts for the family. Now Sri Lanka is famous for tea and gems and handicrafts. I could have bought that and stopped. 
But no. I decide on the heaviest – most difficult to cart – fragile thing. Porcelain.
Don’t ask why. There is no sensible explanation. 
I walk into a huge shop selling porcelain dinner ware, show pieces and what not. Now there were tiny artifacts, serving bowls, trays. 
But no. I decide on the biggest and most cumbersome thing of all. A complete 32 piece dinner set. 
Again don’t ask why. There is no sensible explanation. 

So I buy the set and then realize I am in a strange country with no means of public transport other than the big state transport buses. Of course there were taxis but I couldn’t afford it. ( Remember I spent all of my spare cash on a 32 piece dinner set? ).
The store guy packed the set and escorted me to the door. Set the package down and then bid me adieu. Then began the epic journey of the 32 pieces of chinaware. Partially dragging – partially lifting – the package that was heavier than me – I managed to reach the bus stop. There was no way that I could have climbed the two feet high step on to a bus ( that barely stopped at stops) with that package, so I requested the man beside me to hand it over to me once I had climbed the bus. The bus arrived – I jumped on and then twenty people jumped on after me. I tried to wangle myself back to the entrance and the bus started to move. I yelled at the top of my lungs ‘throw me the package’ to the perfect stranger on the road – and he did exactly that. A package containing 32 pieces of porcelain came flying through the door – landed heavily on the floor of the bus – barely missing a couple of fortunate feet. Everybody looked at me with expressions varying from amused to murderous. 
I reached the place I was put up – and the same thing was repeated in reverse. This time the package landed on the road. More dragging – pushing – lifting -tugging – swearing – later – I was ensconced in my room with a package that possibly contained the mortal remains of porcelain dinnerware. 
Then came stage two in the epic. 
I realized there was no way in hell that I would be able to fit in all of my luggage into the bags I had. I laugh today at my naiveté. I didn’t have to shove that package into my bag- I could have just checked it in separately with a fragile tag. 
But no. A lot of pushing and shoving and swearing and crying later I pushed in the pieces of porcelain into one of my bags and saw a pile of clothes lying on the bed. I then decided which clothes I just had to carry back and what I could afford to leave behind( yes – I did that).
At the end of a very very long night – I had my two bags packed. Several pieces of clothing hanging in the closet kept company by a couple of pairs of shoes. ( The people who kept me as their guests probably must still wonder at those clothes and shoes and why I left them behind)
I reached the airport – tired – cranky and frankly fed up. Had someone so much as mentioned porcelain I may have snapped the poor guy’s head off. It is a good thing that airlines serve food in plastic containers.
I checked in my luggage. Of course without fragile stickers. 
A long brooding flight back later I collected my luggage and was driven home to a waiting audience of family and friends. After the copious exchange of greetings ( I was returning after 2 months after all ) I started the expected gift distributing. When it finally came down to those 32 pieces (of personal misery) intended for my parents – I apologized – saying that I had hoped to give them a set but they probably would get a piece each. 
We opened the bag and unwrapped the tissue and out came one immaculate piece after another. 
They weren’t broken – they weren’t even chipped. 
They were just like I saw them in the shop. 
They had been hurled into a bus – propelled off a bus – dragged and hauled across the road – shoved into a cloth bag – travelled a 1000 miles – with minimal cushioning – no fragile stickers – at the back of an aircraft- thrown about by an unknowing crew – bumped along a luggage carousel – brought home in the trunk of a car. 
And not a scratch. Not one.
Apparently God personally looks into minor affairs like porcelain travel as well. 

Recognizing the Right Flavor


One of my Uncles used to work for the Taj….and years ago visiting him we ended up dining at the restaurant. My sister and I sat around a table that was custom made for Gulliver and ate out of immaculate dinnerware that seemed like it had been just been unwrapped out of tissue. My eyes glittered with the lights of the chandeliers and I felt distinctly princess-like.
I ordered a bowl of double choco chip ice cream after dinner.
I remember the flavors. My taste buds made little sounds of popping as they jumped for joy in my mouth. I remember scraping the shiny silver spoon across the bottom of the glass bowl. I remember thinking that I could eat a bucket of this stuff. And as I considered putting my fingers in to wipe off that last sticky layer of ice-cream from the walls of that glass (for the sake of the Taj I resisted) my Uncle said – No need to do that. Have another one.
When you are eight – I doubt any words sound more magical than someone saying that you can have more of what you like.  
I smiled my happiest smile and told the waiter, hanging onto every word of every guest – I will have another one of these. 
Everyone on that table turned to me and said – Why pick the same flavor? There are so many to choose from. The others might be even better. 
The child in me said simply – ‘But I liked this flavor.’ 
But Uncle slowly passed me the menu. And pointed out a couple of interesting names. I thought maybe they had a point. Maybe there are better flavors. 
And I picked a fancy mint something something. When it arrived after what seemed like an eternity – I tasted it. Those taste buds I told you earlier about? They quit jumping. They just sat down and held their long faces between the palms of their hands. And sighed. The chocolate was SOOOOO much better.
I wasted half the mint ice cream. No one offered me the option of ordering a third. Everyone except me was sated and were getting up to leave. 
The rest of the evening passed in a blur. I forgot all about the chandeliers that picked with unerring accuracy, the glint on the diamonds on display on the ladies. I forgot all about the scrumptious dinner that tasted like nothing I had tasted before. I forgot most of the things that I was fascinated with that evening.
All I could think of, was that I could have had another round of that heavenly chocolate sundae and instead I chose mint. Just because other people thought I should. Just to try something new. Just because I thought I could taste something better. 
One of the greatest gifts anyone can possess is the ability to recognize when you have something good and stick to it. No matter what. 
Especially since sometimes you can’t go back to chocolate after the mint. Maybe because you can’t afford to. Or maybe because you are full and can’t eat anymore. Maybe because the time is up and you have to leave the Taj. 
Or maybe because while you were distracted trying out mint, someone else got the last chocolate sundae.