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.