If one day a big giant came and pinched me up between his thumb and forefinger, then walked around for awhile and plopped me down here, where I am right now, I would look around and see a great big festival. A transportation festival with traffic jams of busses, planes parked tightly in rows, and whizzing life size Tonka trucks with lights flashing, moving in and around big groups of people that were just hanging out. What fun! Except, then I would wonder where the fair-rides were, where the music was, and wait for the cotton candy to appear on push-carts any second.
I’m looking down at that scene while sitting on a plane on the tarmac at the Mumbai airport. For me it looks like a festival. For them it’s business as usual.
Sigh. This scene would be great fun except for my painting.
I bought a painting from one of my favorite Indian artist. He is my friend and it meant a lot for me to buy it, plus I love it. It’s packaged in a long plastic grey pipe that wasn’t allowed in the regular baggage bin and so it had to be delivered by hand to the plane, they said. This caused a bit of an argument between me and the Indigo Airlines people because I really like that painting and want to have it in my house, not in someone else’s house who was lucky enough to pick it up at a lost luggage store. I told them this and, in a very nice way, the Indigo Air people told me it would be taken care of and to go to my flight. But I wanted to make sure, so I loitered around for awhile at a distance and then went back to check on it twice and hung around some more and then flat out told them I was worried because the guy in charge of it was just standing around chatting up his friends and Not talking it to the plane! Their smiles disappeared and through gritted teeth they told me it would be (*) waiting for me in Kolkata and to get on the (*) plane.
(*) means (Fword), and that is the read-between-the-lines translation of what they said, so I got on the (*)n plane.
Now I’m looking out the tiny oval window at the transport festival below me. It looks a whole lot like my room when I was 12 and my mom thought I lived in a chaotic mess. I told her it was my own organizational system and that if she moved even one thing I wouldn’t be able to find anything at all. I hope that’s what this airport is like because I really, really like my painting.
I almost flew into Kolkata with no prior hotel reservation. I was going to wing it maverick style because I figured I could handle that type of adventure by now. But then, two taxi drivers canceled at the very last minute and I skipped town without paying for my lunch because I was worried about the taxi problems, I missed my first flight and had to pay double to get another one, then payed for excess luggage twice. I will be getting in seven hours later than I wanted and every hotel I’ve called in Kolkata (three) literally had an Indian Siri telling me “the person you are trying to reach has their phone turned off”. What hotel turns their phone off? Also, my painting is being walked to the plane in the festival. So now, the idea of strolling into Kolkata like I’m visiting my crazy aunt that I haven’t seen in Ever, showing up on her door step at one in the morning by surprise and saying “Ta Da! I’m here! Feed me!”…yeah, well, it seems a bit risky with the current energy flow.
Fortunately a group of festival goers is blocking our runway so I have enough time to sit here on the plane and call more hotels and try to snag something.
15 minutes later…
I finally did.
2 hours later after the flight…
One a.m. and the Kolkata airport is quiet, calm and almost deserted. The luggage carousel has been picked clean. I still wait, not quite accepting the fact that my painting has indeed gone missing.
A few minutes more pass and I watch the moving carousel but nothing appears. Waiting. Nothing.
Nuts! Nuts! Ah, my painting, where are you painting? I told those stupid airlines people! I begin looking around for the office of missing luggage. My heart is led. I liked that painting.
Behind me comes the clicking of hard soul shoes echoing in the now cavernous luggage area. In my distress I ignore them but take a reflexive glance back and, “Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”… angles sing one high bright note. A lone airport employee walks down the empty corridor right up to me, and with sparkly light around him, hands me my painting.
I am here to volunteer for the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s outfit. I’m excited about that. I’ll let you know how it goes.