Josna Rege

Posts Tagged ‘traveling light’

Reflections on Traveling Light

In Notes on May 4, 2014 at 5:20 pm


My heart sank when I remembered that the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge was coming around again. Not because I dreaded it: on the contrary, I had loved every minute of it the first time around; but because this Spring I was on sabbatical and would be on a research trip out of the country for the entire month of April. There would be work to do, continual movement, and uncertain availability of wifi. But simultaneously, my heart fluttered and rose up: what a lark it had been last year, dashing off new posts between drafts of students’ term papers and dreaming them up during tedious end-of-year meetings. I would do it!

For better or worse, I did. Choosing “Traveling Light” as a theme to match both my movement and my subject matter, I promised myself that I would neither let blogging interfere with my work nor with my interactions with real people. I’d rather not reveal whether or not I kept that promise, but suffice it to say that I completed the Challenge, if a few late posts and one hasty space-filler at the end of an exhausting day can be overlooked.

The month, my travels, and the Challenge came to an end all at once, casting me ashore safe, but strangely bereft. This past week, no longer traveling light but alternately drifting and drowning in a state of sleep-deprivation and a stack of unpaid bills, I have tried to reflect on it all, but I don’t have enough distance on it yet. Here’s what I have, such as it is:

First, no matter how often I told myself that I could and would simply give it up if it interfered with my work or my interactions with family and friends, it took on an imperative of its own. Many was the night I found myself staying up writing into the wee hours so as to be able to post the day’s story while keeping my promise to myself to focus my days on the task at hand. My family and friends were caught up in it too. Realizing that if they couldn’t beat it, they needed to join it, they came to me with suggestions for topics that could dispatch the thing as speedily as possible. My cousin Jacky, for example, came up with “Quiet” for Day Q, so that I would be able to dispense with words and simply post peaceful pictures. If she hoped that I would take the hint and simply quit blogging, she was too polite to say so.

Second, I found Tell Me Another and the blogs of other participants with similar themes and shared life experiences gravitating toward each other: a storey of stories, written by an expatriate whose daily posts expatiated on the different places he had visited or lived in; galeriaredelius, the blog of a jewelry-maker who circumnavigated the world through the Internet, visiting a different online art exhibit each day; the cross- and trans-cultural reflections of people of Indian and/or British origin in blogs like Drifting Traveller; in calmgrove, the shared childhood love of books, read in places far from the “home” of the writer; Smidgens, Snippets, and Bits, a loving, painfully honest blog by the full-time caregiver of an husband with a chronic disease; aliceinbloggingland, who chose Memory and memories as her theme; and, to my delight, saltyspring, a wide-ranging blog I responded to without realizing that the author was none other than my sister!

Third, the Challenge gave me the joy of random discovery of excellent, innovative writers I might never have encountered if not here. As a young mother, the author of abundance in the boondocks is in a different stage of life from mine, but one that I read and remembered with a pang of recognition. As a flamboyantly imaginative persona whose writing is not afraid of walking on the wild side, the author-narrator of The Essence of a Thing set off sparks in my dull, academic brain.

Fourth, at a time when I felt that my blog had reached a plateau, A-to-Z brought me new readers and followers. Tell Me Another had just under 200 followers when I first announced my intent to take up the Challenge, and now, barely a month later, it has 250 followers. The daily visits spiked, a welcome development; though they started to drop again even before the month was out (perhaps others were getting as overwhelmed as I was) and I will have to see whether there will be any long-term effects on the blog’s traffic. Still, I will be grateful if I emerge from this experience with a reciprocal relationship with even one new blog. Last year, that blog was Finding Eliza, still one of my very favorites.

Finally, it was the hard traveling of the Challenge’s co-hosts and helpers that allowed me to travel light. Thanks to Damyanti Biswas at Amlokiblogs (also doing the A-to-Z Challenge on Daily Writes), who first suggested it to me back in 2012, to Arlee Bird, who dreamed it up in the first place, and to all the others who worked eight days a week to make this global initiative, 2000 bloggers strong, run like clockwork all month long.

Here’s an annotated list of my A-to-Z posts:

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Travelling Light: A-to-Z April Challenge Theme
in which I introduce my theme

Air Travel The start of a month-long journey and also the A-to-Z April challenge

Baggage About excess baggage, both literal and figurative (Written in transit)

Culture After 24 short hours in a new country, some observations about the culture as I see it as well as on Culture in general.

Deutschland (or Germany?) On stamp collecting and nationalism, by no means just the German version.

In the Eurozone Decentering Europe (is it really a continent?) and reflections on the EU

Food, Bremen-style lavishly illustrated post on the German—or at least the Bremer—diet, as I have been experiencing it

(On not knowing) German The embarrassment and unevenness of this for an English-speaker, when so many Germans speak English so well

Holidays, religious and otherwise, and the cycle of life and death

Interior Design The joys of beautiful, functional, and human-friendly design

(Leaving on a) Jet Plane On this song, others like it, and the two different senses of “jet”

Kuchen a German institution: no explanation needed

London without Lily contemplating returning to a London without this dear person in it and realizing the magnitude of her influence on me

Monuments The problem with monuments and why I prefer markets

Nostalgia When is it harmless and when toxic?

Oh, to be in England For the English colonials, “Home” was always England; the beloved (and clichéd) original and the hilarious send-up

Pardon the Liberty (but I plead pure exhaustion) Unable to write a new post, I beg pardon and list previous ‘P’ stories

Quiet The rush and tear of travel is graced with moments of peace

Railways, Real and Imagined Chasing trains, in reality, and in my mind’s eye

Swagmen While I hit the road by choice, I have a home to return to; these people, past and present, do not.

Tea While I’ve been known to be a bit of a tea snob, in the end it’s all about the company

U and Non-U Images of nature and reflections on class, occasioned by a visit to the royal estate of Sandringham

Variations, Variety, Vocab As Doris Lessing once wrote, we’re all made of the same stuff

Walls Do they really keep the peace? For whom, and at what cost?

The Challenge of X The beauty of x is that a) it’s unknown and b) it can be what you want it to be.

Yellowcake and other Euphemisms The nuclear power industry is both global and local, as are the production of yellowcake and the (ab)use of language to dress a wolf in sheep’s clothing

Zindagi Here’s to life! Let a thousand flowers bloom!

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents


249. Baggage

In 2010s, Books, Britain, Food, India, Inter/Transnational, places, postcolonial, Stories, travel, Words & phrases on April 2, 2014 at 6:35 am

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Kuwait Airways, New York to London: My only suitcase had been successfully checked in and would be sent through to the final destination. But, set on the scales, my carry-on bag raised a little cry of alarm from the check-in clerk. According to her, the weight limit was 7 kg , or 15.4 lbs, and at nearly 25 pounds we were looking at some serious excess baggage. Thankfully her supervisor strolled over, eyebrows raised questioningly, and looking at the dismay on my face, dismissed her colleague’s officious concern with a casual wave of the hand. I was through—this time; but perhaps I won’t be so lucky when I have to undergo the ordeal again in London and Paris.

This Kuwait Airways flight is nearly empty, and I’ve been given the okay to stretch and occupy my entire three-seat row. The offending carry-on is wedged under my seat, bulging out in all directions; despite having jettisoned several pounds’ worth of books, papers, and clothing from both bags before leaving for the airport, I’m still overloaded. Was it Mark Twain who, writing a letter to a friend, apologized that he hadn’t had time to write a shorter one? That’s my excuse for my packing job as well.

Is that also the excuse for the unquestioned habits of thought that stain our every perception, the assumptions and prejudices that load our every reaction? That we don’t have time to honor each human being, each interaction, anew, giving them all the attention they deserve? Instead we short-circuit the full experience, substituting it with a pre-scripted response.

This is the other kind of baggage I’d like to shed on this trip. In a 1999 interview, the postcolonial scholar Edward Said said, “We have to break out of our self-constructed mind-forged manacles (quoting William Blake’s famous term) and look at the rest of the world—deal with it as equals.” This is what I mean by traveling light, my theme for this month’s A-to-Z challenge.

My eyes are puffy from lack of sleep and my skin dry and stretched to breaking point; but I’m trying to appreciate every little thing rather than to wish this exhausting journey over and done with. I love the fact that all the announcements are in Arabic, English, and Hindustani; that last night one of the dinner options was basmati rice and curried lamb, guaranteed Halal, and this morning one of the breakfast options was a vegetarian uthappam with chickpea curry and a spicy spinach ball; lots of hot tea, with real milk if you ask for it. Soon we’ll be landing at London’s Heathrow Airport and I’ll have to stay in the terminal to wait for a connecting Air France flight to Paris, then another on to Bremen at last. Another long day, with long lines to wait in, and bureaucratic hassles with boarding passes and carry-on luggage, no doubt. But I’ll be able to buy English sweets and newspapers, browse the airport bookshops to see what they’re reading in England, listen to French and German and a host of other languages being spoken, notice where people are from and what they are wearing. On this plane, bound for Kuwait via London, there is an interesting mix of South Asians from different parts of the diaspora, Middle Easterners, and an assortment of Americans and Britishers.

Heathrow Airport, London: Aah. A beeline for Boots the chemists for face cream, hand cream, and all-natural Bassett’s jelly babies (okay, there’s some baggage that just can’t be dispensed with.) Now there’s time for a nice pot of tea and wifi so that I can post my story for the day.


Note: Naaley is Malayalam for “tomorrow.” I heard a South Indian man say it on the plane and immediately thought of the lovers in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, who spoke this word to each other every time they parted, knowing full well that that time might be the last.

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

248. Air Travel

In 2010s, Inter/Transnational, Music, places, travel, writing on April 1, 2014 at 3:21 am

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(from Phil Saunders Space Channel Ltd.)

(from Phil Saunders Space Channel Ltd.)

It’s April the First and my journey has begun. At 2 am I’m sitting up in bed in my son’s apartment in Manhattan after a three-hour drive from rural Massachusetts, fuelled by periodic stops along the way for tea, Crackerjacks (my only nod to today’s start of the baseball season), and more tea. (Tip for tea lovers who needs must stop at Dunkin Donuts: ask them to make the tea in their latte cups so that you don’t have to add injury to insult by drinking the stuff out of Styrofoam.) Tomorrow—no, later today—I ramp up to yet another mode of travel, via air/aero/plane.

To me, air travel is closely akin to teleportation. I feel every atom of my body getting scrambled as I am strapped in and transported to an impossibly distant place far more rapidly than can possibly be good for anyone. If I travel by train [see TMA #43, From a Railway Carriage] or ship [TMA # 20, The Bay of Biscay and the Gully-Gully Man] I can watch the landscape and the weather changing, and find myself becoming slowly, gently acclimatized to it. Stepping onto solid ground again, I know that I have come a long way; it has taken time, but that time has allowed my system to adjust. In contrast, with air travel the ground is covered so fast that after stumbling off the ramp at journey’s end it takes a long time to stop my jarred system vibrating like a victim of shaken baby syndrome and to start settling into myself again.

Every time, the arrival is like magic, unreal. Can I really be here, actually touching down in the place I have visited only in my dreams these past so many years? [See TMA # 56, International Arrivals.] As I reassemble, do I do so as the same person, or are parts of me awakened that have long lain dormant, parts of me, perhaps that I didn’t even know were there?

It’s not just the climate that I will find to be different as I step off each successive transporter pad, but also the culture—customs, clothing, language, food, tastes and sensibilities of all sorts. I pray that I may reassemble in a looser, more receptive mode, ready to laugh, readier to learn. But first, I pray that I may come through the teleportation in one piece, stepping out of my old stagnation and leapfrogging forward into Spring. Here’s to traveling light!

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

Travelling Light: A-to-Z April Challenge Theme

In Notes on March 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775c-1 Last year I dragooned Tell Me Another readers into the A-to-Z April Challenge and wrote a blog post every day of the month, following the alphabet. But last year I signed up literally at the eleventh hour and chose my daily topics on the spur of the moment as well. This year I’m in a different predicament. I’ve signed up ten days earlier than I did in 2013, but expect to be traveling abroad throughout the month of April. The time I will have on the computer ought to be spent either on my sabbatical writing or video-chatting with my dear parents, whom I will be leaving at home with trepidation. I’m told that it’s a good idea to decide on a theme in advance rather than just blogging randomly as I did last year; but will I have the time to do this at all? A-to-Z-Challenge-theme-reveal After some thought I’ve decided that since I plan to visit a postcolonial and transcultural studies institute in Germany, a country I hardly know at all, and then to travel in England, the country of my birth, I’ll name my theme “Traveling Light,” reflections on culture and place from a non-national perspective. That should give me a lot of latitude either to discuss a particular postcolonial or transcultural topic or simply to make observations about anything that catches my eye (accompanied by photographs where possible). Let’s see how I get on! I’m determined not to let blogging interfere with my sabbatical or spoil my enjoyment of people and places in the moment, so if I find that it is doing so, I’ll simply stop posting. Still, it’s bound to be fun, and if I do manage to finish the challenge it’ll be an added bonus. Click here if you want to sign up for the A-to-Z challenge or browse the entries to date and here if you want to check out the other themes people have chosen so far. Come travel light with me! Tell Me Another (Contents to Date) Chronological Table of Contents

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