I head for the airport in Kolkata after a full day visiting friends and saying goodbye, one of Shamlu’s staff has accompanied me as it is the middle of the night . The air is hot and very humid even though it is now midnight, and I am wearing my sandals. We say our final farewell and I am off to the lounge to wait for the flight to Frankfurt.
I am thinking about what a friend of mine said long before I left for Kolkata. “Stacey, be aware of your reaction as you board the plane to return to the US”. I thought he meant that I would be grateful for the amenities but I was very wrong. As I boarded the plane I felt like a visitor from another planet. First there was the issue of my sandals, not exactly travel gear when heading home to winter. I make a note to change into the pair of sneakers I’ve stashed in my carryon, then attempt to settle into my seat.
The gentleman seated next to me has already put on his traveling socks, adjusted his seat and is almost asleep – that is until I try to work to remote for my seat and end up with my legs and head going in two different directions. I can’t get the hang of all this technology and resolve to put my reading glasses on to consult the manuel to figure out the myriad of various seat adjustments. This goes on for awhile and I’m almost ready to sit upright for the duration of the flight to Frankfurt when a hand reaches over and grabs the controller from me. With one swift thumb move, I am laying flat and my feet are where they’re supposed to be. My seat mate has taken pity on me (or more likely wishes to have a night’s rest) and done the deed for me.
I feel slightly stupid but I am tired so I gratefully fall asleep – until the meal is served and I can’t get the seat upright. On with the reading glasses and out with the manual, I am studying it seriously, I feel this must be an intelligence test until the flight attendant swoops down, does the thumb trick and there I am whipped to seated position for the meal. It is lovely, but there are too many utensils for me to deal with, all this silverware – I’m used to a fork at most and my right hand. Everyone else has turned on their personal entertainment devices – forget that – there’s no way I’ll get the hang of the video menu, my music on my trusty iPod will have to do. Besides, I haven’t seen television in two months, what’s another 16 hours? Then I remember Ron’s little warning – “note your reaction to the plane as you embark …..” I realize then that he wasn’t saying I would be grateful to have all this technology and luxury, he knew I would be bewildered – a fish out of water, and he is correct. I have such a different mindset and I wish to remain in this lovely trance of simplicity. I am most definitely overwhelmed.
We land in New York and it is reverse culture shock. I am relieved to see my husband, all smiles and am excited to head home to see my kids and Jacques, my wonderful dog. As we load the car I walk to the left side of the front seat and he asks me if I’m going to drive – NO! I say, then realize that that’s the driver’s side, we aren’t in India anymore and we drive on the right. Ah…think I’ll avoid driving for a while.
As we head home I am in awe at how orderly everyone is on the road, there are traffic signs which everyone (almost) obeys. I am used to going with the flow in Kolkata , not always knowing what street I’m on, this is so… easy. Hmmm, I never felt that way before while driving home from the airport.
Everyone is waiting for me, I plop down as soon as I’m inside the house to allow my dog to lick me until I am fully slathered, my kids coming in one by one, looking at my clothes and me like I’m an alien. I kind of feel that way – there’s snow outside, tons of it, something I haven’t seen in over a year, and all this furniture. I sit on the floor for a while and chat with them. This is going to take some time for sure. I move the luggage upstairs and once again am jolted by the sight of my bedroom (huge by my current standards) and bathroom – aya baba – the shower is as large as my bathroom had been at Udayan. Rick says “I know you’re tired, you must be in another world”, how true, how true….. I am exhausted and fall asleep forgoing dinner.