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Habeas Blogus

Book reviews, more for my memory than anything else.

Location: Austin, Texas, United States

Monday, April 16, 2007

Open Letter to My Future Self

Remember that time you went to India?

Remember the three-day weekend where you were supposed to stay in a treehouse suite on Nilgiri, on the wildlife preserve in Tamilnadu?

Remember the table-runners, the area rugs, the saris, the tea sets you were going to buy, using the bargaining techniques learned in Hawaii and Morocco?

Remember the culture you were going to dive into, the words and phrases you were going to pick up in all the languages, Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telegu, even Urdu or Syndh?

Yeah, you remember all that. So what did you do instead?

None of it. Not one stinkin' thing.

Well, to your credit, you did go to the Taj Mahal, you still have the detailed photographs and that vial of water from the reflecting pool. You didn't get to see the Taj in the moonlight because of the most idiotic stupid fucking beaurocratic bullshit that you're probably still not over, but you did get to see it.

But as to missing out on the rest of it, you need to remember the full context, the story behind the "why". You need to have compassion for yourself as a result of this, because at the time you didn't really have any choices to make. Anyone would do the same thing given the circumstances.

This trip was for you some sort of culminating event, a test of character, an adventure. You set out with an open mind. People told you that, of all the people they knew, you were the one who would appreciate this opportunity the most, take the most advantage of it. You'd take in all the surprises like an infant, laughing and giggling and waiting for the next one before the first was even processed.

You'd eat every kind of curry and chutney and exotic Indian fruit, veggie, and spice they could throw at you. You usually say you won't go into any fast food restaurants, this time you'd carry it several steps further: you wouldn't visit any Western-food restaurants. You'd eat Indian food, goddamnit, because you're in India. Maybe you'd have some Chinese, Korean, Japanese, food because you're awfully close by and maybe it's different enough from what you get in America to warrant a slight detour.

Three weeks of glorious culture-diving, nothing but new discoveries, a choir of angels singing your acceptance of everything new and foreign, and culinary delights you'd learn how to make and feed to your family.

And for the first 4-5 days, everything went as planned. You worked, you went to the hotel, then did the same thing the next day. You didn't want to do anything on those nights because you'd have 2 more full weeks to explore as much as you wanted. Work went well, you communicated regularly with K, got into webcam sessions with the kids, and wrote post cards. You ate everything you had wanted to eat, all Indian food, just as spicy as the Indians you hung out with liked it, and it was all just great.

Then Friday came, and you had to get on a plane that afternoon to visit the Taj Mahal. Early in the morning your stomach became extremely upset, cramping, sweating, churning. At around noon you became so sleepy you could barely keep your eyes open. It was like those dreams you have occasionally where you're driving or flying a plane but in that dream the feeling of sleep is so heavy that your eyes only open halfway and you can't see the road or the horizon. You know you need to push on, to keep going, but you physically can't open your eyes through the fatigue. You begged a few hours of sleep from your coworkers, who thought it was a good idea.

You slept the sleep of the damned. In the room there was a horrible buzzer, a doorbell that lets you know when someone is at the door for you. This buzzer sounded several times during your sleep, but you only incorporated it into your dreams, and never realized until probably the next day that someone was trying to get your attention.

You thought you had beaten jetlag, but you hadn't. You'd just pushed yourself into feeling its effects all at once, rather than the slow regimen that may have worked out better.

The sickness continued. Through Delhi and Agra, through the whole weekend and the next work week. Around Wednesday it became clear that you couldn't go to the treehouse feeling the way you did. The cramping and nausea were merciless, attacking nearly every hour without letup and with some other very unpleasant symptoms.

So you had Good Friday off. You had the opportunity to go to Hyderabad to see an old friend, but she wasn't available. Coworkers urged you to take day trips, but instinct told you not to go too far from the hotel and the familiar surroundings. The stomach aches were slightly less frequent, but they were still there. Being on a coach, air-conditioned or no, would not be the best place to sit and churn for 12 hours.

No, you hadn't taken many pictures except in Agra. Bangalore is a beautiful city, with thick, tall trees the likes of which you'd never seen before. But at no point during the three-day weekend did you venture out. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt kept you inside. You read 4 books, watched at least 7 movies, and stayed forever at the mercy of the cramping. You tried to see a movie but they were all sold out.

You don't know shit about India. You haven't done anything worth a damn in India. The Taj barely counts because it doesn't have much to do with present-day people or the culture... in fact you were either surrounded by Germans and Americans the whole time there, or the Indian guides who continue to relate "facts" about the Taj Mahal that have long been proven false.

As far as you should be concerned, this was a lousy business trip, filled with discomfort, sickness, and one fine opportunity to see something you'd always wanted to see. Your Judas body prevented you from turning this into what you had wanted it to be.

You have to understand just how bad, how unpredictable, how deeply unpleasant this was. There was no way to anticipate it, and when it hit you were sidelined, barely able to keep working. The opportunity to explore India really wasn't there once the sickness started.

It appears that the sickness is related to the anti-malarial pill you were taking at the time, but you weren't about to risk catching malaria just so you could get out and take some pictures. Even if you couldn't enjoy it, at least you didn't catch malaria.

If you had arrived in Paris the first time and gotten sick, I'm certain you would have stayed right where you were too. One day you'll be back to India. K is in awe of the Taj, so the possibility exists.

Just keep all of this in mind whenever you look back with regret. The purpose of the trip, after all, was to do work with the team in Bangalore, and that you were able to do. In those terms this trip was extremely successful. If you need refuge from the regret and guilt, take refuge in that.



Blogger Jess said...

It sounds like your body's just spent three weeks torturing you, so don't you join in torturing yourself or I'll start to think you're channelling Jack Bauer.

Mon Apr 16, 03:06:00 PM  

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