There I was, hanging on to the wing of the airplane I was supposed to board at LAX airport. Like Tom Cruise, I’m unafraid, even taking time to look over at the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen. “Thank goodness I made my flight,” I thought. Then my eyes open. In reality, I’ve slept through two alarms and am missing out on a beautiful Saturday morning market and possibly a temple visit with the class. Yikes.
In a frenzy, I dump cold water all over my body and brush my teeth in a way that would’ve disappointed my mom. I dash out of UTC and hop into the first autorickshaw I see without asking the price. I figure 20 Rupees isn’t worth haggling over in a dire situation such as this. But that reminds me, I have no cash. Not to worry, I remember yesterday in our group reflections someone mentioned the autorickshaw drivers will gladly assist you in withdrawing cash from an ATM, and even go so far as to help you acquire smaller bills (a hot commodity among GCIL students) by exchanging with their fellow drivers. Through a few words and gestures, I communicate the situation to my driver. Three ATMs later, not only did I acquire the cash I need but also a strong sense of accomplishment as I reunite with my faithful auto driver.
As we blast off in the direction of my classmates, the cool air of the morning chilled my skin just enough to remind me of home and bring a smile to my face. I glance at the empty seat beside me and wish I could teleport Cherrish into it to experience this beautifully hectic morning with me. I remember there’s no relaying of information that can bring understanding like being physically present.
Turning off the main road, the bumpy side streets jostle my brain back into the present reality. The aroma of freshly fried dosas from street vendors replaces the cool breeze I was enjoying. Not a bad exchange. A few more minutes and, alas, I spot Sandra’s tiny backpack with the plush kitten dangling down sticking out in the sea of traditional Indian clothing. Yup, there’s my people.
“Here is good,” I shout to my driver. Stepping out of his vehicle, I offer the most sincere gratitude I could muster in the half second of eye contact we made by placing my right hand over my heart. And I think I even attempted the signature Indian head nod. I quickly filed into the line of Americans weaving single-file through the narrow streets led by our incredible guide, Bhargavi, whom I could write an entire blog about. This day, as the day before, was saturated with rich experiences, many questions answered and even more posed, and, of course, dosas for breakfast.
I may not have been flying on the wing of a plane like Tom Cruise, but on days like this my reality feels equally unreal.