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Living life out of a suitcase


 

December 2022

As I sit on my fourteenth flight for the year, with two more scheduled before the curtains are drawn on 2022 (god bless my carbon footprint), laptop open, a glass of wine and a blank word document, I begin to ponder over my journey over the last few months. Penning it down and (at the risk of sounding philosophical) ‘reflecting’ on this journey seems imperative. 

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May 2022

 

After two wonderful years of ups and downs in Le Havre (thank you, COVID-19!), I said my good-byes, packed my bags and was on the train to Paris. But that was not my final destination – for now at least. After spending two nights at a friend’s, dropping my baggage off at a relative’s, catching the French Open and a round of golf in the middle, and a train to Beauvais (an hour north of Paris), I was on a flight to Barcelona. Checked in to my hostel, met my friend, went for 3 days of the Barcelona Formula 1 Grand Prix together, watched a Redbull 1-2 finish, celebrated with beer, sangria and tapas, and next thing I knew – I was on a flight to New York City. I spent a jam-packed week there – with my parents who had flown in from India, sister (who was graduating), relatives who I had not seen in ages (thank you, COVID-19, once again), friends I had not seen in months and a bit of touristy sight-seeing. In the middle of all this, I bumped into a classmate from middle school in India who I had not seen in almost a decade – a story for another time though. 

7 days after reaching NYC (7 days too long if you ask me – I’m (sort of) kidding, America), I left the US on a red-eye back to Paris, checked in to my two-month long Airbnb, caught up with a friend who I was unsure when I’ll be meeting next and picked up my baggage from said relative’s. Jetlagged and sleep deprived from having flown on a low-cost carrier trans-Atlantic, the next day, I started my summer internship at a Paris based company. Two months passed – I spent countless summer nights by the Seine, equipped with a bottle of rosé, good company and a playlist. Work kept me busy, though mostly in Paris, apart from two work-trips to Calais and Dunkirk. 
After having worked in June and July, I dashed to the South of France in the beginning of August – as any true Parisian would. 

 

A couple of days later, I returned to Paris, tidied up my Airbnb (maintaining a good personal rating is a must!) and packed my life’s worth of belongings into three and a half bags and a backpack which thankfully fit into a cab that took me to CDG. Nervously waiting at the check in counter, I considered myself lucky to have been allowed to not only check in an extra piece of luggage but also that two of them were awfully overweight – all free of charge – on Air India, the airline I sarcastically call our ‘national pride’. 

 

Once back ‘home’ in Bangalore, I had no time to waste. My semester long internship had begun almost the second I got on my flight. Thankfully, I was working remotely - I had a flexible schedule but a set of deliverables to achieve. Fortunately, or unfortunately, those deliverables included a lot of travelling. In the six weeks I was ‘home’, I clocked over 3000 km on the road, apart from a weekend trip to Kolkata (an additional 3000 km) for a friend’s birthday. Apart from travelling to coastal and northern Karnataka, meetings in Bangalore were plenty, and any Bangalorean will know how hard it is getting from A to B in the city. My (now injured) left leg, perpetually pressed on the rock-hard clutch of our Renault, stuck in traffic moving at snail’s speed, attests to this.

 

Six short weeks later, I was (once again) on the national pride, towards the national capital – on work. Luckily, a friend had an extra room at his apartment, and I did not have to undergo the hassle of finding short term accommodation in a major city – a topic on which I can write a book, after having spent a staggered 4 months in Paris and 2 weeks in Delhi and 4 upcoming months in London.
Notwithstanding the sub-par quality of flying said airline, there were some benefits of being a frequent flier – I had accumulated enough miles for a weekend trip to somewhere and had to get rid of the miles, fearing the (now announced) merger of said airline with its sister airlines, and the potential impact it could have on the loyalty program. Amritsar was the destination of choice – two days were earmarked for binging on butter loaded Kulchas, chole and the heart wrenching stories of Partition, apart from witnessing first-hand the banal nationalism at the Wagah-Attari border – a long overdue blogpost in itself. 

 

Back to Delhi, and another week’s worth of meetings. After saying my au revoirs at the CSH/French Institute where I was working out of, I caught the next flight out of Delhi to continue the same internship in Paris. The cycle continued. Airbnb'ed for a month – unpacked my bags. Failed to find accommodation through the rental market (due to municipal laws banning short term rentals), resorted to Airbnb'ing again, packed my bags, moved everything, unpacked. Four weeks later, packed, dropped off bags at said relative's, flew to the US for winter break. Return to Paris, pick up bags, take the train to London (for my exchange at King’s College London) and unpack. The cycle persists. Upon having written this down, I now understand what my friends have been meaning when they start every conversation with, “Where are you right now? It’s hard to keep track nowadays”.

 

However, as some may have already caught on, the aim of this article is to write about far more than my travels, jet-setting experiences and carbon footprint over the past few months. There are 3 themes I wish to delve into – identity, community and flexibility- and the importance of having all three.

 

January 2023


Over the last two and a half years, it has become increasingly difficult to answer a simple question, “Where are you from?”. Well, “I’m from Bangalore”. “Do you live there?”. “No”. “Ah, you’re from Paris”. “Ummhh, not quite, but sort of?”. 

Just like my friends and Twitter bio who can no longer keep track of my constant location changes, today, nothing feels like home. Sure, Bangalore is “home” but each visit to the city makes feel a little more alien. Le Havre used to be home but no as much anymore. Is Paris home? Not quite, I’ve been there for about four months in total! But is that necessarily a bad thing or a rite of passage for someone keen on building endurance to the constancy of change? 

 

In the midst of this muddled identity, I cannot but stress on the importance of community and building one, wherever you go. I am grateful and thankful to all those, in each of these cities, who have made an alien city, feel like home – be it my friends in Bangalore, Le Havre, Paris, or soon, I hope, London. It has made me realise the importance of finding a community, a set of people to fall back on, enjoy your Friday evenings with, in any city you find yourself in – temporarily or (semi) permanently. 

 

Lastly, the importance of flexibility – the flexibility of living out of a suitcase – literally and metaphorically. 

The last 7 months or so have taught me to pack light, get rid of unnecessary and materialistic items and carry only what is needed - airlines after all, have ridiculously low baggage allowances. Metaphorically, it has made me realised the importance of building relationships in the moment and letting life play out its path. Living in the moment, lacking clarity on what is in store next has has been daunting, challenging, confusing, exciting and adventurous - all at the same time – this has had a whole bunch of learning experiences. For this, I’m most grateful for what the latter half of 2022 has taught me and I look forward to what 2023, hopefully with an ounce more of permanence, has in store for me. 


Onwards to London!

Comments

  1. Love love love this. It made me laugh , think, even feel a bit sad - but most of all, feel
    Immensely proud of who you are - and your journey through life

    ReplyDelete

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