Sunday, January 24, 2016

All That You Can't Leave Behind

“You know there's a limit to what the airline will allow you to carry, right”? My brother asks.

He is standing next to me, pointing at the things crowding my suitcase.

“Mm-hmm”. I mumble.

"What do you need all those maps for? You're going home aren't you?".

Quickly thinking of ways to get him out of the room, I turn to a technique that has never failed me in the past.

Humming Peter Gabriel’s hit single ‘The book of love’, out of tune, and on purpose. 

It works like a charm.

I could have done it with any song for that matter, but this was the one playing in my head just about then :-)

He leaves me with all my bags, a pile of clothes and a bunch of other random stuff, shaking his head disapprovingly as he walks away.

I stare back down at my suitcase.
Just a few months prior to this moment, I was packing for a trip that would turn out to be my longest stay away from home. 

Back then, I had written a blog post about how important it was to leave behind the things that we didn’t need in order to be able to move on in our lives.

Now I was faced by a situation, which was quite the opposite of what I had experienced earlier.

I was on my way back home this time and I had no clue what to carry with me, and what I was to leave behind.

The humming had stopped momentarily prompting my brother’s return to the room.

“What's the ‘Alvin the Chipmunk’ shaped plastic spoon doing in there”? He asks me

I start singing again, this time I recite lines from the second verse of the same song.

“The book of love has music in it..... In fact that’s where music comes from…..some of it’s just transcendental..... some of its just really dumb”. 

He tries to hold on for as long as he can, but then I move on to the chorus.

"But, I i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i , I love it when you sing to me".
"And, U u u u u u u u u u u......"

He storms out of the room.

I chuckle and return to my apparently unsurmountable task of packing without exceeding the allowed baggage limit.
I first heard the song ‘Walk On’ by the legendary music group U2 many, many years ago. It was at a time when I had just started developing an interest in rock music.

Back then however it was about the tune and the guitar riffs more than anything else.

But as I grew older and music began to play a serious role in my life, I started paying attention to the lyrics of the songs I listened to.

God bless the radio for bringing this song back into my life at times when I really needed to listen to it.

Almost every line in this song has a deeper meaning attached to it, take for example these words from the second verse ‘A singing bird in open cage, who will only fly, only fly, for freedom’. An ode to people fighting for freedom and human rights everywhere.

But this isn't the part of the song I want to draw your attention to.

The way I see it, the song talks about someone who is packing for a trip to a better place, a place that is yet to be seen but believed and hoped to be real.

A new home.

This person too is struggling with the thought of what to take and what not.

The solution to this apparent dilemma is plastered all over the song, right from the first few lines.

The only baggage that you can bring is all that you can’t leave behind.
I slumped back into my chair in the room and asked myself the same question.

What is it that I can’t leave behind?

I reflected on the last 6 months of my life and as I started drifting away I also began the process of sifting thought the things in my bag and retaining only those things that I couldn’t afford to leave behind.

Clothes, shoes, coats, all went out one after the other till I was left with an interesting array of things that only I could relate to.

Menus from take-out places I had eaten at, maps of places I had explored on my own, memorabilia from pleasant moments that I had shared with strangers who became friends, a booklet about Chanukah which I found at a completely empty stand in Manhattan, etc. etc. 

I decide to take all of them with me.

I also realize that there are things in my bags that remind of experiences where not everything went as planned, I could afford to leave them behind, and so I that's exactly what I do.

It was also time to tie up some loose ends, clear up misunderstandings and move on from things that were holding me back.

A bunch of phone calls, some texts and few cycles of packing and repacking, weighing and re-weighing my bags, I was all set and ready to go.
18 hours later and after a disturbed night of sleep I find myself at the check-in counter in the airport.

My bags are ceremoniously placed on the weighing scale and I wait with bated breath for the numbers rapidly rising on the digital screen to come to a stop.

As my brother predicted I have exceeded the limit.

The middle-aged man behind the counter and I exchange looks.

"Its just two  pounds sir". I plead with him through my eyes.

He pauses to think and looks back at me with an expression that suggests "Well, I could go either way you know".

A few more moments pass and I try not to blink.

"Have a safe flight". He says and tags my bags to  my final destination without charging me anything extra.

"Thank you". I exhale, relieved and walk away smiling pleasantly at everyone I see.

I clear the security check and proceed to the large glass windows facing the tarmac.
In the distance, I can see bags being loaded onto planes on tiny conveyor belts.

Amidst other things, I wonder if my co-passengers too faced a similar situation as mine. If the people waiting in the lounge behind me had a tough time deciding what gets to come along with them at what doesn't.

I fish out my earphones from my jacket pocket, queue up U2 and close my eyes.

My heart feels heavy, but I somehow manage to smile through it. 

tell myself that the end of one journey marks the beginning of another, and I am comforted by the thought that I was carrying back more love than I had brought along with me on this trip, and for now, that was enough.

Until next time.