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Archive for February, 2009

Prelude to Okinawa

This weekend I had the chance and privilege of returning, after a little more than a year, to my favourite place in Japan – Okinawa.

Despite the lingering winter chill, the sun was up bright and sunny on Saturday morning as I rushed to catch my early morning flight from Haneda airport. By the time I had figured out how to operate the ticket machine (or whatever it is called) and obtained my ticket, I was already beginning to regret my decision to go fully suited and tie-d up so that I could rush straight to my appointment without having to change. I greatly looked forward to changing into my jeans and exploring whatever I could of the southernmost part of Japan. But I first had to contend with the dreary 3 hours I would be spending in the air to get there.

By the time I found my seat and sat down, I could feel my stomach rumbling because, in my rush to get up and dress up, I had barely managed a cup of tea for breakfast. From past experience I already knew that, apart from a single (half-filled) paper cup of juice/coffee/oolan tea/soft drink, there would be no breakfast on flight to look forward to, even if it was breakfast time. I remember my first domestic flight in Japan when I kept waiting for the snacks which never came after that measly half-cup of juice. Unlike in India, and all other places that I have flown in, they don’t serve snacks on domestic flights no matter how long the flight is except in Business/First class. And you don’t even have the option of buying something to eat during the flight like you do on budget airlines in India. This realization only served to increase my hunger pang.

I flipped through the inflight magazine, checking the entertainment options – apart from some dreary documentary-types, all in Japanese, no movies. The only English programme available was the ‘international pops’ audio channel on Channel 6 called ‘cool cuts’ featuring a wide range of so-called hits which, in normal circumstances, you wouldn’t catch me listening to, ever. But I could see some interesting 70s numbers which included ‘I think I love you’ by the Partridge Family which sounded familiar, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ by Simon and Garfunkel and another number by Diana Ross. The programme ran for exactly an hour and would be repeated from the beginning each time it finished and in the end, counting my return trip, I ended up listening to the Partridge Family 6 times. Which, I suppose, was some sort of highlight of my trip.

And so, trying not to think of the 3 hours I would be cooped up, I settled in with the Partridge Family and a copy of Bill Bryson’s ‘Neither Here Nor There’ for company. Bill Bryson, for those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading his books, is one of the funniest writers around. In fact, his books should come with some sort of statutory warning (like on cigarette packets) ‘Not to be read in public’ or some such thing because they are so hilariously perceptive and funny that it takes great effort not to suddenly burst out laughing and make a spectacle of oneself in public (I had several such urges but managed to control myself and mostly just had a sort of permanent smile till the time we landed). Instead, my copy of the book only had blurbs like ‘It’s very, very funny’ (Sunday Times) and ‘Hugely funny (not snigger-snigger funny, but great-big-belly-laugh-till-you-cry funny)’ (Daily Telegraph). Seriously.

Though I felt drowsiness sweeping over me several times, I managed to keep my eyes open with Bill Bryson and David Cassidy. Another big reason was my quota of the half paper cup of juice. I once dozed off for maybe half a minute on another flight during which the air hostess managed to pass by with her tray and I ended up not having even the measly half-cup of juice that was rightfully mine. Ever since, I’ve had this feeling that the air hostesses keep an eye on me and the moment I doze off, rush to serve the one and only half-cup of juice they serve on the flights. And, ever since then, I keep an eye on their movements to make sure that I don’t get passed over when the time comes.

In between the times I had to put down the book and try to ward off sleep, I dreamed up various topics for blogs I could be writing. Such as the Eric Clapton (‘legendary guitarist, only rumored to be God’, as the publicity read) concert on 15 Feb which my son and I had been planning to attend, but could not because by the time I enquired, the tickets had long sold out. Or an account of the most exhausting thing I have ever done – climbing Mt. Fuji, and how I cursed myself for being so stupid and swearing to never, ever do it again but will probably be there again when the climbing season opens this year in August. With all the time on my hand, I actually dreamt up quite a few topics I could blog on. I remember thinking that I should write all the topics down so I could expand on them later on. But I didn’t, and here I am now, not able to recall any of them. Apart from the two above. I must really be getting old.

Hey, this is becoming really long. One of the things I have noticed lately is that I never read the really long blogs. Unless they are really interesting or well-written. Some of my earlier blogs now really make me cringe because they were so long. No wonder nobody bothered to read them. So let me call a halt right now and blog about the wondrous thing I saw, witnessed and experienced in Okinawa at a later time. Provided I remember them.

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