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The Sophisticated Traveler

Posted by on November 15, 2012

I have not posted much since I returned from Japan, this is probably because all I ever want to do lately, is to write about Japan. The other reason is that I have been a bit unsettled ever since I returned and it is always such an effort to go back to one’s routine. Traveling is fun but it does take its toll on you. Even as it enriches ones soul, it exhausts ones body and as you grow older, that exhaustion begins to show.

Since I have been traveling a fair amount the past few months, I want to write about air travel and how it is impacting me lately.

Have you ever seen a sophisticated woman on the plane or at airports? She is lean and graceful in her three-inch heels, her hair is neatly tied in a pony, her make up dewy and subtle and she is clad in blue jeans and a beige jacket or a dull gray wrap. Well, that sophisticated traveler woman is not me. In fact, I reserve a special kind of contempt for women like her. Women, who step out of the plane after a 10 hours long flight, looking like they could be in a television commercial for a skin brightening product. I have given such women a considerable amount of thought lately and I know now, I will never be them.

I usually dress in moccasins and comfortable clothes when I travel and somehow manage to look puffed up and pale for days after I have landed. This is usually counterproductive to photography when one arrives at a destination for one just avoids taking photos of self to offset a vanity driven depression.

I am not one of those people who like to sleep on a flight and therefore, leave the plane with panda eyes. I am not phobic of flying, I just enjoy being in a zone of little physical activity, too much uninterrupted television and a lot of food, served in bed, in a manner of speaking. All the above is far too attractive to me, to give sleep a chance.

I also wear no make up while traveling or while alighting from a plane, unless I am expecting to be received by Gerard Butler, which is never. To add to my misery, I gain a few pounds each time I am on a long flight. While I would like to,somehow, blame it on the pressurized cabin, my weight gain is solely due to binge eating on the plane. I am always waiting to be served food and snacks on a flight, sometimes shortly after a full meal, much to the cabin crew’s annoyance. Sometimes I surprise myself with my capacity to eat on a plane and could, in fact, easily put a Somalian refugee to shame with my insatiable appetite.

When people are pulling over their eye masks and getting ready to sleep, I am summoning the cabin crew and asking them to serve me a cheese platter, quickly followed by a request for some popcorn and green tea. I notice that cost cutting has taken its toll on a good number of airlines and I am getting used to being told that the cheese is over. There is also the possibility that there is a red flag against my name and flight attendants of all airlines I patronize, have been told to ration their food each time ‘Glutton Shroff’ is on board. I feel awfully guilty  about being such a chowhound, but I somehow convince myself that diet rules do not apply in airspace and the body needs to be shocked once in a while (by over-eating)for it to burn fat, faster.

I have observed the sophisticated traveler from the corner of my weary eye, where my crows feet meet. She nibbles on her food, puts on some under eye cream and intense moisturizing lotion on her face and elbows. Elbows, you ask? Yes, elbows. She then slips on her socks and her pjs, watches the television for a little while, pulls over her eye mask and dozes off to sleep. She wakes up a few hours later, only to rehydrate herself and re-moisturize her skin and promptly falls asleep again. In the morning, after changing back into her clothes (and hopefully brushing her teeth), she pulls out her hand mirror and touches up her mascara, which, incidentally, has not flaked out at all through the night. She then goes on to refresh her lip balm before tucking into some yogurt on the breakfast tray, half-heartedly.

If I were a lesser woman, I would be inspired, and even threatened by the presence of such a creature in my vicinity. But I sit there, stuffing my face, watching my eye bags grow larger by the minute and chortling at the clever lines in the sitcom on my television monitor. I do moisturize my face, because the cabin pressure makes it dry, but I leave out the elbows. The sophisticated creature disembarks from the plane and disappears into the immigration lines, commanding admiration wherever she goes. I, by now, am looking like an al-queida recruit and after swallowing my pride and my vanity, I sleepily find my way towards the luggage belt. As I spot her once again, lifting her light luggage and walking away, I make a promise to myself silently, a promise to swap my seat with another passenger the next time I find such a sophisticated traveler sitting near me.

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