Monday, April 5, 2010

India Un-Curried III: Up In the Air

3:00 am and I am sitting under a swiftly spinning fan in the guest bedroom at Leena’s home. After landing at Changi Airport, I’ve traversed almost the entire width of the country-state of Singapore, going from the east to my friend Leena’s home in the western suburb of Bukit Timah. The moist air, the lush green of the tropical trees on either side of the highway, close in around me as I am driven along sedately in the cool cab. It finally hits me that family and home and familiar things are left far behind and the adventure has begun.

Really it had started the minute the plane took off from LAX. From sheer force of habit, I held my tummy, the way I told Keya to do when she was little. “Hold your tummy, we’re taking off” I would tell her and we’d both look out of the window, our excitement mounting as we tried to pinpoint the exact moment when the plane’s wheels lifted off the ground and we were up in the air.

I’ve always felt that the only place from where to truly see the earth and get some perspective, literal and figurative, is from the sky. To see our world from a distance is to begin to comprehend its enormity and scale and the connections that each part of its landscape and builtscape have to each other. I have always loved flying and this is one of the reasons why.

Every time I take off on a flight, I am presented with that part of the earth I am flying over, in perspective and in scale. Rivers in relation to channels, mountains to sky scrapers, warehouses to houses, pools to lakes. And then viewing it all together, the big picture, everything as it stands in relation to everything else, for me is cathartic. It brings back a sense of reality, reduces the magnitude of one’s problems in the face of sheer magnificence, be it the mighty python of the Mississippi, the deep red etched tiers of the Grand Canyon the deep green expanses of palm trees in the Phillippines that seen from above resemble endless fields of green flowers. On every flight the breath catches in my throat at the sheer visual delight of this immense terrestrial patchwork quilt of colors, textures and patterns.

As we fly west over Santa Monica, I look down and see silvery ripples of water born from waves, colliding with each other as they moved in subtly different directions on the Pacific Ocean. Beyond the sprawl of Los Angeles, majestic Mount Baldy is still covered in the winter’s extremely snowy frosting. I peer out of the window until we are north of the city, seeing first the green Santa Monica mountains and the houses in Malibu and Topanga, then the flat lands, wide expanse, of the San Fernando valley. When I recognize the Grape Vine snaking its way toward San Francisco, I turn back in.

Then, too tired to read or sleep, I decide to watch a movie. Long airplane journeys -- and mine average 10 hours or more since India is half way around the world from California -- are great for catching up with my movie viewing. This time around I watch Up in The Air. I smile to myself as the opening credits are a montage of just such views of the earth from the sky as I delight in devouring.

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