It is one of Life’s greatest pleasures, indeed, when out of the mist of time, where memories hide, one small glimmer of a light comes out, bringing with it fragrances of a long forgotten exuberance.
One such thing happened to me today.
I was flying from Miami to Cairns starting my journey in Miami at 11 40 am, on the 1st of April with Continental Airlines and then connecting with Qantas Airways in Los Angeles..Arriving in Melbourne on the early morning of 3rd...
I am transcribing what I wrote on the plane. I am sitting very comfortably in the lounge of Qantas Airways in Brisbane, where I had spent a delightful year some time ago.
One such thing happened to me today, from the mists of time, something emerged.
Like the Poet, Pablo Neruda, wrote
What all can happen in the course of a day...
Long wait at the LAX airport but the delay was made bearable by the Qantas Lounge, very well stocked with food and drinks and wine from our southern clime, free WI fi and quiet space to work in.
Few minutes before the boarding process began; I walked over to the gate. Looked at the people waiting to board the plane, mostly seated, already tired looking faces. A thought did occur to me, this flight is going to Melbourne, and surely, in the dim past, I may have met one of these people, now indistinguishable to me by the passage of time, and had a drink? I cannot recognize them... so I did no more than a cursory look around, the context of that life has now disappeared.
But it was not to be.
I was one of the first to board, went into the more spacious part of the aircraft. The purser greets us; Tony is his name, looks at my boarding pass and says, Seat 1 K, the best seat on this 747-400 bound for Melbourne.
Comfortably settled into my seat, busying myself with papers, writing materials, reading materials, collected here and there and now a small mound of printed material.
I believe the effect we call LUCK is the LOVE that we have in our lives and the affection we feel for others, and in the infinite mirror that is surrounding us, the LIFE, it is reflected back to us. And then we say we are lucky, instead of saying, we are being loved and we are capable of accepting and giving what we feel as LOVE.
It was a burnt out account executive, a woman, who was now dabbling in Travel Industry who offered to help me to get a ticket to Australia, on that distant cold day in January when I thought I would like to spend a good complement of days in Australia, mainly in Cairns. I wanted to fly to Cairns from Miami, the easiest being to fly to Honolulu and Guam and connect to Cairns. The previous trip to Cairns had been from Japan via Guam on Continental, when a memory of my friendships fomented in Easter Island was still fresh.
This Continental agent, now in her new life, obtained for me, with speed and efficiency on a direct flight to Melbourne, and then to Cairns, rather than the long and drawn and melodramatic Melanesian route through Honolulu and Guam. But there was a catch to this attractive offer, the flight to Australia would be on Qantas and then there is the reward! The seats would be in First Class. I have to accept the offer on the spot, since Qantas was withdrawing this generous offer to Continental in a matter of days. I graciously accepted to fly QF, our national airline, to Australia, on the nonstop 16 hour flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne. And thanked those nebulous forces that had forced that lady, Ms Kay into the travel industry in Salt Lake City, Utah.
I began looking forward to my flight. I would like comfort when I fly, but I am not after luxury. The same goes with accommodation. While travelling through Asia, I don’t like to stay in Guest Houses set up by clever Vietnamese or Burmese for backpackers with less taste and even lesser amount of cash (but I see them spending an enormous amount of money on beer and drinks! With their fellow back packers, but it is their choice to spend balmy Hanoi evenings with fellow Australians or Malaysians). I would prefer to sleep in a proper bed, in places where there are windows to look out and not mosquitoes blood stains, and without staff that are not pretending to be friendly and familiar based on the cheap price paid for the accommodation. Give me Hotel Puri in Malacca any day! I like to fly Business Class (S class my Sephardic brother would say), mainly because of the space it affords. If they can give me two seats, which Continental very often tries to do when they have not already upgraded you to First Class. As long as my elbows and my shoulders are free, I am very happy. But luxury is not something I crave for, but that does not mean I have ignorant of the discretion on quality of life.
I am writing, freely associating my thoughts, and away from what I want to tell you. I was so happy with what happened to me on this flight that my mind and heart, usually surrounded by this magic of living, pardon the pun, literally took flight.
QF (this is the code for Qantas Airways. Qantas stands for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services, formed in the early days of Aviation in Australia, which later rose up as a giant as QANTAS, and let me gently remind you this is one of the very few times in the English language, Q is not followed by a U!)
A QF flight attendant comes over, crisp and correct and polite and proper
Would you like a drink?
I wouldn’t mind a flute of champagne, reflecting my newly acquired taste of living in Paris.
A few minutes later,
May I serve the champagne now?
She pours Dom Perignon 1998
Nothing but the best from Qantas!
Comfortable and with a sense of satisfaction of deserving what is being offered, content, I began thinking and thanking the powerful forces of love that are in my life.
We don’t choose who we wish to fall in love with, therein lies the exuberance of living. We can also choose who we would like to consider our family. As we get older we have more family of choice than family of blood.
I feel the strength of love my sister Jackie has for me, the purity of it, the strength of it, and the lack of agenda in her actions. It is the hidden agenda that kills Love in a relationship.
A relationship with no agenda will grow, will grow wildly, and will grow beautifully.
Think of my relationship with my little sweeties in Cuba, including Claudia, the only daughter I have, who was born before my love blossomed for her island home, here there is no agenda and the love is like a wildfire. I am willing to sacrifice for her, so that she will have a good life ahead of her, of that I am very certain.
Once an agenda enters, emotional or physical or materialistic, the purity of the relationship is damaged and slowly the relationship marches slowly to its death.
The lack of agenda is what propels individuals towards helping others. It is a sign of one’s usefulness...
All these bring me to Sandra Kennedy, the person in the midst of the joy of this flight to Australia.
So the moments roll on, some dreams come true, some are born, you work hard towards to some others, saying Luck has found you.
I was sitting in seat 1 K (you can go to seatguru.com and check out Qantas 747-400 seating arrangements and you will see where I was! If you like), a lady comes over and begins a conversation
Do you remember? We have met each other before, once upon a time in Melbourne or in Singapore!
I looked at her name tag
I was a junior doctor then, partying, talking into the night, those were our primary concerns, looking after patients at the teaching hospital was almost like a hobby, we were not given to the self attached importance of the American junior doctors who think the entire world revolves around them. We were humble in that regard and were more interested in cultivating a taste for various vineyards of our state rather than becoming proficient with facts printed in the textbooks! It was a life of splendor, an infatuated earth, a magical life made more magical by our immature frivolity. We wanted to laugh, eager to experience all sorts of love, but were in a society still suffering from the effects of the memories of war and colonial excursions, rather Victorian in taste true to the name of our state. We were on the brink of enlightenment; we lived under this restraint which affected our thinking. Australia was coming out of the 100 years of darkness into a modernity brought by the aftermaths of the war in distant countries (an opening of minds that brought people from Asia to this country), began incorporating a little bit of the culture of those countries, still distant because of the myopia, but Australia opened up never to become a closed society ever again. This was the Melbourne of 1980s. We were then Princes and Princesses.
It was a time of hope and what was taught by that life in Melbourne, in those impressionable days, still stays with me.
May be that is why, when Sandra Kennedy sat in front me, that entire era came back to me, without much prompting.
When people ask me, are you content with your life and the blessings you have received?
I say emphatically, yes, and in a certain order, I think of the incredibly lucky things bestowed upon me
That I am a Jew
That I spent my impressionable years of my life in Australia and still hold Australian nationality
That I work for indigenous peoples
That I am a Medical Anthropologist
That Cuba came into my life
That I am a Medical Doctor
But these are just structural, geographical processes of my life but far more important are the human relationships, large and small, that have passed through my life, and the great loves that remain; this is what I consider the greatest gifts of all in my life.
The countries which have given me such great loves, to begin with Australia, when I lived in Melbourne it was my paradise; London where the study of anthropology was augmented by the cultural and intellectual life for an English speaking person; United States where good friends have to be looked for, but once they find you, they are forever.
Cuba that unfathomable fountain of love and affection, sensuality and seduction and friendships tattooed to ones heart
And an additional gift was the learning what is meant by friendship and relationship taught to me by the Meskwakia, HoCank , UmonHon and Kickapoo Indians.
The memory is vacuum packed and once it is pricked, with Sandra Kennedy sitting in front of me, cavernous space inside Qantas 747 400 about to leave for Melbourne, it flushes out, like a broken dam flooding everything around it, with no boundaries; faces , lives, voices, flowers, forgotten kisses, emotional as precious as embers, all rush out.
Sandra Kennedy from Melbourne, 28 years with Qantas Airways, sees me entering the aircraft that would take both of us to Melbourne, where once we spent pleasant times in the company of our friends, realizes it is me. Waits for the manifest to arrive just to make sure the face from the depth of memories match with the name she remembers as well, from the pleasant cauldron of memories of an unforgettable life in Melbourne.
Moet and Chandon always remind me of a song, Killer Queen...
Tonight’s dinner consisted of
Orecchiette Pasta and Artichoke salad with walnuts and Porcini dressing
Blackened Cajun Salmon with Fresh lime, rice pilaf and Black eyed Beans
Orange and pistachio olive oil cake with grand Marnier mascarpone
The flight left a little late, bid good bye to the shores first seen by European Alvaro Cabral who later on went on to “discover” Brasil and in 15 hours time, I was able to see the etchings of land at the western end of the Pacific, the Australian mainland, once visited by Cook, La Perouse and Bougainville.
I feel that even before this short trip to Australia, it is complete with joy. As Indians would say, what it means, we are too simple to understand and predict.
Sandra Kennedy from Melbourne was the source of this joy on this trip to Australia.
Dr Sudah Yehuda Kovesh Shaheb is an Australian Citizen, lives in Paris where his heart is, goes to Cuba to learn and teach Anthropology where his soul is, works with American Indians who teach him about Life.
3 April 2008
9 25 am Melbourne time, we were just about to come into Tullamarine, Melbourne International Airport
12 25 am in Paris
7 25 am in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore
6 25 am in Siem Reap, Cambodia
6 25 pm the day before in Miami and Havana
Someone or other asks, you drink wine, don’t you? Yes, I answered enthusiastically, thinking of the many grapes that have titillated my taste buds during those days in Melbourne. Australia is a veritable paradise for followers of Bacus..
I left a bottle of
Dom Perignon 1998 wit my brother Ko Maung Maung in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I must rush back to savour it amidst that smoldering heat and carved stones from eternity
Cullen Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon 2006
Bay of Fires Pinot Gris 2006 from Tasmania were given to MunChing my dearest friend in Kuala Lumpur who promptly gave it away to some of her relatives..
I am proud to be from a country which produces such good wine. No wonder I love Argentina, our sister southern nation, whose Mendoza, like our Barossa Valley, produces many a good drop, especially Malbec.
Once we had retrieved our luggage, she helped me through Quarantine, getting me a green stamp from an official wandering around helping people with their requirements; he asks a few questions and puts the green stamp which allows me exit the area, along with Sandra, without further scrutiny from the Quarantine people who are notorious. She walked with me to the Domestic terminal and got my boarding pass and then we bid good bye.
Knowing very well that we will meet again, she will have a curry dinner at her home, possibly in a new location, shared with her husband of 15 years and renew moments with friends whose memory rolls of our brains.
It is a sign for me that my relationship with Australia will be rekindled again but yet another level.