Life after a stolen camera and a shattered iPhone screen

In Summer 2013, I went back to visit India after almost two years of being here in the USA. I took a five week long break. I have a friend in Zurich, so my plan was to visit Europe for around two weeks and then visit Kolkata. I started from Lincoln on 3 May 2013, spent twelve days in four different cities in Europe, reached India and spent three beautiful weeks there and finally it was time for me to come back to Lincoln. This post is not about what happened during the trip (many friends wanted me to write about that, and may be I will eventually) but about what happened when I was coming back.

I didn’t have much money when I was buying the tickets. Additionally, I was going to Europe and I wanted to save up for that. So I searched on kayak.com for several days and then booked the cheapest flight I could find in a few weeks time. I did not pay any attention to the ticket details except for the airports and ended up making a big folly – I had not paid any attention to the layover times at the different airports which, while travelling,  I learnt , in the hard way, is one of the most important things to do when buying long distance flight tickets. For starters I had five hour, eight hour and twelve hour long layovers in Mumbai, Frankfurt and Chicago respectively while coming back. Can it get any worse? When I was going through these layovers I was ready to pay twice of what I had originally paid for the ticket just to cut my journey short by a few hours. sigh!

The twelve days that I had spent in Europe I was carrying two backpacks on me – one on the front and one on the back. So I thought I had more than sufficient experience in carrying luggage around. But I was not! I was coming back from India with bags heavier than the ones I had carried into the country (so much shopping! so many gifts both from and for people!). And clearly the journey ahead scared me and I did not have much to look forward to this time except meeting Montu after such a long time. But even that would take more that forty plus hours. I was fatigued even before the journey actually begun, this led to me being subconsciously careless.

I was allowed only one check in luggage in the domestic flight from Kolkata to Mumbai. So I had a big trolley bag and a huge backpack on me. However when I came to the international airport in Mumbai I was informed that I could have two check in bags for the international flight. Looking at the very long journey ahead I decided on the spur-of-the-moment to deposit both my bags into the check in. I just had a sling bag on me now with my passport, flight tickets, phone and a chapstick and was feeling super light and free. However, not even half an hour had passed since depositing the bags, I realized that My luggage was through till Chicago O’Hare and I was clueless how I would spend the long eight hours in Frankfurt without having either a book, a computer or a camera with me. So I requested the ground crew for Lufthansa to bring back my backpack so I could take out some essentials and keep them with me.

I had to wait for a long time but eventually they brought out my bags and happily I took out my laptop and a book to read. I had a spare small backpack in my luggage so I took that out and put my things in it. I stopped and thought for a moment if I should also have my camera with me but I had my phone with me and since I would be staying mostly within the airports there was no point in carrying another lens around with me. In retrospect I think that was a bad decision.

I think this is the right place to mention the background of the camera and the book. Both were very special and strangely, both of them were gifts. The book was ‘Bibhutibhushan Rachanasamagra’ written by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, a very renowned Bengali novelist. It was gifted to me by my cousin, Riya, on my birthday in the year 1995. And it contained one of my most favorite novels of all times – ‘Chander Pahar‘ (Mountain of the Moon), a novel which had instilled in me the desire to travel around the world at a very early age.  It was an important book which I had found at home after searching the book shelves for it for a long time. I wanted to bring it back with me and add it to my book collection here in the states.

The camera on the other hand was given to me by my dearest friend SR at a very crucial time – in 2011 when I had just come here. He, being my closest friend, knew the thing I would need most in a new city, in a new country, where I hardly knew anyone. And frankly without that green camera with me this blog wouldn’t have survived this long. More than the camera I valued the beautiful gesture. And I think if you have been reading for this long then you know that this post is about how I lost both while coming back!

The five hours at the Mumbai airport were uneventful. It was for the first time I was at the departure facilities of the Mumbai international airport and it was pretty good in the sense that there were lots of entertainment options – lots of restaurants, lots of spas, lots of fancy shopping places. But I was utterly disappointed with the internet and phone services there. I needed a calling card for my phone as my domestic service provider did not seem to work in that region and none of the stores seem to have any. Finally I had to pay extra  to get one.

After the long wait I found out that I had a window seat in the flight to Frankfurt and there were two elderly couple sitting beside me who were not at all interested in any kind of small talk. But it was night and I didn’t mind that much. I started watching The Guilt Trip on the flight and fell asleep before I completed it.

I woke up early as I remembered from the time when I was first flying to the States that I absolutely loved looking down below at the European countryside when the plane was flying above it. It’s like one of the scenes from a fairy tale book. We reached the Frankfurt airport early in the morning. The rest of the eight hour long layover was spent visiting the gifts shops and scanning the perfume section of the duty free shops in the airport looking for a new signature perfume. I liked many but couldn’t decide on one. But that’s a different story all together.

But the thing I enjoyed most doing was – reading ‘Chander Pahar’ again! I almost relived my entire childhood in the pages of that novel. The novel had thirteen chapters and I was on the verge of completing the twelfth chapter when the flight to Chicago was announced. I was tired after a long day and needed to take a nap. But I also wanted to read the last chapter of the book before I reached Chicago. So I put everything on the overhead luggage space, except my book. I put it in the pocket right before me where the manuals with safety instructions etc. are kept. After an uneventful flight when I finally unboarded the plane I forgot to bring the book down with me.

I went through the entire immigration procedure and baggage claim before I remembered that I had forgotten to bring the book with me. As soon as I remembered I contact the ground crew of Lufthansa and told them my seat number and where I had lost the book. At that time I thought they were helpful as they called the cleaning crew and asked about the book and stuff. But they told me they could not find it. And they totally refused to give me a complaint number or reference number for my lost book. They just gave me a number for Lufthansa Lost & Found which I have called several times since then but no one has ever picked up.

I was too morose about the loss of my book and I totally resented how I remembered it exactly 20 minutes after coming out of the plane and not 20 seconds before leaving it. I decided that it was just wrong to want to bring the book all the way here, specially when the book itself was so precious. And I blamed myself and sulked uncontrollably. I was so lost about losing the book that it did not cross my mind to check the backpack which was checked in with the flight without any locks on it.

From Chicago I had to take a bus ride to come to Omaha and then an acquaintance was picking me up and we were driving to Lincoln. This in all took another twenty four hours. I was tired after the very long journey and at the same time ecstatic to meet Montu after five weeks (a major part of which I had spent worrying about her well-being). She was healthy and happy to meet me and I was happy to just be at home and sleep, sleep and sleep…

So when after 3 days of not doing anything I started to unpack, I could not find my camera anywhere. I searched each and every of my baggage, tossed every piece of clothing, ransacked my entire room frantically. But I could not find it anywhere. Then I started tracing every move since I started packing my bags and where I put my cam till I came to Lincoln. And there was never a point when I had interacted with the camera after I had safely tucked it in inside one of the side pockets of my backpack. I asked if I had left it at home and my parents searched everywhere and couldn’t find it. And till I came to Mumbai I had the backpack with me. So I lost it sometime on the transit between Mumbai to Chicago. I was pretty much wide awake all the way from Chicago to Lincoln and there’s no way someone could have stolen it from me.

After I learnt about my losses I tried futilely to reach the Lost & Found number that the ground crew at Lufthansa counter in the Chicago airport had given to me. But two days passed and no one picked up the call. So finally I decided to write an email to the Lufthansa people. I received a prompt reply informing me it was already seven days and according to their policy they couldn’t do anything about it. It was the eighth day! I hated my life!!

I wanted a camera badly, but decided this time I won’t settle for a point and shoot one. Instead I wanted to buy one of those Canon SLRs I had always dreamed about owning.  I researched a lot  and found out that I could only afford something like a Canon Rebel T3. Though it is a good camera according to all the reviews, I have used it before and did not like the controls quite as much. So I decided I’ll save up for something I really want and not buy something just out of need and affordability. So I decided I will wait for around three months and save enough and in the mean time use my iPhone profusely to take photos (lately, I had been using that a lot).

However, another bad thing happened soon. I went shopping at a local mall and was waiting for someone to pick me up from there. It was the third of July and I was standing in the parking lot. There were lots of fireworks in the sky and I was ecstatic. I decided this moment and my feelings need to be captured, and I started recording a voice memo! Just as I had finished recording it, a passerby collided with me and my iPhone shot forward face down on the concrete. I had dropped my iPhone like a million times before and nothing had ever happened to it. So I was not really worried when it fell down. But I was devastated when I picked it up. Here, have a look!

The screen had shattered into pieces and glass was falling off it. I was so taken aback that I did not what to tell the person. I just stood there smiling foolishly. I was leaving on a trip to St. Louis, MO the next day and I did not know if I wanted to go there anymore (I did).  I contact Apple and they told me I did not have insurance on it and the warranty does not cover accidental damage. They would charge me a whopping $200 to get it fixed. I had got my phone on contract for $199 only. And I still had the contract for another year. I was in soup.

I searched on internet and decided to fix it myself. But it was a cumbersome process and I never knew which parts to order online. And I assumed it will be very time consuming. Also apart from the broken screen the iPhone was working perfectly normally. yes, there were bruises on my fingers from excessive texting and from the occasional doodling. Also there was a scratch right on the lens of the front camera so the front cam snaps were as bad as it could possibly get – there was always an over exposed corner or a white light streak on the snaps. So I kept procrastinating it – for almost 5 months – when it became clear to me that I was never going to do it.

I caved and found a place who would do it for much cheap (read $86) albeit using cheaper replacement parts. But I read about it online and heard that the performance would not be bad in any way and so I decided to give it a try. So finally after exactly 5 months 1 day on 4 December 2013 I got my cracked screen fixed. can you believe its the same day when I got my drivers license in the states (2 years 6 months and 7 days after I had landed here). Am I not the master procrastinator?!

I am yet to get the camera. I have not saved enough (I don’t know where my stipend goes! But I’m a graduate student, so mostly on rent and food and shopping 😛 ) And I have no clue when I am getting that (blame it on an addiction of travelling – I’m going to NYC on 23 Dec).

When I started this blog I really wanted to write and express myself. But when I write I don’t write fiction, nor non-fiction. I discovered I really liked to write about my experiences. And then there was a phase when I saw that people I knew where reading my blogs and that made me shy. I could not decide if I wanted people I know or meet in my regular life to read about my life in detail or not. So I went back to writing journals privately and this blog became more of a photography blog with a Point and Shoot camera (i.e., not good quality photos). In the time when I did not have my camera and my iPhone I was going through a very tough phase in my personal life. And I could not find so much inspiration to blog here, because I wanted to maintain a certain standard. So I was using my Instagram profusely. And lets face it , instagram is so – instant!

But during this phase I found out that writing is so therapeutic for me. For one if I’m not writing I’m not really thinking clearly about the things happening in my life. Instead I was picking up and instant and brooding about that. And that was so counter-intuitive. As a result I was doing things that I would not have done if I had thought about it clearly. Also I really felt the need to talk to people and I did. But then how many times can you repetitively nag about something to the same people. So writing was the best option. I wrote journals and I wrote a lot on paper with a pen/pencil,  doodled a lot. But I felt that I also wanted to share my thoughts. And I decided to blog about my feelings. I was unsure if I wanted to publish here or start a new blog and after a lot of thought decide that lets justify this blogs name!

So you might see a lot of stuff on this blog that you haven’t seen here before. A lot of articles on things that may seem very personal to you. But as I had already claimed when I started this blog, I am going to be undauntedly unapologetic about them. It’s my blog and I will express what I want to. I never intended this to be a very popular blog with millions of reader, nor did I start it with the hope of winning accolades from everyone. And I’ve to admit that I’ve been super irregular here. So I want to wish a very heartfelt thank you to every old subscriber who comes back to read this blog, every new reader who comes here, everyone who subscribes to my blog and everyone who has stuck with me and read this super long and misleading blog. Thank you so much and love you. 🙂

Explanations:

  1. For those who don’t know, Montu is my pet Golden Syrian hamster.
  2. Kolkata or Calcutta is a big metropolitan city on the east of India. It is my hometown, where I was born and brought up.
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Emotions evoked by an old testimonial from ‘Orkut’

I was going through my drafts and found this completed draft from long back today – I think I did not post this before as it might be too long and also since I keep fighting all the time with the person for whom this post is written. But since I’ve been super inactive in my blog I just decided to post this one as it’s complete. So here it goes –>

While commuting to my research lab today I came across this sudden song. I had no memories attached to it but the tune and the lyrics really moved me. It is in Hindi but I will still link it here in case anyone is interested. I had to refresh some old memories and what better way to do that than going into one of your social profiles.

So I went searching in Facebook. But I had joined Facebook very late and even after I had joined I stayed away from it for a very long time. All because I had a very strong presence on Orkut at that time. I have no idea how many of you have any idea about Orkut but it is another social networking website (now archaic) like Facebook. So I went to Orkut searching in my past and found something I had completely forgotten about! So the biggest thing about Orkut was the testimonials –  your friends could write testifying how much you meant to them..

I had very few – testimonials as well as friends. I used to be strange child while growing up. I was a good student without trying hard to be and I was lucky enough to be included into a group of friends who could be called the cream of the class. I was not particularly close to anyone except two, may be three. And rest of the time I used to spend day dreaming about growing up, about things I wanted to experience, about things I wanted to happen in my life.

I was an avid reader. I would read anything I could get my hands on. I used to read everything in the newspapers, so you can rest assured I used to read the books first. My parents had a small but well stocked library and I used to reach for books (both vernacular and English) before it was my age to read them. Additionally, unlike most Indian parents, my parents were my friends.  So I never felt that I needed to go out and work on friendship ever.

But as I have grown up I have realized that having friends who are not your family members, with whom you can share anything under the sun without fearing that you might be judged is very rare and a wonderful thing! So making friends became important to me. But not many people shared the same level of trust and understanding that I wanted to share with them. And it’s still true after so many years. So I did not make tons of friends over the years. But I can safely say the ones I have made I will keep them for as long as I could (sometimes it just doesn’t work out – through your own fault, or through theirs or because of the circumstances). I’ve many friends, but no one stands out like the one to whom this post is dedicated. It’s a him and let’s call him SR.

So this day when I was rummaging through my Orkut profile I came across this beautiful testimonial that this person had written for me. I’ll quote it here:

Perfumes are very pleasant objects… Something very precious to me… something I am very fond of and use often on myself… I take pride in the collection of perfumes I have and wear different ones on different occasions and for different purposes… not to mention how priceless they are and how they represent and go hand in hand with dignity, respect and aristocracy… we can say a King would not be have been a King without a perfume… and a Woman would not be a Woman without her scent… Perfumes and scents, you know are created just like music… Perfumery is an Art… like music a perfume is conjured up of notes and chords… It is said that any perfume has got three distinct set of notes… The “Head”, the “Core” or “Heart” and the “Base” note.

The head note of a perfume is the one which emanates the moment it is applied… it creates the first impression… it is of great commercial value as it helps to ‘market’ the perfume… but essentially it is not the actual scent of the perfume… it does not stay very long.

The core is the most important part being the one that characterizes the perfume… it is this note that strikes the right chords within us and we feel so good…
But the base is what that gives the perfume its foundation… it emanates long after the perfume is applied… and stays for a long time… even for days… it is made of the heaviest of compounds which vaporize slowly and slowly… lingering on and on… it is this that emanating from a tiny lace handkerchief of a medieval princess gave strength to the legendary knight to fight the terrible fire spitting dragon…

Sreeja Banerjee has been a friend of mine like a perfume… a perfume as elegant and exquisite as like that of a creation of a magnificent sonata by a maestro… My friendship with her commenced long time back and in the beginning it was of a different note… the head note it was, the note that got me to be friends with her… the note that brought us together…
Then came the “Heart” … no doubt that this was where the head notes led to… and good time it was with memories to be cherished forever…

But the most important part of the friendship is what is here now… the base note… in spite of distances and after a long gap of time… today our friendship is of an altogether different proportions… it was like after two three years I rummaged through my attic and found and old handkerchief… I doubted at first whether it was of any good at all… whether it had any scent left in it… but I brought it close to my nose… and there it was… as strong as ever… to carry me through thick and thin… she is a friend who has passed the test of Time, the hardest test of them all… and many other tests too… I have shared my personal experience first because in all other quarters she hardly needs any testimony… not that even in personal ground she needs… what shall I say… you all know how brilliant and talented she is… I will not diminish her stature by speaking of all her other accomplishments from my humble mouth… we all know Sreeja is a “Winner”… but to me she would remain my favorite Perfume… whose scent lingers on and on…

This testimonial is so beautiful that I had to write a blog post on it. By no means I am bragging that someone felt this way about me at one point of time.  I’m honored to just have been told that this was written about me.  I am writing this post to recognize how important this person has been to me throughout my life. We have been friends since 2004 and have seen many years of ‘hardships’ between us and there’s no doubt our relationship has changed so much since then… But if I have to pick one person in this world who understands me completely I have to pick SR up from the crowd. But hey! look at what he wrote! And I feel I should tell him here that he should write more often! isn’t that what he really wants to do! And I say this often but I say it again here – Love You sooo much! and Thanks for always being there when I needed a friend 🙂

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* Here’s a screenshot evidence! The writer’s name is Anonymous as his account no longer exists in Orkut.