Hello Everyone … a couple of weeks ago one of my favourite writers and friend, Barb Taub announced she was going to publish the third book of her series Null City and wrote a brief post about it promising that I’d have something more to say about her work the next day. Well, the best laid plans as they say … between one thing and another I never got around to that second post … but I was able to get a letter off at last to Barb asking her to be my guest over here at the Library and I also challenged her to write a haiku … here’s her reply!
Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog today, Georgia! Of course, you know that I’m a huge fan of your poetry, but most especially your haiku. But when you challenged me to write one, I panicked. How could something so spare and elegant be so difficult?
Here it is. My very first haiku ever, because I crashed a wedding my first night back in India.
we are such old friends,
watching strangers dance. they smile,
reaching. we whirl with new friends.
So, yes, I crashed a wedding my first night in India.
It all started because my friend Janine and I decided to push our luck. Having actually managed to meet up with our old University roommate Jaya in the middle of India the year before, we just had to see if lightning could strike again. This time, Janine and I were meeting first at the Mumbai Airport. Only, because of this tragic annual event we have up north (winter), both our flights were delayed. I’d been travelling from Scotland for over eighteen hours, much of that time spent sitting on the ground as the plane was repeatedly de-iced.
One thing about international flights is that they feed you. This is not necessarily a good thing. Shortly after our flight took off, the attendants began distributing the meal. I think they had approximately two meals that were vegetarian, but by the time they reached my section back in steerage, they were offering passengers a choice of beef stew. (The choice was to take it or to leave it.) They repeated the meal offer two more times over the course of the flight, but the menu didn’t vary. By the third pass, the attendants didn’t even pretend to hand out the trays. A woman across the aisle from me had brought along one of those big discount bags of gummy candy, and when she passed it around, she got a standing ovation.
We were all tired and hungry when the flight landed in Mumbai. Luckily, I’d been to India before so I knew how to line up before passport control. Or, more precisely, how not to line up. There is, of course, nothing remotely resembling an actual line. You just get in the middle of the crowd and eventually you’re pushed up to the front. As American voices behind me protested bitterly that people were not waiting their turn and it was so not fair, I blindly held out my paperwork to the agent, agreed that yes, Madam’s passport was very full and yes, Madam did go lots of places, and no, Madam didn’t know that they would need several pristine pages for their stampage, and yes, Madam would most certainly see that she had more pages next time. Behind me, the other Americans were still looking for lines to wait in, and still complaining about it. Lots. I wondered if I could convince anyone that I was Canadian.
The Mumbai Airport is in two very separate locations (Domestic and International), which have to be navigated Indian style. The usual soldier with the usual honking huge gun waved me toward signs for Domestic transfers, and at last I ended up at a roped-off group of chairs randomly placed in the middle of the airport terminal. Eventually, a young woman in a quasi sari/uniform outfit came over and told the group gathered there to follow her for the buses to the Domestic terminal. In the UK, that would work perfectly. Baby ducklings following their mother couldn’t fall into queue more precisely. Even in the US, travellers would lope along in a rough follow-the-leader line.
But this was India. The rest of the people in the chair circle leaped to their feet and surged for the doors at a dead run. Uniform Lady made a good show of trying to keep up with them, but somehow I lost her in the general melee. Men in suits, grandmothers in saris, mothers in embroidered salwar kameez (holding babies and clutching children’s hands), and one severely jet-lagged old American lady—we all trotted through the terminal, along corridors, down stairs, out the doors and over to the bus at the curb.
People tossed their suitcases into the luggage section under the bus and pushed aboard, sweeping me with them. When it became obvious that there were not enough seats for the entire crowd, Uniform Lady reappeared and began ordering people off the bus. This caused delays as they remonstrated with her. (Since I’ve seen entire Indian families travelling on one motor bike, and witnessed many trucks so full of people that those hanging onto the back were only being kept from certain death by the grip of the inside passengers, I could understand why people were shocked at being asked to give up their perfectly safe bus aisle perches. But Uniform Lady was adamant, so we all waited through even further delays as all the luggage was removed from the under-bus compartments so the refugees could retrieve their luggage and put it on the next bus, already waiting just behind. Uniform Lady walked our bus aisle, evicting two other passengers pretending to have seats at the rear, and at last waved us away.
When we arrived at the Domestic Terminal, there was no sign of our flight to Vadodara (a small airport relatively near Jaya’s home in Gujarat). There was also no sign of my friend Janine, whose plane was supposed to be there well before mine. She’d left for the Washington DC airport more than thirty hours earlier, just ahead of the blizzard closing airports across the east coast.
It’s safe to say that we were not the two sharpest knives in the travel drawer that night. But we didn’t have to be, because we know exactly how to find each other in foreign countries in the middle of the night. I went to the only open coffee bar and ordered for two. [NOTE: for you amateurs out there, do NOT try this at home. You’ll need someone you’ve known for the better part of four decades, so that you know exactly how they will think.] Janine arrived at the Domestic terminal and headed straight for the coffee bar.
But we still had a problem. The crowd was nervously watching the departure gates, and when they finally put up the sign for the Vadodara flight, all surged forward, waiting for the gate to open. And waiting. And waiting. A woman in front of us cautioned that all the people pushing in from the sides would attempt to cut us off, and suggested that we form our own blockade. We waited some more. Eventually, the Vadodara sign was taken down, and the blockade strategist wandered off. Still we waited.
Finally, the sign went back up and the departure gate attendant asked everyone to present ticket and passport. It was the last word he got in before the crowd surged through the gates en masse. The attendant shrugged and turned away. Our passenger group rushed the doors only to find…more buses. Although there were several airplanes next to the terminal, apparently getting to our plane would require transportation. After people filled the bus, extra passengers were removed, and the driver was satisfied that all had seats, the bus finally moved away from the terminal. First it drove for some distance straight out, then circled a roundabout to drive for several blocks back, passing the airport terminal where we had boarded the bus, and continuing on in the opposite direction. At another roundabout, it turned around again and headed back to the airport terminal.
As we slowed to a stop before a plane parked right outside the terminal, Janine whispered to me, “This is where we got on, isn’t it?”
Of course it was. We boarded the plane parked just across from the departure gate. As far as we could tell, we had just taken half an hour to board, ride, and depart from buses that took us across the street.
The flight itself was only about half an hour, but the crew served a full meal. Racing down the aisle, attendants dealt each passenger a tray with a speed that a Las Vegas dealer would envy. Each tray held a surprisingly delicious breakfast that was not even a little bit beef stew. But before even the fastest eater could have finished, they were back to collect the trays, tell us to fasten seat-belts, and prepare for landing.
Neither Janine nor I could figure out how long we’d been travelling at this point. But it didn’t matter because at the open end of the tiny airport, we saw Jaya waving. We were back in India and that could only mean one thing. It was time to eat. After a huge and blessedly beef-stewless meal, we headed out for a walk in the nearby town park. We weren’t sure if we were hallucinating from the sleep deprivation and jet-lag, but we saw what looked like Cinderella’s carriage (if Cindy had been REALLY into neon). Gorgeously dressed guests, beautiful horses, a full marching band, and women with gigantic light fixtures were all milling around.
“Wedding,” Jaya said. Sure enough, a young man dressed like a prince was soon seated in the carriage and it was drawn slowly through the streets, the band playing, and the women with the giant light fixtures now balanced on their heads leading the way. They didn’t get far before a tune that everyone seemed to know started up.
A group of gorgeously dressed women—wedding guests and bridal party—all began to dance in an expanding circle. “It’s called the garba,” Jaya explained. “Here in Gujarat, you can’t help dancing it.” Even as we watched, women approached me and asked me to join them. Ignoring my protests, they pulled me in. Somehow, only hours into our India trip, I’d crashed a wedding.
Luckily, the movie Wedding Crashers had been in the oldie selections on the plane coming over. I’d watched it in between refusing beef stew, so I already knew the rules of wedding crashing (as listed here).
But for those of you who might have missed the movie, here’s how I applied those rules:
Note: If you’d like to hear more about our travels through India, please check out Do Not Wash Hands in Plates, the story of three women eating our way across India in search of adventure, elephants, temples, palaces, western toilets, monkeys, the perfect paratha…and the kindness of Indian strangers..
And for urban fantasy fans, my new book Round Trip Fare is now available.Warden Carey Parker’s to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one.
And then there is… him. For the past two months, a dark stranger has persistently edged his way onto the mental game board behind her eyelids. Well, whatever trouble he’s selling, Carey Parker is not buying.
Carey knows superpowers suck, her own included. From childhood she’s only had two options. She can take the Metro train to Null City and a normal life. After one day there, imps become baristas, and hell-hounds become poodles. Demons settle down, join the PTA, and worry about their taxes. Or she can master the powers of her warrior gift and fight a war she can’t win, in a world where she never learned how to lose.
She just has a few details to work out first. Her parents have been killed, her brother and sister targeted, and the newest leader of the angels trying to destroy Null City might be the one person she loves most in the world. And her sexy new partner’s gift lets him predict deaths. Hers.
It just would have been nice if someone told her the angels were all on the other side.
- TITLE: Round Trip Fare
- Genre: Urban Fantasy (okay and there is humour, romance, a sentient train, a great dog, and bunch of other stuff—but Amazon only gives you a couple of words to pick genre, so…)
- Series: Null City [NOTE: prequel One Way Fare is now available FREE from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, and the Amazon UK kindle version directly from Barb) but this book works as standalone.
- Release date: 7 April, 2016
Contact & Buy Links
In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb wrote a humour column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them travelling around the world, plus consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.
I’d like to thank Barb for the great post which I hope you’ve all enjoyed as much as I have … and if you haven’t done so yet, this is the time to pick up one of her books … take it from me, they’re a great read! Ciao, Bastet.