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Musings of an Aunty grounded in Thailand

by Aiden

Dolly Koghar learns to let go of the emotional baggage from her sagging shoulders.

I was packing for a weekend getaway to Hua Hin while referring to my ‘for the beach’ list, when out of the blue, like a pesky mosquito, a question started buzzing in my head. Were the things going with me baggage or luggage? Odd timing, since neither me nor the baggage/luggage are going anywhere out of the country in this worldwide shutout, especially if immunisations become compulsory (I refuse to be a guinea pig for an under-tested and overhyped vaccine).

In more than the half century I’ve been coming home to Bangkok, I cannot recall a day when the poor driver wasn’t offloading or loading assorted baggage/luggage for dear hubby’s globetrotting family. The house was in a perpetual flurry, either serving the chana-daal dry-kichadee (lentil pilaf) with dahee (yoghurt) and a last-minute pinch of sugar at the door for a safe flight, or frying pakoras (fritters) to go with masala chai for the arriving member.

I, too, have had my share of travelling and can beat porters at their job, since in self- service countries like Japan and those in the West, I managed both the kids and the baggage/luggage singlehandedly. On one of those trips back from the U.S. of long ago, we miscalculated the capacity of the two-bag allowance and went crazy with Lay’s and its snack siblings, yet unavailable in the East, and with the abundance of Indian ladies’ clothes in all sizes. Then, back in Kobe, we forgot one bag in the airport and only realised it well past the retrieval date from Lost & Found. The incident just goes to show how much we really need, and yet how much we unnecessarily amass!

But I’ve lost much more than just a bag while travelling. This incident happened in ‘76 when I was going back from Don Mueang to Kobe with three kids, one a newborn. After changing the baby’s diaper, I was collecting my wits and hand luggage/baggage, (an experience only mums travelling with three kids on a long flight can fathom), when I noticed that my two-year old son had gone missing! To cut short the spine-chilling saga, the lil’ chap had slipped away, unnoticed, from the departure gate and found his way to the outdoors, viewing tarmac where everybody hung out to watch planes take off and land. Fate was benevolent and the driver, with time on his hands, was also there. He delivered the ‘escapee’ to the staff even with no passport and no ticket on the little boy, he was reunited with me.

All this to say, although baggage and luggage are technically synonyms, to me they each have a different connotation. Luggage sounds like a pile of bags, whether L.V. or a hotchpotch of nondescript bags of all sizes, colours, and makes, like those in my overflowing storeroom. Luggage holds the promise of adventure and change.

Baggage, on the other hand, has ominous undertones, as in EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE. Emotional Baggage is a huge, intangible ball of muddled and negative thoughts that thrives on guilt. Our ‘monkey mind’ thrives on guilt and shackles us to the bygones. It trumps up failures and disappointments sky-high and intensifies the fear of future let- downs, thus blocking new and fresh ideas from germinating. This pattern of negative thinking has become the worst kind of addiction, because it deprives us from forming relationships with the self or with others, which in turn, will slowly shrivel up the mind, body, and even spirit.

Lord Buddha advises, “If it comes let it, if it goes, let it.” The tree innately teaches us a powerful lesson by readily letting go of its dead leaves and opening itself up to new leaves and new beginnings. With mankind’s power of vivek (discretion) and mindfulness, we are very capable of choosing to dump our emotional baggage and instead pick up the pieces of luggage marked, GRATITUDE! JOY! LOVE!

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