For a better future
"I'm sorry but your luggage is still overweight. You need to take out 2 more kgs", said the man behind the counter with a nonchalant smile.
"Corporate robot", I muttered under my breath. How am I supposed to fit my entire life into two 158 cm luggage? How am I supposed to compress my whole 25 years of life and make it fit into two 23 kilo rectangles?
I was already leaving behind most of my things. I imagined my beloved guitar and my ukulele laid back against a wall with rust building up on their strings over the ages. I pictured my stuffed toys, which I still liked to decorate my bed with, wrapped up in a bag and stored somewhere. But I mostly ruminated over all the books I owned. Books that I have spent half my earnings on will now lie gathering dust somewhere in a damp attic. Maybe termites will relish on their pages before I get to have another look at them. My mind was straying. I reeled it back in.
"Ma'am, perhaps, if you could just take out 2 more kilos, I can check your bag", the man reiterated ever more politely.
"Yes, of course."
I stooped down to open the chains once more. The chain was barely holding with the pressure from all my things inside, so I was very careful in opening it. As I parted the cover, I immediately felt eyes on me and became self-conscious of how untidy the insides of the bag must be. The goal of packing was to make it all fit.
At the top lay a bright floral bed sheet with matching pillow covers. As I slowly removed them, glimmers of crockpots and pans shone from underneath. After some battling, I took out one heavy centrepiece, a photo frame, and a candle holder. "Only necessities", I whispered to myself. Yes, only the bare minimum that would allow me to have a life. There was no space for sentimental values. Sentiments are best preserved for people who can pay for extra baggage.
Everything I had earned working for the past two years along with all my parents' savings went into making this happen for me. There were tuition fees, accommodation costs, and even the plane fare. There was no space to squeeze in extra baggage.
The centrepiece I took out was a vase I had made as a teenager. It had multiple coatings of paint laid on it at different stages of my life. Currently, it was shiny wooden lacquer. I was excited to decorate my new room abroad with this piece; maybe, even, put another coat of paint on it to better reflect the new place. The candle stand was one I had always put on my study table. I couldn't imagine studying without looking at it. And, the photo frame was something I had collected from an antique store during a trip.
But, there was no point reflecting on this now. Along with that, I also took out a large snow boot. I could just buy another one there.
Finally, I picked up the luggage and handed it over for checking. The trinkets lay below. My parents had already left the airport after dropping me off. These would have to go to some random bin in the airport. Maybe, it would catch someone's eyes and they might pick them up and take them home. I would prefer that rather than having them waste away.
With my entire life now checked in into two pieces of luggage, I walked on, with only a backpack remaining on my shoulder. The backpack was also almost ripping at the seams as it was old. It did not make sense for me to purchase a new one here. I was told I would find better backpacks abroad. So, I carefully pulled the chains open to take out the water bottle and chugged it all in one go. That reduced the weight of the bag slightly and helped me carry it.
As I contemplated all the people I might never see, I also imagined the new people I might meet. They'll speak a different language. What would they be like? Did they give up everything too to attend this school? Did they all have to uproot their whole lives for a better future?
Right after going through immigration, my parents called.
"Make sure you drink plenty of water on the plane. I read a story online that people have died of dehydration in aeroplanes," said my mother with a broken voice.
"You can always come back to us if you ever feel too homesick. Your mother and I will manage the ticket", was my father's stern comment from the back.
I was the first person in my family to be stepping foot on foreign soil. I had heard tales of Canada. It's so cold there that one of my relatives returned to Bangladesh within six months. I instinctively ran my hand over the heavy coat I had on and held onto it tightly. There was no room for me to return.
I wondered about this country as I waited for boarding. I had seen images of its menacing whiteness in winter which apparently lasts almost all year. And then there were glimpses of the orange sun melting everything for some two or more months of summer.
Boarding soon started and I had to be shaken off my reverie. With a certain trepidation, I walked towards the winding corridor that now lay ahead of me.
"For a better future," I whispered to myself.
Tasnim Odrika is a biochemist by day and a writer by night. Reach her at [email protected].