Topsy Turvy - The Irony of It All

Topsy Turvy Cover

Upon arriving at the airport, the economy-class passenger joins a slow-moving queue at the airline's check-in counter, deposits his luggage and obtains a boarding pass. Then, after a lengthy and boring wait in a mammoth, ever-expanding, somewhat-sterile terminal: one devoid of any definable personality, he, with an over-stuffed tote-bag in hand, boards a gigantic Boeing jet (Air Bus's planes, until recently were limited to smaller, copy-cat versions).

In addition, when traveling abroad the traveler is accompanied by a weightless item of an uncertain size: his cultural baggage. It passes undetected through the airport's most advanced and powerful X-ray machines: with scarcely a voyager aware of its very existence. But, like his shadow, it tags along wherever he goes - becoming visible only when stimulated by external forces.

For some years prior to my initial visit to India, I busied myself by attempting to take inventory of my own cultural baggage: that repository of events one accrues during a lifetime of living. By now, we're all very-much aware of the Freudian conceit, whereby a client, by reclining on a couch in the presence of an all-knowing professional auditor (for some hundreds of hours at a cost of twenty to fifty times the minimum wage for hoi polloi), bares his thoughts and emotions, with supposedly-cathartic results as he scrolls through the near-forgotten vignettes stored in the recesses of his mind. Having my own conceits, and an unwavering belief in my own sanity, I refrain from utilizing the professional services of the shrink: that all-knowing, middle-class practitioner of the occult science of psycho-blather who learned everything he knows about life from his own middle-class upbringing and from books and lectures by professors who, in turn, learned everything they knew from their own middle-class upbringing and the books and lectures by their professors.

As a do-it-yourself person I believed that somehow or other I could, propped up on a rickety stool, or seated in a corner of an offbeat bar, muddle through my own recollections of those minor mental traumas that clutter up one's psyche, and that are considered to affect our thoughts and how we live our lives. Perhaps as proof of my ignorance, I feel satisfied that I've accomplished the same or better results than had I reclined on a sofa and prattled to one of those learned lay-confessors who, in New York, assist the run-of-the-mill, extremely-ambitious, under-endowed over-achievers to rummage through their cultural baggage in an effort to find the root cause of their anxieties.

The attempts by those reclining in a shrink's office to locate the source of their real or imagined emotional problems may not vary by any appreciable degree from my efforts to identify the inputs that led to my then, Euro-centric view of world events. It was a concept instilled from infancy and formalized in public school. It was indoctrination into a world view that was narrowly limited to that part of humanity's communal past that manufactured the conception of a benevolent, modern-day Northern Europe, along with its New World spin-offs.

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