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A Hippie in a Strait Jacket
Dissent: Volume 6 of the Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing

A Hippie in a Strait Jacket

Airports are perhaps the most amusing locations to test your creativity. For people like me—and yes, I very presumptuously speak on behalf of all “people like me”, whoever they might be—who have to move around very frequently, we have to reinvent ourselves to adapt better and avoid previous mistakes.

For us, airports are like halfway houses to our new and improved personality for the next location. And I’ve always wanted to try something radical and live vicariously for a few days through an unlikely persona.

“I’ve run away from home because my husband was a violent drunk.”

“I’m actually a boy.”

“Can you see the clown?”

“I hope they don’t check my bags.”

“I only have six months to live so I figured I’d spend my trust fund travelling to Africa.”

Helter Skelter: Airplane
The best place to try on different faces to masquerade your identity, experiment with your personality—be whoever you may please.

It is the best place to try on different faces to masquerade your identity, experiment with your personality—be whoever you may please—just to see how different life would have played out had you been someone else. And that usually is a very motivating factor.

Yet, with all the various permutations and combinations you can shuffle around—name, age, nationality (the basics); final destination, reason for travel, and your life story (for longer flights)—somehow we succumb to the familiarity and choose to be ourselves. Nothing wrong with that; I bet people even consider it normal. But somehow it seems like a wasted opportunity to experiment. Something to look back and say, “Duuddee, you will not believe what I did.”

Of course, it would mean lying through your teeth and being quick on your feet, but then again even if you mess up, it’s not like it’s going to matter. The world isn’t THAT small yet. But for some strange reason, you choose to be honest and truthful to people who really don’t matter (I mean, come on!), instead of opening a whole new entertaining world of deceitful uncertainty. You tell random people you’ve just met your same old boring life story, full with factually accurate details. Perhaps it is sheer laziness, or that’s what normal (ahem, *uncreative*) people do.

Yet, in a way, due to the extreme lack of time, lack of incentive, or just lack of air, you adopt a mode of such vicarious modesty, that you make yourself easier to read than an issue of Playboy. And if you just happen to be seated to someone vaguely perceptive, you allow yourself to be seen. Seen, without the added layers of multiple personalities you may have adopted in the real world. And it’s a very strange analysis.

September 2010: Mumbai to Johannesburg, 8 ½ hours

You’re a light sleeper.

I find it impossible to sleep while travelling.

And you travel a lot?

Even when it’s not required: my house has always been an eternity away from everything.

You remind me of this Disney story—Princess and the Pea.

Really? Well, then this whole seat is my pea.

I don’t think it’s just the seat. Where would you be, if not on this plane?

Anywhere! I hate flying

But where?

Venice, Istanbul… my bed. Budapest. Any place you can get to on a boat.

I’d go to Cuba.

I have a friend, whose life ambition is to grow a beard and sit in a café in Cuba, and say “hmmm”.

You even have hippie friends.

I have one strange friend, yes. The rest play on the sidelines.

You’re a hippie in a strait jacket of society’s norms.

That’s your Shiraz talking.

Don’t tell me you don’t put flowers in your hair.

* * *

I can’t believe you don’t listen to Led Zeppelin!

I can’t believe you don’t read!

Reading is selfish. I’d be read to.

Because you are… two… and thirty?

But you’re weirder; you don’t even watch movies.

I was watching Sex in the City 2 and you turned it off.

You’d watch that trash? You’re a fake hippie.

I never said I was one!

Wouldn’t you rather have an intellectual conversation?

I didn’t have my headphones on; I would have watched their pretty clothes AND had a conversation with you accusing me of being a fake hippie.

Multitasking is overrated.

Being cynical is overrated.

Let me show you my paintings.

* * *

Do you paint?

I’m not allowed.

Says who?

The public. It’s a danger to society.

But you seem to understand it quite well.

I had a good teacher.

Who’s your favorite painter?

Don’t have one—having favourites is overrated.

What do you think about the Mona Lisa?


You’re like a stubborn teenager on loop.


No, we’ve established you’re a Princess.

Only if you’re Big Foot.

See Also

You try climbing the K2 and come back without swollen feet. The Mona Lisa—have you seen it?



It’s one of those things that no one ever admits to disliking.

I’m aghast.

Don’t waste my oxygen.

Do you dislike the Mona Lisa?

It’s like candy. Or sliced bread. No one will publicly admit to hating it. Like Dali. He’s too scary, no one would criticise him. Have you ever met anyone who hates Dali or Mona Lisa?

So who do you like? Any of the Impressionists?

I hate Impressionism.

I’m sure there’s an eject seat button somewhere here. Oh wait, I’ll just ask the clown on the wing to come get you.

I spend a lot of effort un-blurring my vision. And all their work takes me back to being blurred. It makes me uncomfortable.

But then you don’t like boundaries.

Eh? Since when?

How old are you?

How old do I look?



Tell me.


Okay, then you’ve disliked boundaries for 21 years.

Is my life history written in your menu card or did you sneak a peek at my passport details?

Don’t have to. It’s written all over your face.

You know what’s written on your face?

Talks too much? Mr. Know-it-all? Presumptuous drunk?


You were born at the wrong time. But you’re going to love Africa.

* * *

Living out of a Suitcase: Travelogues of a modern day gypsy.
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