My guide Chada was also going home after the trip to his home Ziro, in Arunchal Pradesh, India. I spent three great days there and knew that his town had unpaved roads, cows, pigs and stray dogs roaming freely. Plus, it was home to the Apatani people whose women disfigured their faces so that the neighboring Nishi tribe, who believe in taking multiple wives wouldn't raid them. Until thirty years ago the women would wear nose plugs and tattoo their faces. Chada understood my fascination and and interest in photographing these women and felt comfortable taking me around as he saw that I was just as interested in hearing about their lives and what made them happy, as well as taking photographs.
I told Chada that I would be taking a four hour flight from Kolkata to Dubai, and then a fourteen hour flight to New York. He was interested in hearing the details and sharing his knowledge of Dubai. For many Indians Dubai is the promised land, a short flight away where their are opportunities to make more in a month than they can make in half a year at home. He too was taking a sixteen hour trip to go the 180 miles to his home. The overnight bus would take twelve hours and cost him 700 rupees, which is $11 U.S.D . I asked if it had bathrooms and he said no, but that it would stop once so that people could eat. Hearing that the bus only made one stop made me think that the Indian bladder must be exceptionally large. He would then take a shared Mahindra taxi for four hours that would cost 300 rupees, $5 U.S.$. Once in Ziro he would take the ten minute ride in a tuk tuk. After hearing that, all I could do is contemplate the difficulty of his journey. Here I was taking Emirates A380, a massive,comfortable plane with more indoor plumbing than his entire village, being fed three meals and having attractive stewardesses offering me free drinks and snacks. He would have to wait outdoors for the shared taxi in Itanagar while I would be in the Dubai lounge watching the news, reading four magazines at once and seeing how much free food I could eat in the two hour lay over.
It sure would be incredible if he could have the opportunity to take a flight and experience what I take for granted. It makes me realize how fortunate I am to live the life I live. The lesson learned is, don't sweat the small stuff, if you weren't who you are, you might be in that bus to Ziro. Then again, Chada was really looking forward to getting back home to his wonderful wife and his three sons. I could have been him, and he could have been me.