It’s a red suitcase. Hardback. Gift from my old chum Kagame. She’s out there somewhere. Alone. Tell me, have you seen her? (Cue in MC Hammer’s song here). You don’t imagine you would feel so distraught until you are standing at the carousel after deplaning and it has ground to a stop after everyone has picked theirs and it suddenly dawns on you that your luggage is missing. It’s bad enough to lose your luggage, but to realize that you lost it as you stand at an airport with a name like Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International airport in Mauritius is deeply disturbing.
I’m the only one who lost his luggage out of a group of, what, ten media guys? Ten! But it’s only mine that didn’t make it to Mauritius! If that isn’t politically motivated, I don’t know what is. Even Larry (long pause) Madowo got his luggage for crying out loud. Even the Ghafla guy – Jeff – got his. Not me.
Together with Wahome, communciation’s Manager, Multichoice, our host for this trip, we head to the Baggage Claim to fill forms and shit. They don’t know where my bag is. We connected through Jo’burg, so it’s anywhere between Nairobi and Mauritius. Which means it could have fallen off over the Serengeti and right this moment as you selfishly tweet, a Rhino might just be peeing on my suitcase. Or it could have fallen in Zimbabwe, and some Zimbabwean called Simango Dabengwa is trying to sell my boxers for 2.5million Zimbabwean dollar. Totally flattering.
They will reimburse me 75USD daily for my expenditure that goes into buying the necessities I need until my luggage is retrieved from Serengeti, an official at the desk tells me. Please fill this form here Mr. Oogo. “It’s Ougo!” I sigh, testily. As I’m filling the important form, I can hear a very irate passenger at the end of the counter getting his knickers in a twist. He has a Nigerian accent. I turn to look and it’s Uti. Big Brother. Chewing the ass off this reed-thin airport official. She looks spectacularly unmoved by all the anger. He turns to me and asks, “Did they also lose your luggage?” and I want to say, “No, I’m here to pay for my DSTV,” but I nod and say, Yes, imagine that.
I think the Baggage Claim desk is the worst place to work in because no happy conversations happen there. Everybody who shows up here is poised to curse. Take someone who flew for, what, six, eight hours only to land, tired, lagged and hungry to find his luggage missing. Picture the conversations someone like that will have. But those officials have seen it all. They are blasé towards shouting and banging of tables and fingers jabbed at their faces. A good day for them is when they encounter an irate client who doesn’t speak English.
But looking at that thin Asian official who just wants her shift to end so that she can go home and have a hot shower and tandoori chicken, I realize that it’s the very first time I felt sorry for an Indian. No really, I’m not being racist. When were the last time you felt sorry for an Indian? Exactly.
Things get better slightly because an hour later we are booked into the best resort in the island – Trou Aux Biches Resort and Spa (Not pronounced “bitches”)- for a one-week MultiChoice content showcase jamboree that was represented by media from more than half a dozen African countries and music and comedy talent.
But still it’s hard to operate in the same clothes you left Nairobi in 24hrs earlier. Clothes that lost one hour to get to Jo’burg and gained another hour in Mauritius. Clothes that smell of JKIA, OR Tambo and the Seewoos…that-one airport. Even when I bought new clothes – some random t-shirt and overpriced underwear from the only shop that was still opened that night in Port Loius – I still felt like I was wearing someone else’s clothes.
I constantly think of my clothes. I dream of them. I picture them in that dark suitcase, wondering why they have been abandoned. I think of my socks, curled into a ball in a corner, yearning to stretch their legs. I had running shoes in there. Now lost. My poor shower gel. Sigh. You don’t know how precious your shower gel is until it’s gone. Guys, cherish your shower gels, it might be gone tomorrow. And then there is my (Luo alert) my bottle of Hugo Boss, Orange. Hugo, if you are reading this, I will find you. I will not tire until I find you. I don’t care if ghouls here will say that sounds gay, but I will find you Hugo.
Tell you what, I remember momentarily stirred awake last night with a start; my bed smelled funny. Smelled of India. There was an Indian in my bed, I thought, only to realize it’s the thin colorful can of deo-spray I bought from some shop in Port Louis. Fourty five percent of Mauritius is Asian brought in here as slaves from India by the British colonialists to work in sugarcane farms. They are fairly dark Indians though. One watersport chap walked up to me at the beach and put his wrist against mine and said enthusiastically, “look, we are both black, we are brothers!” and I don’t know why that made me sadder.
It’s a red hardback suitcase. If you see it near your office, please drop me a line. If you see it bobbing down Uhuru Highway, on a trailer to Malaba, please hail it down. If you go to Maxland and you see a bunch of chaps stepping on it under the table as they drink, please email me pronto. If you are in Kisumu and you’re having fish by the lake and you see some jango stuffing fish into it, please let him keep it.