Journey’s end

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on July 13, 2018 Published on July 13, 2018

Saturday morning: Muriel takes me to the Gateway Bus Terminal and bids me a fond farewell. A couple of hours later, riding on Peter Pan’s magic bus, I arrive in Boston. I spend an hour having coffee with three fresh-minted friends — witty wordsmiths of the web — who maintain an online Tamil-language literary magazine called Solvanam. I leave for Logan Airport on another Peter Pan at 2.30 pm.

Ten minutes later, I’m there. Check-in begins only at five. But I have a secret weapon against boredom and travel fatigue: an audible.com book to listen to. I’m half-way through Anthony Horowitz’s mesmerising thriller, The Word is Murder. It’s an unusually clever book. Aside from the typical trail of clues and misdirections, this one’s written in the voice of its famous author, screenplay writer of the Foyle’s War TV series. He tells us how he’s been forced to team up with the fictional ex-police detective Daniel Hawthorne in order to write the book we’re reading!

Just as the murderer dispatches his second victim (in a suitably gory and unanticipated manner), check-in begins on Iberia Airlines. The sky is still blushing orange and pink as we take off. Seven hours later, *POP!* we’re in blindingly sunny Spain. The past three months of near-continuous fretting about visas, forms and gathering doom have resulted in this: a smooth and hitch-free entry into Europe.

Moments later I’m hugging Liz. She’s my friend and host at the 19th Conference of the Utopian Studies Society of Europe, at her University, Rovira I Virgili in Tarragona. She’s driven up to Barcelona to fetch me. It’s 1 pm. When we arrive at my hotel — but check-in only starts after three. So we dump my luggage, run off to have a brief lie-down and wash in Liz’s nearby flat then exit once more to have lunch. We’re joined by Liz’s partner Juan (for simplicity’s sake, I’m deliberately misspelling his name) and we eat at a charming Argentinian restaurant called Filosofía. Its walls are adorned with the portraits of famous philosophers as a TV monitor scrolls through food-oriented quotations by them!

After a great meal and lively conversation, I return to my hotel. A gruelling final challenge awaits me: I must create images to accompany my speech the next day. Half the designs are ready but I’m sleepy, sweaty and worn-out. So I shower and take a nap. At 1 am, I wake up to complete another 10 jpegs. Go back to sleep, wake up at 7.55 am, race down to breakfast and am ready for Liz at 8.15 am. At her office, I have three hours to sequence the pictures in PowerPoint and scribble notes for my speech.

At 12.30 pm, a roomful of scholars listens politely as I present my talk entitled “Mytopia, Youtopia”, about my hopes for an ideal world. An hour later, we all file out into the sunshine, laughing and talking. Happy confetti fills my brain: my job is done.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on July 13, 2018
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor