“Mommy, look there is blood coming out of that suitcase!”, screamed the sweet little kid as he pointed his cute little finger directly towards my bag, while clutching onto his mother who was busy trying to get her luggage off the baggage carousel. The kid’s vocal cords were so strong that despite the noise level at the Philadelphia international airport, at least a dozen pair of eyes were suddenly focused on me. This must be the same kid who didn’t let me sleep at all during the flight, I thought to myself, and yet detecting the horrified look on some of the faces around me I knew something was wrong. I looked down at my black 4-wheeled business luggage and noticed a pool of “blood” on the shiny floor. Yes indeed, my bag was dripping “blood”.
My immediate reaction was disbelief. How could there be blood dripping from my suitcase? Did someone tamper with my luggage? Was this a set-up?
Then some self-pity. C’mon this couldn’t be happening to me. How on earth did I manage to get into this mess. Seconds later the cortex had taken over, I was overtaken by a sense of absolute panic. Fear propelled me to react immediately - drop the bag and run! But what if I got caught anyway?
We can deal with our fears through reason – right? I looked furtively around me, expecting the airport security staff with the highly trained sniffer dogs to descend on me any moment. There was a growing lump in my throat as I remembered reading somewhere that when our ancestors were threatened by wild animals, they went into a fight-or-flight mode. I heard the carillon bells play inside my head. What should I do now?
It had been a long 9 hour flight back from Frankfurt and a 3 hour drive from Saarbrucken prior to that. Oh beautiful Saarbrucken! This is a small German town along the French border that has a rich history. In the year 999, Emperor Otto gave the royal seat “Sarabrucca” to the bishops of Metz as a gift. Believe it or not, this place has frequently changed hands between France and Germany during the last 200 years. Perhaps because of this chequered history, a certain “savoir vivre” mentality permeates the region’s atmosphere.
It is always a treat to visit the St. Johann market square. Many restaurants have outdoor seating offering enchanting views of the market. Breweries more than 300 years old that brew fresh beer on site. One can get some really amazing fine wines here that are hard to find elsewhere.
Saarbrucken’s historic town hall stands at the center of the St. Johann market. From the 54 meter tall tower, a carillon sounds melodiously every day. A carillon is the heaviest of all medieval musical instruments consisting of bronze bells. The weight of the bells alone can be more than 100 tons. These bells are serially played to produce a melody, or sounded together to play a chord. In medieval times the bells were used to notify
people of fires, storms and wars. A ringing of bells from the lowest note to the highest note indicated that an attack had taken place.
“For connecting flights stay to your right! All passengers who want to exit the airport stay to your left! You must complete your customs declaration forms!” the harsh but rhythmical pronouncements of the airport staff interrupted the sound of the carillon bells that were reaching a crescendo by now inside my jet-lagged head.
It was with deep regret, remorse and remonstration, that I suddenly remembered packing 2 fine bottles of wine inside my bag. Fortunately the irrational fear of getting caught with a bleeding corpse inside my bag was gone. It had been replaced by this painful realization of having lost some perfectly beautiful wine steeped in pleasant memories and tasteful minerality.
Should have gone for white wines instead, I thought to myself. At least it wouldn’t create such a scene when the bottles broke! Curiosity around me had partly subsided after I shared that there was a “small” wine bottle inside my bag that broke due to the way the bags got beaten up on the carousel. Never mind the fact that one is not supposed to pack wine bottles inside check-in baggage, obviously it was ALL the carousel’s fault! Meanwhile I kept getting strange looks because the puddles were still forming. The more I stayed at one place, the more puddles I was creating. The exit hallway was full of queued up passengers. I tried to roll the bag in many different directions but the dripping wouldn’t stop.
An hour later I was at home unpacking the bag wearing gloves, carefully taking the pieces of broken glass away one tiny bit at a time. Fortunately one of the wine bottles had made it safe, so I was in a good mood after all. “That was an expensive tie…yeah…and an expensive white shirt…yeah…and an expensive suit…Uhhh…Ohhh…wait…that is my Tagore book…damn!”
As I tried to take stock of the entire episode I couldn’t help but imagine that wine bottles are just like people. They have a destiny too. I mean how is it possible that out of two equal wine bottles, both born and brought-up in exactly similar conditions, one pleases the palate and makes people feel romantic, while the other sacrifices itself, invokes panic and fear, spilling its bloody guts all over the airport floor?
One fine wine. Another one dying. One lucky dude. Another one dead. It's all in your fate, White or Red!