Thursday, May 22, 2008

Look what I found in a New York cab...

Via Kottke, I came across this recent piece in The New York Times, that gives a list of interesting things that were lost and found in New York taxi cabs. Unbeknownst to the driver, one of the lost suitcases contained 31 diamond rings and he got a $100 tip for returning it to the owner.

The list reminded me of a lovely short story by the Italian author, Corrado Alvaro, in which a ruby as big as a hazelnut, a famous stone, bearing a famous name and said to be of enormous value, is left behind in a cab, by an Indian Maharaja travelling to New York. It is picked up by an Italian emigrant, a simpleton, who is about to return home. He had a habit of picking up odds and ends and was thrilled to add this red crystal to his impressive collection of twelve fountain pens, hair clippers, American cloth and a metal object whose function mystified him.

He decides to keep it as a lucky charm for the future, reasoning that “ the various objects one picks up just before leaving a foreign country are apt to acquire an extraordinary souvenir value, giving one, as it were, a foretaste of distance and nostalgia”. It was just such an affection he felt for this lump of crystal. He regarded it as a kind of talisman. “It became one of those useless objects we cherish all our lives and never have the strength to get rid of, so that in the end they become part of us and even family heirlooms.”

Whereas important things that we watch over or hide away disappear, trivia such as the crystal lump he had never got lost, he noted. It would always remain with him and remind him of the day he was returning home to his village in Italy, after 5 years in New York.

One day, his son picks up the crystal to use as a missile in a game played by boys of the village, that involved knocking down castles of hazelnuts by throwing a heavier one at it. And, that was the end of the priceless ruby or the lump of crystal.

So, the next time you are in a New York cab, do not forget to slip your fingers under the seat cushion and grab whatever object you can find. And, unlike the Italian simpleton, remember it could be of enormous value.

1 comment:

Usha said...

aiyo, I tried and all I got was some chewed up gum and an old tissue. karmam!