Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Don't take away my duty free ritual!
Apologies for the delay in this posting, folks.

The news in the Middle East has resulted in a lot of our planned shoots for Art of Life being modified to accommodate my role as anchor of CNN Today.

I was supposed to go to St. Tropez a couple of weeks ago to interview Puffy/P. Diddy/Puff Daddy. He was there to shoot a commercial for his new fragrance Unforgivable, as well as to host his annual White Party. That assignment was given to my colleague Justin Armsden. I'm trying to get him to cough up some gossip on how it went. All he will say is it wasn't the easiest of shoots. Hmm ... loaded statement, I know.

In the midst of all the activity in the newsroom about the current conflict in Lebanon and Israel, another story erupted, which was the alleged terrorist plot to blow up aircraft over the Atlantic that was supposedly foiled.

Now if indeed there was a plot, it will have resulted in a few things:
1) A thinking (or hope) that British and American intelligence is working.
2) A potentially massive disaster was averted and
3) The way we shop at the duty free stores before we board our planes may change for ever.

While the first two are good news, the third is what has me not looking forward to flying. See, whenever I go on a trip for Art of Life, I try to make sure I leave for the airport extra early just so that I can browse through the stores (and maybe pick up a few things like perfumes, make-up, and if I'm being really extravagant, a lovely handbag.) Not only that, when I'm about to go on holiday, I love just browsing the drugstores and even liquor stores for my Dad who looks forward to a nice bottle of Scotch whenever I go home to visit.

But if these new rules are here to stay, my pre-boarding ritual will be gone. Sounds selfish, I know, but I and the millions of people who travel every day are contributing to what amounts to $25 billion in global sales in duty free shops worldwide. After all, shopping at luxury stores at the duty free counter can be considerably cheaper than elsewhere.

At the time of writing this I'm hearing rumblings that some of the tight restrictions are being lifted (we all knew that not carrying a handbag on the flight would be unfeasible -- although not being able to carry any make-up still has me quite concerned). And duty free shopping after you've gone through your security check is back on. Hallelujah! OK, so I may not be able to buy perfume or make-up but I can still browse, buy books and magazines, and maybe even get my shopping fix at the designer shops at Heathrow.

By the way, the Art of Life team is planning on travelling to Indonesia in a couple of weeks for a story on an holistic resort in Bali. Hopefully by then there will be some semblance of normality at the airport. We're all going to need a holistic experience after those long lines!

Seriously though, since 9/11 life as we know it has changed. Maybe it's my generation and the ones after me that are now realizing this. After all, our parents and grandparents have been through World Wars and revolutions. Whether our realisation manifests itself in tight security at airports or an understanding that there are people out there who want to hurt others, the reality is that feeling of safety that many of us had growing up isn't really there anymore. It's not naivete to feel that only now. It's an understanding that our lives are all interconnected in ways we probably wouldn't want to imagine -- that it's about us and them.

The hard part though is deciphering who is who. I only hope that little children growing up in this world of 24-hour news channels and endless coverage of "what could happen" and what is happening will be spared that rude awakening and when travelling with their parents for family vacations, they will still have that happy-go-lucky feeling.
Posted By Leetlegirl: Wednesday, August 16, 2006
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CNN anchor Monita Rajpal blogs about her experiences filming the "Art of Life" show.

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