Sunday, October 06, 2013

Say I Love You, Everytime You Walk Through A Door

Image from Wikimedia Commons

This blog is about a lesson I gained when flying from Chandigarh to Mumbai after a short personal visit. Our aircraft was waiting on the tarmac for its cue to take off. Every now and then cries of “Paneer, I will miss you so much” and “Sector 17 rocks. Down with Andheri” punctured the strangely awkward silence that had enveloped the plane.

I say strangely, for a space full of North Indians is usually many wonderful things, but rarely is it quiet. It was almost as if everyone on the aircraft had some sort of premonition about the things to follow. I glanced across the aisle to my three college buddies.
  1. The excitable South Indian returning to what South Indians call their native.
  2. The Mumbai girl rolling her eyes about something that was so 2012. Whatever.
  3. The Navi Mumbai guy fondly thinking of the Harbor Line.
I guess, if someone had looked at me to pass judgment, they would not have failed to notice the typical good looking Pune chap furiously figuring out ways to stereotype everyone on the plane.

But that’s not what the blog is about. My study of my friends was interrupted by the pilot announcing that he expects mildly wild weather on the way to…[Followed by a pause and sound of shuffling paper] …Mumbai.

The engines revved, the lights dimmed, and the pilot sighed. (This should have been our first warning). I looked up and found the air-hostess staring down the passenger section and shaking her head like Raakhee Majumdar every time she is told that  Amrish Puri has killed another of her sons.

And we were on our way. Well, almost.

Remember those Reader’s Digest special features on facing death and experiencing life changing moments? The person at the center of it all is taking his family and friends for granted. He is going about things in a carefree manner, usually whistling to show that he is carefree.

Bang. A chain saw comes loose. A beam unhinges. Boiling water tips over. A giant Ladoo rolls down the hill.

A voice in our hero’s head tells him that he took work too seriously. He is going to die soon. He should have listened to “If Tomorrow Never Comes” by Garth Brooks and Promiscuous Girl by Nelly Furtado more carefully. He laments about not telling his loved ones how much he loved them. A moment before impact, he writes that article for the magazine, goes to the post office, stops on the way for a smoke and then dies.

Back to the aircraft from Chandigarh to Mumbai. As it picked up pace, it started to move from side to side on the runway like it was trying hard to avoid something. Or as is the case on North Indian roads, hit something. Someone screamed at the back of the plane. I closed my eyes to find an image of Bane whispering. “Calm Down Doctor. Now is not the time for fear. That comes later.”

The runway refused to run out, the aircraft remained reluctant to take off, and the awkward silence from a moment ago was replaced by one that was completely eerie. The whole plane was now one single living thing. And it was shitting in its pants. I looked at my friends.

1.       The South Indian was chanting Rajnikant Rajnikant.
2.       The Navi Mumbaikar was muttering something about the next stop being CBD Belapur.
3.       The Mumbai girl was rolling her eyes. Jimmy Choo. Whatever.

The machine gave in and finally took off. This was reason enough for someone to scream. “Don’t worry” I heard someone else say, “We are in the air”

More reason to worry, the screamer replied.

No sooner were the words said, that we heard a long and hard grinding noise from the undercarriage. Normally, it signals the retraction of the wheels but that night the noise was different and prolonged. It was the sound that lasted for ever. It was the love child of Anu Malik and Himesh Reshmaiya crying out on having his bums forced over a cheese grater. Our plane moaned and bled, and beautiful unicorns and exotic butterflies died a painful death in some part of the universe.

“What is happening?” someone asked. “Lightening hit us” Someone replied. “No, we hit a bird”, another voice said.

And then the plane went down.
This is how it feels.

People screamed, the South Indian jumped on his seat, Mumbai girl went vacant in her eyes, and I told myself that it was such a shame to have life end this way. I closed my eyes. I prayed. Think straight. Be practical. What would Liam Neeson do?

The plane corrected itself. Momentarily. Before hitting another air pocket. And people screamed like you will not believe it. The person in front of me pressed the button to call the air-hostess. Possibly for a glass of water? A packet of chips?

The air-hostess, strapped in her chair and facing us, looked hard at that man. It was the DGCA approved method of saying “F off”

The aircraft continued its struggle against gravity by going up and down alternately. I closed my eyes again and prayed to God to help me make it through tonight. I will be nice to everyone. I am so young and unbelievably beautiful to die this way.I opened my eyes, and to distract myself read the Flight Safety Manual for the first time in my life. 

One of my friends looked in my direction and screamed. “GP Is reading the safety manual! “

The plane erupted in an explosion of screams. “He is reading the safety manual”. Someone said “Look at the Wing. Look at the Wing” People climbed over one another to throw their faces at the windows.

“They are on fire”

“They are missing”

“They are of the wrong size for this plane”

"They are like my....The Left One is lower than the..."

The wings waved back at our faces. “Hello, what’s up?”

I continued to send mental I love You’s to everyone I had known. Quickly allowing myself to go through memories, faces, books, songs, events and experiences that in their own ways brought so much joy during my time on earth. I thought of my parents and how annoyingly tall my sister is. I thought of all the wonderful friends over the years. I thought of my wife. And how her eyes glitter when someone mentions the mountains that she comes from. I thought of all the stupid dogs with all those stupid wet noses. I thought of you, reading this.

On cue the weather cleared up. The frequent lightening we had seen receded in our wake. We made it to Mumbai safely. Another shot at life, I guess. If you want to be dramatic about things.

But it was scary when it happened. And if there is one thing, I would like everyone to take from this blog is the line between being a part of a list in a newspaper report, and reading one is not as thick as you believe it to be. I learned it on that flight. 

Every day you live is made of a thousand ways in which you don’t die. While our sense of mortality should not overwhelm us and freeze us up, it is also something not to be lightly ignored. YOU WILL DIE. I WILL DIE. Everyone who reads this will die. Even those who forward this blog to ten people in the next ten minutes will die.  You death will be serene, but you will die nevertheless.

I started by saying this blog is about a lesson I gained while flying from Chandigarh to Mumbai. It is actually a sum of two parts running in separate directions. The first one is for those who find it difficult to express their love, like I do.  While we can’t control the instruments of our death, what we can do is tell everyone how much we love them. Let me just say loud and clear, each one of you is awesome.

The second part is for those who find it difficult to read between the lines when dealing with people like us. And I know, there are many, who are not too good with saying those three words. But if you look closely enough, every time our type walks out of that door and looks back – we are saying I LOVE YOU. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING ! 

There I said it. Now you should too. 

And Yes, one last thing before you die. Subscribe to my blog , Join me on Facebook and Follow Me On Twitter Ok ?

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