A chance meeting

According to Aviation data companies in the past year there were an average of 9,728 planes — carrying 1,270,406 people — in the sky at any given time… there are about 25000 plus number of crew members serving that huge number above.

I had got into the plane on a normal clear skies day with the wind at 10mph. The weather was hot and there was nobody I could complain to about it at that time. The plane was not planned at the sky bridge and the airport bus was to ferry us to the Boeing 737 that was parked on the tarmac quite close to exit 3 of the runway, so that it could make a quick getaway considering that it was already 30 minutes late from departure. The inbound run from the country to which I was flying was delayed and that set off the cascade as far as flight times was concerned.

The airport bus ferried us, about 60 passengers in all, in one bus. It seemed this was one day where everyone who had booked the flight were available at the exit gate considering the departure time had already elapsed. The bus made its way and moored itself to the star board side of the flight SD439 and as we came out of the air-conditioned comfort, the heat and the wind made quick bites at our skin as we climbed on to the flight deck, with hand baggage in tow.

The passengers including me settled into our seats by keeping our baggage and duty free supplies in the cabin loft, as we made minor adjustments to the seats and got ready for a 3 hour flight in the mid summer noon sky. The air hostesses; 3 of them were making us comfortable to get ourselves seated and I was glad the flight was not to even half of its capacity. That meant either I would get or not get a companion by my side seat. I was thinking of taking the window seat if no one took it and so my eyes were on the landing deck to see if any new passenger would come onboard.

None appeared, and the flight crew got the orders to close the doors and get ready for take off. The safety instructions came up on the screens, and we readied ourselves, as the jet taxied on to runway 2 waiting for the final signal to take off. Within minutes, it picked up speed and we were in the air taking a steep ascent before we leveled at 1000 feet or so, my eyes glued on to the screens for altitude and speed information.

You seem to have an eye for details, came the voice from behind. I turned back to see one lady who looked like an hostess sitting behind me. I wondered why she had taken that position, as most of them should have been at their designated seats during take off. Don’t worry I am off duty today, she said reading my thoughts.

Hello, I said, yes the take off and landings are special as also a bit nervous to me. Which one you fear most, asked she. By the way, I am Lucy and you,? I introduced myself. I fear takeoffs because of the plane taking its time as it gathers speed and the bumps on the runway not helping much. But did you know, landings are more difficult for the pilots to navigate. Yes, I replied but for the passengers like us, it seems a bit more easy.
Hmm she replied, looking straight into my eyes, I averted mine from her, as I felt a bit uneasy.

After the seat belt signs had gone away with the jet at around 10000 feet and still climbing, it was time for the refreshments. I opted for a can of juice and crackers and made myself comfortable. The lady behind was not to be seen as she appeared to be at the rear in the pantry. I shifted to the window seat though there was nothing much to see at this moment..this is the captain speaking we would be hitting rough weather in a couple of minutes so please put on your seat belts..the crew was running around to take the empty cans when the first wave of turbulence hit us..the plane dropped a bit giving us the butterflies and the wings outside were flaying wildly..hope they can take the stress..i prayed to myself..

Why do we pray when things look pretty bad. That’s how we are wired I guess I said smiling to her second appearance now next to me. Where had you gone..Oh just to see my fellow mates at work. Hope they were happy to get an extra hand today…Nope I didn’t assist them they needed no help since there are only few passengers to feed.

The liqour and soft drinks round had started and one of her colleagues came over stopped asking what would I prefer to which I thanked her saying it is fine. I won’t be having any. She went across to the passenger in front. Why, she didn’t ask you for any drink. It is okay. I don’t. Why did you say No..was it because I am sitting here, it was her turn to question. I do not while travelling, I replied.

Normally there are 4 persons who serve us. Is someone absent or is it you who is playing truant I joked.

There are 4 generally but I guess with 67 pax, 3 is a good number, she said as she held my hand firmly.

Within seconds the jet hit another volley of turbulence and I felt glad she had held me at that moment. Did you see that coming? Mmm experience you see, she smiled her sweetest smile revealing a set of pearl white teeth.

The other crew members looked a bit dazed or sad I couldn’t pin point on what exactly it was. It looked they were going about their tasks in a depressed way or was it stress.. I couldn’t guess.

Looks like your colleagues are tired or is there something else to it. You are very observant; yes they are tired. They didnt get rest yesterday night nor they were rested today. It happens to us; the stress, the separation from loved ones, all gets into us one day or the other and takes it toll on us. Life is a tough taskmaster on the ground as well in the air. How I worked to get this job and see how lifeless it seems now. We never get grounded once we get snuffed off in the midst of a tragedy.

At 30,000 feet the engines were cruising smoothly though my mind was disturbed after hearing her talk.

I didn’t want to change the subject yet asking her as to why she thought so, might be taken as intrusion of privacy.

What chances do we have while we are forced to land on water. I asked her and why do you people smile so much?

We are in a pressurised metal capsule depending on 2 engines and wings with a lot of electronics onboard. Add to it the weather, skills of the crew in the cockpit and the decisions they make, all this makes it stressful to us while we play host to hundreds of passengers like you. Some are at peace while some are curious and others too demanding at times… so we smile all the time; make it a part of our habit and suppress the frown to far off corners.

This job might seem glamourous to you from the ground but like each job it has its pros and cons.

What about my first question?

We do give instructions on how to conduct yourself if at all we need to land on water..but coming to think of it, it all depends on the reason which caused us to try to land on water. First of all this is no seaplane or an amphibian. The chances are less unless the plane is still manageable and the sea calm as a sheet which is rarely the case. You cannot have both options on your side unless the Lord decides to come on your side she said with a sad smile this time.

Have you served on other airlines or is this your first? This is my third and last she said with a delay..Contemplating retirement or a career switch asked I as she looked to me in her late thirties. Yes, a switch which I pulled yesterday. You see I am no longer serving…I called it a day yesterday..time to settle elsewhere where my … mind beckons. Her stunning eyes had me in their grip..I guess I should leave you now. You need to rest I guess, must have been a hectic week for you? Yes it was I smiled back. The cabin lights were switched off now and most of us were trying to grab a bit of sleep.

I saw her walking back to the crew members in the pantry.

I got up when another crew member asked me to adjust my seat as we were preparing for landing…I looked around for Lucy, she had not moved out of the pantry or must be resting herself in some seat as she was off duty.

Within minutes the plane landed at the destination, the pilot thanking us for taking the pleasant journey. I readied my retrieved backpack from the cabin loft and waited till the cabin doors got opened and we walked into the skybridge. I looked around for Lucy but she was not to be found…maybe I will catch up with her on my next flight, soothing myself, I got into the booked cab taking me home about 40 minutes away from the airport.

I got home and had my hands on the morning news paper in the evening. On the 3rd page I came across a column that read Air hostess commits suicide in hotel room yesterday morning…

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The Hidden Gold

Omprakash and Jaiprakash had migrated to the town with their mother from the village after their only strip of land was usurped by the landlord on the grounds that they did not make their payments toward the money they had loaned a few years ago.

Omprakash, the elder of the two was a lazy fellow, always complaining about others and even Jai, his brother. This had gone for a few years and their mother did not do much to reverse this habit of Om. They lived in a small shanty on the edge of the town, as they could not afford anything better.

One day, Om took up an argument with Jai and almost came to blows with him, and Jai was told to leave the house and never ever show his face to Om. Their mother was helpless as both of them were grown up now and she could not offer much to bring down frayed tempers.

Jai soon set up a small shop where he borrowed goods on credit from another shopkeeper and started selling them. With his hardworking nature and pleasing manners, customers thronged to his shop and within no time he prospered. A part of his earnings, he did sent to his mother through his assistant.

Om, though he had driven away Jai, was curious to know how Jai fared and one day went and stood in front of Jai’s shop for quite some time. Jai didn’t notice him as he was busy inside.

That evening Om started complaining, as was his usual wont, to his mother.
“I saw Jai today in his shop that he has setup. But he didn’t even bother to look at me, even though I stood for a full 15 minutes to glance at his face. I am sure he has got his hands on some hidden gold, as otherwise, how can he set up this shop in no time?”.

Om’s mother was tired of this and wanted to put an end this conversation soon. “You only drove him away last time saying you don’t want to see his face again and now you,  yourself go and stand in front of him to get a glimpse of his face?”.

She continued “Jai doesn’t need to get his hands on any hidden gold to prosper. His hard work and endearing nature alone would suffice to bring prosperity to him. If you go and drive him from there, he will go to another place and still prosper. The hidden gold, that you talk about, is hard work and a sincere nature. He has found it and therefore is way ahead of you. For you, it is still hidden by your veil of jealousy and attitude”.

Om had no answer to this, and walked off in a huff as such emotional taunts laced with philosophy from his mother never made any dent on his psyche…

Work is Worship

For those who have followed me recently, am republishing this post written 3 years ago, a long one for the happy weekend read.

Harish had come to the city 3 decades ago and barring a small stint at a bakery in his early formative years, he became a rickshaw puller just like thousand others across the country. Over the years, as the country progressed, there came the cycle rickshaws followed by the auto rickshaws but like many others Harish would not move up the ladder and persisted with his manual one and never thought of changing cities and pitched his tent in Calcutta where he had arrived in the 70’s.

Harish was in his late sixties and his daily schedule would be to have to his breakfast which consisted of rice gruel and a banana and then he would disappear into the big bustling city crowd and would be spotted at locations taking his passengers usually one or two with their luggage in tow. Passengers rarely remembered him, as for them, he was a means of cheap transport to be quickly forgotten as soon as they landed at their destinations. It always invoked the curiosity of people who have had the time to observe people like Harish to wonder about the source of  energy to pull their passengers with just two hands to their destinations miles away on roads that sometimes sloped upwards and downwards.

rickshaw puller
Credits: The Sunday Tribune

Harish due to some thought ingrained in his childhood had never visited a temple or never thought about the gods in them and always wondered whether people did get the benefit of visiting them. He must have carried hundreds nay a thousand in his umpteen trips up and down to holy shrines spread across the city. It was rather a coincidence, a strange one at that, having carted or transported so many devotees, he had never visited or entered a shrine so far, though he knew the gods and goddesses by their pictures that were splashed across by the religious minded across the city walls and in the outer precincts of the temples.

Harish lived alone all these years except for this month when he got company. It was Nandhu, a boy of 8 years, whom he had rescued from the streets on a night trip. Nandhu seemed to be abandoned by his relations in the city or he appeared genuinely lost as he thought. By the look of the poor boy, he appeared to be from a very poor background and experience told Harish to keep him with him till he grew up in age to fend for himself.

It was already 7 pm and since Nandhu was down with fever in the hut for the last two days, Harish had him at the back of his mind all day when he was scouting for work in the sun and rain who played their parts to perfection all through the day. Today was a bad day and he had made barely 60 rupees. Without at least 70, he could not take Nandhu to the doctor who lived near their shanty house for medicines. Moreover he had to get some food for dinner for both of them. He had been roaming through the city but somehow luck eluded him today. It only dawned upon him now that he had skipped his lunch like so many other days in the past.

A light drizzle had started and Harish was hopeful that someone would hail him to escape it. As minutes ticked by, he knew he had to reach and get Nandhu to the doctor before 9 PM after which Sarmaji, the doctor would not see anybody. At his wits end, his legs impatient and his mind failing to control them, in despair he cried out to the Lord, whom he knew very feebly, for help and looked around desperately for that one passenger who could give him the last 30 rupees after which he could wind up work for the day. With his legs aching and stomach on a raging fire he wondered if he would ever reach home today.  The small shops in the lane, where he and his cart were at standstill, were downing their shutters as the shop keepers too sensed that it was high time and with the rain not helping, they least expected any one to turn up at their shops.  The sun having set an hour ago, it was quite dark except for the feeble street lights which were quite a distance apart.

It was at this point of time, a couple emerged with some baggage and asked him if he could take them to the Ram Temple which was at a mile’s distance. The couple appeared young and dressed neatly in nice clothes, Harish wondered if he could reach them to their destination in time. Moreover the road to the temple was bad and had a slight slope and it would require all his strength to pull them across it. It was that moment of time the couple asked, as if in one voice, how much he would charge them. Harish was in two minds. He did not want to scare them away as he desperately needed the 25 or 30 as he had calculated earlier and asked them for 25, which was very fair considering the time and the weather.

The couple hopped on to his carriage after a bit of bargaining and settling it at 20 rupees not withstanding Harish’s fervent pleas. After the price had been fixed it was left to Harish to show his experience to handle the cart and his passengers deftly as he pulled them slowly on to their destination. It took him a short and gasping run in the last 200 meters before he reached the temple just in time or so he thought. The couple got down and thanked him and he had to wait for the lady to count 20 coins and hand them to his outstretched hands. A lightening streak flashed, as she handed him the money, with the help of which he could see the charming couple’s faces. It seems they were newly married and had come to the temple as was the custom in those places on a Thursday. He saw them climbing up the stairs and entering the shrine.

The despair call to the Lord an hour ago had worked and Harish wondered if it really was because of the Lord’s blessings, he had gained this last trip. Since it was so late and he having made his wages for subsistence for the day, he thought of entering the temple for the first time in his life. He had a lot of doubts as he climbed each step. What if the Pujari or the temple priest would shout at him for coming in such shabby and torn clothes? Nevertheless he walked on and entered the temple. There was no one in sight and having gained courage with each step, he walked on to explore the inner precincts of the shrine. He came to different places of worship allocated to each god or a goddess at various places inside the shrine. All this time, he was looking around with fear and awe, as with time, he still could not see anyone in the temple. Holding on to the coins, he at last reached the sanctum sanctorum where he saw the main deity and his consort and immediately recognized them by their robes and faces as his passengers who had graced his rickshaw, a few minutes ago.

Tears ran down his eyes and he felt his life had met its purpose having transported the Lord and his Consort in his rickshaw to the temple. As he prostrated on the floor in front of the shining glory with folded hands, he took care lest the coins would fall away and was struck with surprise when he counted them later to be exactly 25 coins, the price that he had asked initially and that too shining gold coins…

Happy New Year 2017

With the days few and the years fewer, take care whenever you catch a fever…
For the days are going to be challenging nevertheless in the new year.
With competition waiting to put you aside while you lose your focus…
Take each day as it comes, like a cricket ball, play and live by its merits.
Do not count on your past to live the future, as each day comes with a new shine…
Wear the polish off each single day by enjoying the minutes of the day.
Do not blame the workplace nor the spectators who would like you to perform or fail..
for your destiny is in how best you handle both and still come out a winner.
Accumulate glory and wisdom as you add the days to your age…
Live life to the full and let no critics ask you to retire.

Wishing you the very best in the New Year….

Making of a Guru

The wind wound up its path and made a detour
only to face poor me and accord a warm welcome
The canoe in which I was seated, wobbled slightly
not sure of how it would handle the shallow rocks.

The dried up lake seemed to end all of a sudden
its path cut off by a long line of rounded rocks
the jarring made by the canoe prompted me
to desert it, having reached new found land.

The jump into the slush was a rough landing
I made my way to the parched land, with cattle
looking at me, an intruder to their grazing fields
dried as it was, I wondered on what they fed.

I could see a pall of smoke rising from a few huts
the distance to it was still far for my tired legs
A tree came into view with a few stones around
I decided to sit for some time to rest myself.

I sat in a trance, and I knew not, how time passed
My beard and dress and long hair gave me a look
of a saintly man, though I had fled away from sins
The only option was now to make a new beginning.

When I opened my eyes, I could see a few men
waiting for me to open my dried eyes and behold
what miracles I could perform for them, a poor lot
was what I thought, as they prostrated themselves.

I smiled at them and that lit up their eyes and ears
for they wanted me to perform and speak words
only the wise could speak, with souls enlightened
could they follow me, is what came to mind first.

The words flowed from them, and was I thrilled
to understand, and when I spoke, they listened
for they thought I was a savior sent by the Lord
to heal their wounds of despair and woes of life.

They seem to have everything in plenty but not
in bounty, was rain that made the land parched
them having to walk the distance to the water
where I made my descend a few hours away.

They offered fruits and water and was I thankful
when providence and attention was riveted upon
poor me, who was a fugitive all these months
having got into fights and theft before I could rest.

I waved them off, tired to smile back at every them
listening to murmurs and pleas from elderly folks
they having crowded so close to look at me,
a specimen who spent solitary years in a cell.

The next day the people went about their tasks
some huddled in front of me, a welcome guest
who they thought would bring them benefits,
if only I knew, glory was to bestowed upon me.

A spade lying across was now gleaming at me
asking as if to get up and make its life meaningful
it is when I thought I could make mine too with it
having decided to bring the river to this village.

When I started work, amused kids joined the fray
villagers were not left behind lest I cursed them
for not joining the holy activity and before long
a pond and a canal was dug with no water to feed.

I looked up at the sky, there was no cloud in sight
If only, I wished, it  rained, the weather so ripe
I managed to set up a prayer and a feast for all
joining to get divine help for the parched land.

The collective group prayed with me for days
waiting for a miracle to happen with me in tow
getting tired and with faint hopes diminishing
by the hour, my divinity was put to the test.

I did not lose hope and worked on the pond
with collective hopes getting faded by the day
a few people now dismissed me as a mad man
who knew nothing but to dig his own grave.

The flow of flowers and the fruits dried up on me
as I meditated upon nature, to provide the bounty
not riches, but pure water only could it provide to
make the land and my new life worthwhile.

One day, it did rain, when we were least prepared
the flowing water filled the canal and wet the pond
the next day, with tidings came the river gushing
plenty, it filled the mighty pond as did our hearts.

These days, I am a Guru, giving my blessings to all
from poor folk to rich ones, from near and afar
and what better person could teach them than me,
a fugitive, who had learnt to live life the better way…

A Working day

I got into the elevator wondering
if it was going to be a busy day
When my client on the phone asked
with raised voice, what was I up to
I knew it was going to be a hot day.

It seemed my customer was waiting
for an hour, tired of my baiting.
humid air in the cabin not helping
it was a tough day for selling
while to others, it was a cool day.

Just as I managed to tame him well
my wild boss called to my discomfort
rushing to him was a daily effort
thinking, was it worth the effort?
made me drench on a sweaty day.

On the bus back, the wind in my face
jostling the crowd, to keep my space
I had to count on my shoelaces
to keep me from tripping in my chase
to reach my home from a working day.