Monday Musings: Inspiration in the skies
It would be a lie if I claimed that I did not notice the dimples on the fellow passenger as I took my seat on the rather long flight. The long haul flight took off and everyone got busy in the routine – food, reading, relaxing. She was struggling to plug her mobile in the charging point between the seats and asked for help. I obliged although could not accomplish the simple task as there was something wrong with the plug point. We called the air hostess and struggled together, finally realising that it could not be done – the faulty plug point had however had managed to break the ice. As is the wont of two travellers, we got talking.
Travel companionship is a strange phenomena – no one can predict if it will blossom and if it does blossom then to what extend will it go. It can range from meaningless ‘’my name is- I work/live in-I grew up in-state of Indian politics-Indian businesses to slightly deeper exploration of ‘’what are you reading-favourite authors-books-movies-philosophies’’. Sometimes you just don’t strike the conversation as you want to be left alone to your own means to brood or reflect as the case might be. Sometimes the co-passenger does not give you good vibes and you want to withdraw. Sometimes the vibes are good, conversations starters are aplenty but sheer hesitation nips in infancy what could have been a great possibility. I wondered what would be this one. Thankfully the plug point came to the rescue.
It took an hour or so to wrap up the basic information exchange – of who we were, why were we going to where were we going and other such banalities which forms the basic foundation of what can be termed as ‘sizing each other up’ stage between total strangers – the result of this exchange decides if there is anything whatsoever in common, if there is a chemistry of comfort, an unsaid faith in the vibes, that will decide if the conversation will move to deeper realms or not. I call this the anatomy of conversation between strangers. The half life of such conversations and relationships usually is the duration of the flight. Not always though.
I had a thick Leo Tolstoy, ‘Anna Karenina’ in my hands and she asked me what the book was about. I told her whatever impressions I had about the book – that it was about love, relationships, class and the futility of high society pretentions as described in it. Something changed in her eyes as I spoke – I don’t know which part had that impact. I described Anna the lead protagonist of the novel to her – that she was fiery and beautiful, courageous and iconoclast, fragile and strong, all at the same time. She smiled and said ‘’..Looks like she is a lot like me’’. I asked her to explain.
I have always wondered why sometimes it’s so easy to share our vulnerabilities, our angst and our deepest wounds and hurts to strangers – maybe we just want to be heard or maybe we do not fear being judged. Proximity muddles perspectives – distance sharpens it. May be Anna was just an excuse – she just wanted to share. I had not bargained for the privilege of being ushered into her life in such matter of fact manner – as if there was no fuss in it. The fact that we were strangers was beside the point – inconsequential in the scheme of connectedness.
She tells her story like grannies do – to the point, with a certain detachment that only wisdom has the capability to achieve. She shares that she fell in love at an early age and decided to marry much against the wishes of the family. Youth has a mind of its own. Soon the dream sequence turned into a nightmare as the scourge of domestic violence and mental harassment raised its head. It was difficult to deal with the twin trauma of the situation – of the tyranny of the circumstance on hand and of the corroding pain that it was brought upon her by her own error of judgement. I could imagine her helplessness as a young person tormented by the burden of a choice horribly gone wrong; of her hesitation in seeking help from family who might have said that one thing that a person in trouble wants to hear the least -‘’told you so’’. So one day she gathers courage, calls in the cops, breaks free, reaches out to her family and puts an end to this misery. A few years later love comes calling again when a colleague evinces interest in her. After seeking parental consent she agrees. I ask her if it was difficult to give love another chance. She says it was not very difficult, particularly after a very encouraging discussion with her father. ‘’Just because one choice has gone sour does not mean we stop making choices – we must not lose faith in our instinct to search happiness despite knowing that at the end of the day it’s a roll of dice. Just because it’s a roll of dice does not mean we don’t play the game’’- she paraphrases. In the manner in which she is recounting the story I see neither regret, not pain, neither anguish nor grief – just a recollection of events as they occurred. The nonchalance with which the story is being recounted is so refreshing in times when it is quite normal to parade our version of the story as the only truth. I thought she was courageous and wise beyond her years.
As the plane taxied on the runway a few hours later we bid goodbye to each other like strangers do at the end of the journey – knowing very well this was it. It ends here. The story remained with me though – of courage, of optimism, of dusting off the fall and getting up again to give life another chance. As she smiled with the goodbye, the last thing I remember seeing were the dimples – dimples that dared!!