Saturday, July 30, 2011

Matters of Fact

Over the years a regulation that is so true and that I trust, is the fortune of having friends who are quite a notch above me, as persons- intellectually and as general human beings. To be peeved and be jealous of the qualities or achievements of one’s friends is as foolish as sky diving without parachutes, as trekking to the poles in your sneakers.. To be sequestered in a circle of friends or even acquaintances who are better persons than one, will only enhance one’s being and to think otherwise is because of the paucity of commonsense and the stranglehold of ego. Both can be detrimental.

I advise my children, A and R who are much charmed by the small number of my intimate friends, (as many as half as the fingers I have) that each one of them are notches above me as individuals and in their own distinct ways. They have been from the days they began toddling around as bundles of joy privy to the close relationship, bonhomie that I maintained with these fellows. Both A and R, was closest to one of the guys  who was star-struck in himself ( ‘star –struck’ refers to  a story, an anecdote referring him, I once mentioned in a Blog post on C’s gaffes)  more than they were to us, their parents. And even to this day A is still joyously  animated when he meets him- the hug and kisses..! Whilst R has developed a social restraint that probably age brings to girls. I and C used to once refer to him as the pediatric who lived with us (he was in my house on a transfer to my place of work for almost three years). And that was when he showed his deftness in babysitting and both A and R got so moonstruck by him,( girls generally are and also so he thinks even to this day). His late parents were immensely  affectionate to us (me and the small circle we kept), in a way that they may have even thought of thrashing us as they did him. They were unique loving parents, and those qualities have been greatly infused in him. The help, the support which he and his demure wife extended me and C many years ago in a crisis was a life time apart, which ones very own siblings may desist and ignore.

I, once in a Post titled “An officer and a Gentleman” wrote a about another close friend, whose singular obsession and spirit has seen him become one of the decorated and dedicated officers in the Indian Army, and is now very near to the top of  the pyramid - the hierarchy. It is certainly a matter of pride for me than for him!

And then the ever green unblemished boy old as I’m! He stays so even in his fifties. Modest and affectionate, and was my trusted pillion on many motorcycle diaries we could pen about. A modest, helpful fellow in his own silent way.

Fortunately, despite the intemperate attribute that subsume my character I have been quite able to manage friends with diverse predilections and moorings.

I first noticed this burly grizzly bear standing by the gate of the blocks of apartments where I lived in Cochin.  He displayed a fearful, Kathi expression (those who have a lay idea about the dance drama Kathakali will know what Kathi vesham is),each time I and my fellow -in-mates passed him at the gate. He threw glances that sent the message, “nihilist rascals, exhibitionists, nuisance creationists.” and many other expletives that only he knew about. I felt that he aspired and claimed to be the only modest, cultured and decent individual in that vicinity, while we were impertinent and irritants best avoided, got ridden.

Then one night he crashed (virtually) through the door of my room, with my roommate in tow .He had come there to borrow some pornographic books (in the early eighties we were not lucky to have the luxury of PCs and the NET).My mate introduced him to me. ”Man look here, this is another specimen from your town and look what he has come for”. He shook hands with an impish giggle. What a contrast from the fearful sentinel at the gate, I thought to myself!
And from that day about thirty years ago, to this I have not had one instance to disbelieve that  his rough exterior  is a face of affability. But why? Like the pines of porcupine! Only he can tell!

I was an average reader mostly confined to the ordinary world of less thinking and more pleasure that was fictions of the genre of a J.H.Chase  , Desmond Bagley ,Alistair Maclean and some Earl Stanley Gardner stuff. Though excursions to other books of substance like Dumas, Dickens, SKP, MT, Maurice Procter, James Leasor was not uncommon. But a revelation into the wide expanse of Hemmingway, O’Henry, Maugham, Peter Matheson, a distinctly new appraisal of matters through an introduction to J.Krishnamurthy , the awe world of National Geographic ( I ‘m a subscriber of the magazine, now for almost thirty years), these were some of the lasting  gifts that I could imbibe from the association with this beefy guy.

He and the Narcissus whom I mentioned early were (I must say) the best men who managed the tense moments at my home after my proposing to C, a catholic, evoked a discernible quake.

Obstinately passionate about mountains, the fellow perhaps would have been better off born to nomads in the mountains. He was also instrumental in instilling ideas of environmental care and conservation .A fiercely private person even be it his spouse and as individualistic as she is, if not an iota more. Possessive about the tiny little private space that he zealously demands for himself and also agrees that is the right of every individual. An affectionate fellow who may not succeed in diplomacy, niether at home or outside.And I realise and give up at this age that it is best to leave him with his idiosyncrasies and his liberty to be himself. It is always a trifle silly to expect, even it be your close as close can be friends that they be congenial to the pedestal that you want them to be. Because when the nuance of personality is lost and then, I guess they become strangers and friends no more. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Contagion

Sometimes I wonder why do people always sport a smile, why are some jubilant in words and the way they conduct. Even in the 'Blogdom' some have not yet posted a piece that is melancholic or depressing. In the presence of some, one could feel their positive, happy chemistry in the air. They spread the redolence of their being, their personality. That becomes contagious.

Whereas some like me though not the exact opposite, one may not find the fullness of the day neither vocally nor in what is now ostentatiously aired on the Blogs. It may be that, only the limited few are my friends is because I'm  so .And the many prefer to vanish at my sight? Yet some are very depressing to be with and gives the feeling that one is cloistered in a subterranean drain. Some people seem to radiate only the sunny side of life. It can be a wonder if it is so true about their lives in real!

Cynicism is betrothed to the state of disappointment in the mind. Isn’t it? But often one cannot help not being cynical and any amount of contrived exuberance may not help and may be unfair to ones reason. But still why is it that some have only stories of ill, sadness and tragedy to tell? To some the dissatisfactions and discontent they get or see in life reflects in their countenance as penumbra and again, even that is also contractable.
My friend often talks about corroding one’s mind and the black bile would diffuse in your being. The intent of his advice is warm, but what may become corrosion to some may not be necessarily the outcome always. Reactions, thought or action is corollary to what we have in life as I mentioned before. The goodness that we had may be imbibed to pervade in ourselves. And to me reactions are an outcome of the situation. I do not see corrosion afflicting my mind, but the reaction on the contrary washes out the pent up elements that can corrode .For me it is a letting out, fortunately so, because by nature I confine .Again it differs from people to people.

But it takes a great effort to radiate positivity and only that. Or is it in the body chemistry, inborn? To not tell a sad story, to not hold bad blood, but to see only the goodness in things is a very lofty trait. Though I would debate if wishing away will make bad not exist, perhaps?

Sathyan Anthikad is a very good director of movies. He has been churning out movies in Malayalam, from the late seventies. I have not missed even one movie of his. What is unique and that stands out in his films and stories are the ending. It is always felicitous and happy. There are no villains in his movies. Yes there are elements that seem lost, who stumble, but they seldom evoke a feeling of revulsion, disgust, fear or dislike in the viewer. We sometimes even pity the bad and the ugly in his movies. The goodness that is in life that we all would like to see is with what he ends his movies.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

In Search of The Time Machine

It is a misfortune that befalls man that we get wiser (supposedly) only as we age and live through a considerable part of our existence. It is no wonder that the eponymous tooth of wisdom, the wisdom tooth breaks through the molars at a later stage in life! And in the middle ages of our life or when we are all most over the hill that we look back and feel what was in store for us and what we missed, what we did not. Then you feel having wasted much.  But then it’s quite late for introspections- to bring back time that went by and we have to sigh with breath of regret-for moments that we missed, things that eluded us, that we did not notice, we did not appreciate, perhaps with little bit of wisdom, it could have been different. Why did it have to be me? The question comes up.

Someone once told me long ago, when I was single and leading a fairly irrepressible living that it was only until he became a father that he knew what it is to be one. He said he then deeply regretted his missed opportunities and life denied, as a son. I did not think much about the statement then. But as years went by and now often, I could feel deep, the pang of the reality of what he said. I can only hope and wish the A and R may not three decades from now sit back and muse like I do. Because with relationships, what we miss and lose at the moment is lost forever. There is no time machine or “black hole’ to board and journey back in life, in time.

My relationship with my father as (brief) as it was for less than two decades was not even a roller coaster like, it was cold- from my point of view. Yes, now I do remember that, he had mourned to mom on a few occasions that I maintain a painful distance from him. Indeed that was the case. The simple matter was that I did not much like him, was afraid, was uncomfortable when he was around and that reflected in my moods and my behaviour. Quite a misfortune as a father for him and as a son for myself!

Why and how that feeling enveloped my relationship with him is not quite known to me, its genesis is something I cannot now recollect or point precisely. However trying it is to build up stray incidences and bits from distant and faint memory! I can recall that he was a disciplinarian of sorts. He, I feel often targeted me and was critical of me, reprimanding me often from my early age I can remember – let me say as six year old. He used to compare me with the boy next doors and ridicule me for not being like the jolly good smart fellow like his friend’s son , a distant relative – a  boy or girl displaying  a flowing outward charm and speaking without fear the good Anglican language. He, I do not know if it was the fall out of his Air Force  days insisted that we speak English and converse at home in English. Something I detested because I was not comfortable speaking that language. Though the early education was in a respectable convent run by a very old order of nuns, there was no diktat that only English must be spoken at school. Yes the nuns who were at that period mostly from outside the country did not speak Malayalam they never were not silly and false like the Neolithic educationist of this day. I remember that once he slapped me in the face, for something that irritated him. And mom was quite harsh with him for that. Not that Mother was an epitome of softness and feather touch. She was quite tough and would vent her other irritations on me. Father would, whenever he could and have me in his sights, begin his advice, his lecture on how to be in life. Perhaps there was a bit much of the dose that was not to my liking. Not that I was a saintly fellow at that. He, I now feel was a bit unsure of my direction .And did he fear that I may turn out to be the lamb that went astray? Now I understand that the apprehension about one’s children is in every father, parent.

But should that constrict the child to an extent where the freedom to breathe freely in their presence do not exist? Freedom to be with children of the same age? Freedom to dream like children does? But be sort of incarcerated within the four walls what was called a home? I feel that the answer to these asking will be provided by my children. I’m certain they are at home and do not feel asphyxiated.

A particular incident that is still haunting me when I think of him was one that bled me to a considerable extent when it happened. I was eleven or twelve years of age and not more. There was this very important football tournament that was held in Thpuram in the 1970’s. It was an All India affair where clubs like Mohan Bagan, MH Sportings, East Bengal, Vasco Goa, JCT Mills etc used to compete. The carnival used to be for forty five days. The match began at 5 in the evening and was over by 6.30pm. My maternal grandfather who was among the respected gentry of that time was given a VIP complimentary pass to watch the tournament in full. He gave me the pass and asked me to enjoy the matches. I was thrilled and it was seamless. I ran home from school and was at the stadium in the elite VIP box before the players began their warm up. It was a dream come true. The next morning back in school I was the cynosure, the one who has the ticket for the tournament and that too an elite pass.

The exhilaration and euphoria was mercilessly wrenched out and my father was the villain of the piece. After a few days he found out that I have been rollicking at the tournament. He asked me from where I got the tickets or the money for them. I told him appuppa (grandfather) gave me a VIP pass. He asked me to fetch the pass. And when I did, he snatched it from me and curtly decreed that it was time that I began my studies in earnest and not waste time at these places. Later I found that he gave the pass he wrenched out from me to one of his close friends. I still cannot chance a word to describe his doing or my feelings. Did I begin to hate him then? I think I did, it was the gradual slide into gradation from not liking into hate.But that was just one of the few incidents that began to eclipse him from my mind, sadly though.

Looking back I feel miserable for him, but the damage that he perhaps unwittingly inflicted on his image as a father and my psyche resulted in losses to us both.
And no time machine can help!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Common Trait

Sometime ago I happened to see on TV a live footage of  the aftermath of a minor collision involving a motor bike. There were quite a few onlookers around the accident spot and in animated arguments. Little scuffles also seemed to happen. Then came a Maruti car, which stopped nearby. A man alighted from the car came eagerly into the crowd, he jumped through the small group and gave two hard slaps to the guy who was probably the rider of the bike. And he exited as delightfully as he came.
This, though comical to watch, perhaps tells the underlying psyche of people. The uncontrollable passion and eagerness to comment on anything and everything of which they may not know much. To pillory someone without even knowing the antecedents of the matter.

When the going is wonderful or seems to be so there may not be accolades, but when one stumbles you have raised hoods coming at you from all possible places. Authoritative dissertations, statements and, advices even unsolicited are thrown at you by all and sundry. The cruel and equally jocular aspect is that none of these opinionated gentry has been privy to the road that you have tread and the travails that you have felt or survived. How great it will be if one could retrospectively correct the course, and out- fly the insightful ones!
Is it proper then to make an imperiously authoritative statement on something that we cannot honestly claim to know about? Commenting with mere speculative knowledge and hearsay to substantiate our opinion is quite unjustified. But then the world is such that we have more people who know more about our life, our difficulties, our means and sources of happiness and distress than we ever could.

I think that it is the pleasure that people get when they involve with something that they have no knowledge about and make statements like they were  experts of the matter, that drives people to be so. Like the man who ran out of his car to slap some stranger he presumed was the villain of the piece,  how often have we uttered things that may have added to another’s misery, all along being aware of our ignorance of the truth of the matter.
What goes on these days in television news channels ( call them ‘tabloids’) perfectly sums up the state of the matter. Tragedies are dissected to suit the ratings, victims are disregarded  and culprits are decided by the visual media, carefully playing on the mindset of the gullible viewers. The pleader, the juror , the judge and the executioner is the media. A blatant trampling of privacy and ones basic rights.

It must be a careful tread I guess, else  may result in mauling an already bruised person. Isn’t it better to be silent, quiet and  sympathetic than be a marauding ,boorish and insensitive? It is quite true , that when the going is good you have a score and many to revel with you and in distress may be your ghostly shadow for company and brick bats to chase you.

But  then  why must you be sensitive to someone’s feelings and plight? That is what is in most minds.
Ironical life is! Indeed it is!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Just Another Story

I met this guy the first time many years ago on the Nilagiri Express from Coiambatore to Chennai. We boarded the locomotive from Tiruppur. We were both in the second class compartment. He was in his late twenties. Christy and Aravind (who was a baby and about two years) were with me. He had met Christy before at some official meetings and seemed to be fairly well aware of her and where she came from, so on and so forth. Aravind got quite friendly with him during the travel and was reluctant to come away to sleep. We got to begin casual chat and by the time we arrived at Chennai early morning the next day, we got to know one other quite well. I felt it vibed. An infamous person I'm at creating friendship or acquaintance!

He was a senior level merchandising manager in a multi crore garment manufacturing and export company. We did not have any contacts after, for quite a while. And at some point we got again in touch. I asked him for dinner at our home and he obliged. We went to his parent’s house in Chennai during one of our travel. His mother liked Christy much, and since she was adept in being liked and affable to any stranger, they jelled.. He hailed from a respectable family – an erudite, scholarly father- retired as the principal teacher and since researching in temple architecture of Kerala. Mother was a fiercely strong willed woman. Loving, caring and very matter of fact! She was insistent that the children send her a certain sum every month (I guess it was about Rs 5000) without fail, and did not care if they starved because of that. And she meticulously planned that money into bank accounts in the boys’ credit. She once told Christy, 'I have to force-out this money from the boys- else they will be penny less one day. For thrift and care for the future is not with the kids of this generation'.  Some months he used to  run out of money and would desperately come to me and ask me to send the amount to his mother, which I did quite a few times. He had a brother younger to him and he was sailing with the Merchant Navy.

This guy became a frequent visitor to our house and always came running to us when he faced any crisis and for comfort. He had exercised such freedom and enjoyed much bonhomie at our home that he would come come at night after work and ask Christy to cook him dosas, with the taste of dosa his Amma cooks. Aravind used to go around with him often in the car. Once Aravind  who was then about four years,went with him to a distant town and it was much after that we joined them.

At his wedding, his parents wanted Christy to be in the forefront like she would if she were his very own sister. I remember Christy had conceived Radhika during that time and was a couple of months away from labour. We were at the wedding and treated by his parents like we were their own. This fellow repeatedly exclaimed that he was very lucky to have Christy there, that he does not miss a sister.

Years passed …… and he grew in stature, left his job, commenced fashion garment business with a client from Europe and rocketed through the roof, wealth wise. We were at the inaugural pooja of his business, which began out from a tiny little office space. The last time I met him was at his office which stood on a huge area and would rival a INFOSYs or an MS. He was quite tensed during the early days, before and after the commencement of his venture. He always called me for comfort and any form of pep. He wanted a name for the firm and I suggested he pick a name to identify with a beautiful bird. I lend him couple of my prized possessions “The Penguin encyclopedia of extinct birds”, and the “Time encyclopedia of Birds of the World”. Outrageously, but true to his subsequent nature he declined to acknowledge that he borrowed the books from me. They are lost forever! Penguin ceased publication of the former!

He was outlandishly superstitious. And the nadir of all that was when he put his pet a  Bhutanese pug to sleep after an astrologer allegedly confided that if he keeps the canine at home it may bring bad tidings. Do not know what befell him, ensnared by the new mounting riches, he distanced? Not only from us, even from his parents. His mother wept once we were in Chennai to call on her. I sensed the hurt, the wound a mother bore. His father had passed away in the mean time. And she lived all alone. The sons were too concerned about their affairs and well being that they rarely went to her. Never their wives!

At a point in time he was a helpful person to me Vis a visa companion and also as a business acquaintance. But those relationships were abruptly severed. And the last was he declined to attend my calls.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


“Possessiveness was not felt when it all began.She was obsessive and possessiveness gradually engulfed every sinew in her .Expressively she began to resent my absence. And imperceptibly it became no different with me. The annoyance that followed me transformed into a reciprocal feeling ” He said.

We had discussed on this phase of his life before. And I was privy to a considerable extent of  what I can term only as, “la affaire amour”. I suggested may be by his genial attitude to her preludes and subsequent displays of frantic passion, he encouraged and fanned her infatuation.                                  “May be yes, maybe not”, he said.                                                                          
“It was so, you even continue to retain the feelings that infected you”, I put in. He was silent for a while and drove looking ahead on the seemingly never ending stretch of the road through the plains, before it would hit the first bend towards the hills.

“Yes indeed, it was extravagant advance and I felt many a time towards the plateau of the ‘affaire’, the relationship, she was slipping into insanity. I was afraid that she was fast becoming psychotic. Gosh how one could infer otherwise, how one could explain her wailing moods, her uncontrolled passion, and her foolishly incongruous statements and intends?" "But...” He muttered eyes still transfixed on the road ahead. Again, a relapse of doubt, I wondered?

“Without knowing, you imparted your feelings for her. You pitied her mental state, her tenderness tripped you. Your affability, understanding and consideration to her, made her hold on to you like a limpet. And you flew around her like a mayfly oblivious of the enflamed amber that she was. Her physical nature that was the knell of  men who knew her, aroused you too, made you excited and servile. And she decided that she will have you, possess you and no one else should. You let her be the conductress. You danced to the calling of her intimate needs, you towed behind her. It was mad infatuation”. I added, once he stopped.

“And, you did slip, you were washed away  by the deluge. The twigs you clasped were tiny little drift woods, nay you clasped on her to be saved from the deluge that she was – she and her lonesome, selfish aim to arrogate you, your life. It was her selfishness”. I paused a bit and glanced to my right to see his expression. He displayed a asinine appearance - driving without exhibiting any other reaction to what I said. I continued, “And now you thirst for her and in your moments of solitude you want to hold her, possess her again. The roulette has turned a full circle. My friend that was a Russian roulette she played. Don’t you see? She needed you emotionally and physically, she masticated you, her purchase over you was emphatic, she won! It was nothing but amorous dance drama, a ballet that she conducted and you it was  bĂȘtise of you to fall for it".

He swerved the car to the left to steer clear of a small flock of sheep that crossed the road as if from nowhere.                                                                                                                                            “Mad infatuation, that was what you said”. He began in a hushed tone and he cleared his throat to continue, “You call the passion that engulfed her, me, thus! Adults, grownups, people who have known the world, felt life in their palms .And like dimwitted teenagers take extreme steps, willing to go beyond what  that would gorge out life, ruin it forever, for us both. You trivalise it,call it Russian roulette? You do not understand. There are moments when sensibilities desert the sensible and the senses are numb, indifferent to conventions."

I was not quite prepared for his outburst. There was resentment and the longing, for “Aphrodite” has not exited him, I understood then. He was quietly ravaged within and he was disturbed by moments when he disagrees to believe that it was all over. The temptress refuses to fade away, beckoning him to her lair, often come calling in his dreams. Mercifully it is all over, but he longs....! Man, man has this inexplicable itch to take the extreme tread- to serenade with peril, to flirt with peril, socially, emotionally and physically. Trade like traders who cannot trade! Like horse men who straddle the stallion but cannot ride!

“But, yes that was so. It was illusion, illusion of paradise before tempest and destruction”. I said.

He smiled- a wry smile and with rictus. He recounted from his tale, moments when she was overwhelming, blistering like a volcano, fiery, and unrelenting. At times she was like a nestling, a loner within. And then she needed him more. When she could not have him she glared like a feline, was filed with jealousy .  On one plane she knew that she was fanning a mirage, running after one, pleading. But something sometimes told her that she will grasp the mirage and clasp it close, like a child. And like a child warily looks at her clenched fist shut tight, hoping the clutched fingers are impervious, afraid to relax the muscles around the fingers, lest the glow worm fly away! She beckoned him, flagellated, cried piteously to take her away- unperturbed at his aghast, protestation, regardless of the social status and  life they have, She willed in earnest to elude the trappings that constricted her  and let her be in abandon. Go wherever, do whatever he wills, she affirmed, but she cannot be different. She will not sit and wait to see the clock inexorably move back.        Electrocuting! She exclaimed once and she longed for that, more of it, a life of it. Defiant, she desired to begin afresh. She did not hide the adoration for him and that was much to his discomfiture. And in a moment of desperate candour confided and beseeched him if he would accept her so that she willingly would confine to the status of paramour and even a recluse. In her unrestrained expressions of affection, chided him for forsaking her all these years.  She cursed the Gods in the pantheon for not bringing him to her, let him see her and run forth into her, but rather consign her to waste and live a woeful life all this while; let her languish her youth in wilderness of ennui and of uneventful marital confinement. Hang her, decapitate her, ostracise her, brand her whorish, she cannot be different, she is what she is.  

I felt, she was- because the wolf eats the lamb, will you hang the wolf, if that will make the wolf different so be it, hang her.
Many a monsoon has passed by since. I mused, as we drove on, turned the bend on the road and on to the mountains.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Flying Tales

The longest   period in time I stayed away from the country and most importantly, the longest time that I was away from home, happened with the day ending the past week. The first time it was 22 days, away in Rotterdam in the early 1990’s while on a seminar plus business prospecting tour. And now with the day ended yesterday, the unexpected swings in life have seen me away from home, for thirty days at the trot. Call it “the moving ridges” of life!

After literally cooling my heels in the UAE, I landed in Bahrain a day ago. During all my journeys by air, I have from the beginning been finicky and careful of my choice of the airline company that I fly with. One of my friends who was in a dilemma before his heart bye- pass surgery asked his consulting physician to suggest a cardiac surgeon he could approach for the bye- pass. The physician said you must go to the surgeon to whom you can "trust and give your heart". From there it was not difficult as he flew down to Cochin and the surgery was performed by an old mate who was the surgeon in a hospital there. So like the difficult and delicate choice of entrusting ones heart, I wanted to be confident about the airline I took as for a good part of the travel, not just my heart, even my life was pledged to their good will and skillfulness.

‘Puppet on a chain’ was an  Alistair Maclean thriller that became a movie in 1972.The breath taking boat chase though the canals of Amsterdam, the Schipol airport , the KLM air planes  and the Dutch locales placed a good imprint in me. And I dreamed and fantasised the fascinating chance that may one day come, to fly with KLM airline and boat ride through those canals and walk the streets of Amsterdam. The fantasy became true much later. And I was off to Holland for a pretty long time away from home. The flight was indeed out of coincidence the big white and blue KLM jumbo. The feeling of security and that the passengers are being cared for, was present all throughout the travel. And there and then began a good travel partnership with the airlines.

I garnered lot of miles on the airline and once even had a frequent- flyer platinum card. I used the miles I accumulated to travel with C to the USA and Canada, and to Italy. On an occasion, while on a journey to the North Americas, I and C had to cool our heels for seven hours in the Flying blue lounge at the Schipol. It was early morning 8’o clock, and till the connecting time which was a long time away, C sat in the lounge and polished off a bottle of “Bailey’s Irish Cream”. That was an astonishing feat! Thanks to the courtesy extended by the Airlines.

On another occasion on the flight from New York, KLM gave us a bonus- they upgraded us to Business class, and C again indulged in liqueurs and wine. Though I felt a bit embarrassed, she reveled. But believe me, the true hypocrite I’m there were occasions when I have had the most of spirits from the lounges waiting for flights even before sunrise. They were great travel times with the airline.

But the one hour flight from Sharjha to Bahrain was the first time ever that I flew with an airline that stakes more on the volition and whims of Providence than on the machine or the pilots who man them. It was an early morning wake up and travel. And I collapsed into slumber as soon as I took my seat. I was jolted by a haunting recitation and woke into an acoustic ambience that one would feel and hear in a medieval monastery; the monks invoking the gods with the haunting eerie chants of the sacred psalms!  Shaken jerkily, I looked out through the window and saw the aircraft taxing and about to take off."Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.......” went the chant played through the public address system. The aircraft moved into the take off speed and began hurtling along the runway. The intensity of the chant seemed to be increasing spookily.
I felt a sort of fright, for the first time. I have heard that passengers fervently pray loudly when the state of the flight was disastrous or the likely hood of a crash loomed large. But this was an awfully disturbing moment even for a person who did not subscribe to any faith for absolution or comfort.

The aircraft was soon airborne and the chanting eased out. I tried to get back into the sleep that was spolied, thinking, thankfully the invocation did not end with the statement,(Insha Allha.......), “God willing we will land in Bahrain”.
I wish to state that no disparaging intent is intended here but, it was awfully too far from comfort to me to hear such desperate sounding prayers(sic) on the public address system and at a crucial moment before being airborne. I understand that the phrase is recited by Muslims in many countries in many different situations. They, when they are happy, to express approval to praise a speaker, or even as a battle cry and even during times of extreme stress.

I slid back into sleep recollecting with some amusement the prayers and hymns that were sung in school, “Father we thank thee...:”; “guardian angel from heaven so bright...” and then later at the Government run schools, the pledge, “India is my country...”.But nothing like this in an aircraft about to be airborne.