He opened his eyes slowly. The surrounding was still in semi-darkness. The noise of the aircraft engine hummed like a lullaby, atleast he wanted it to be a lullaby. He looked around. Most of the passenger were fast asleep. Some were watching the same movies for the umpteen time. Years of Air travel has taught him to sleep peacefully during flights.
He looked at the two beautiful woman at his side. Both were sleeping peacefully. He looks at the older of the two. How beautiful she looked! It was only he or was she really so beautiful? She was really beautiful.
He looked at the time. Six hours, still 2 more hours to go. The connecting flight from US took almost 8 hours to reach Mumbai. The total travel time from US to Mumbai was more than 20 hours. It had taken him 12 years to make a 20 hours journey.
12 years, that’s when he had left home. 12 years and he still remembered that day more than 12 years ago
“You know what your future is young man?” His father had asked.
“Appa, I am trying”
“For what? I cannot afford to teach you nor send you abroad.” His father thundered “Look at your brothers. They are well settled. Even your sister earns more than you. And you want to make cartoons”
“Its just not cartoons” He protested
“See! Don’t teach me. I have seen more life than you. If you listen to me, join the company my friend has searched for you. Nice job, nice salary!”
“I don’t want to”
“Then I suggest you find your own roof and your own goal in life. I am not here to support you”
He had looked in his eyes. His father turned his eyes away from him. Was it hate or did he still love him? Throwing his own son out of the house, just because he was pursuing his dreams. That day, he took a decision. Four months later, he was on the plane to US.
“Would you like something to drink sir?” His thoughts were broken by the stewardess.
“No! Thanks” He smiled back.
Some passenger were standing in the passage passing away their time. The only bad thing about Air travel that you can’t stop mid-air and take a stroll for a breath of fresh air. The bus trip from his home town to Mumbai was what he enjoyed more. Traveling through small towns and stopping at the Bus stands, he would enjoy a cup of tea. That day when he had decided to leave, she had come to meet him on the bus stand.
“How could you? Have you though about me?” She was hurt
“I told you. Let me make something of myself and then you can come with me” He tried to reason with her.
“What if its late? What if when you come back and I am not here”
“You will not wait?”
“Somethings are not in my hands”
“But…..” He tried to say something “Ok what do you want me to do?”
“But I will not be able to give you all that happiness you dreamt about” He tried to explain “I want to keep you happy and give you all the happiness which your heart desired”
“My heart desires to be with you”
He thought for a moment Pick up the bag and started walking away from the bus.
“What are you doing?” She asked confused
“First, I need to book two tickets for day after tomorrow.” He looked back at her “We get married tomorrow. I need to talk to your father. Lots of work to do. Now don’t just stand there. I don’t have time to waste on you.”
She had smiled, the same smile he had fallen in love many years ago.
“Appa” The voice made him open his eyes. The little woman next to his seat had woken up. He smiled at her. 12 years in US and he had taught her to call him Appa (father). A desire or a desperation to hang on to his roots, maybe both.
“I want to sit on your lap” He lifted her little body and put her gently on her lap. The little girl rested her head on his chest, the same way he would rest his on her mothers shoulders in long journeys. His mother would carry him seated on her laps almost the whole journey and he did not even think about it.
“Hi Mom” He had called her up few days ago
“So now you have become pukka American? Calling me mom and all that What have you taught your girl?” She scolded him from the other side.
“Come on Ma! (mother). Just kidding! How are you? Taking your medicines?”
“Why do you care? You could have come once and seen me if I take my medicine?”
“Let’s not start that. You know why I don’t come back”
“No! I don’t know. Why can’t you come back? Its been 12 years. Not once you remembered me or us?”
“You know I remember you. You know I remember everybody. But you also know that Appa does not want me there”
There was silence at the other end
“Ma” He called her again
“I think you are right son” She finally spoke “You dad does not want you here! For12 years he has been going through your childhood photos. For 12 years he has been to the temple on your every birthday. For 12 years I have told him indirectly how big and successful you have become. The proud look on his face everytime somebody mentions your name. For 12 years he had waited for your letter, hoping that someday you will be back. He has lost hope but he won’t talk to me. Always looking at the family photo and I never miss that tear in his eyes. Yes Son! You are right! He does not want you here”
“Its getting late son! Its time for your dad’s medicine”
“You take care, ok?”
“Ok Ma” He had kept the phone down.
“Thinking about me?” Her hands touched his arm.
“All the time” He smiled at her. “When did you get up?”
“When the father and daughter made an adorable picture. You always leave the mother out of the party”
“Its between me and my daughter. You don’t come between us.”
“Oh yeah! She is my daughter too.”
“Are you happy?” She asked him
“Yes! And you”
“Very much! Going home after 12 years. Its a different feeling. So much must have changed.” She was excited “12 years when I left with you, I didn’t know If I could ever come back? Will your father accept us”
“He will! I know him. He will!”
The pilot announced that they would be landing in another 15 minutes. They sat in their own seat and tied the seat belt. The plane made a text book landing at the Mumbai Airport.
“Appa” Her daughter asked him as they made their way to the exit “Have we arrived at dada’s (grand father) home”
“No” He smiled and looked at his wife “We have arrived at our home, We have arrived home dear”
The trio made their way to the immigration counter.
Note: While making a recent trip to India, I spent a lot of my return journey at the airport and a lot of time checking flight timings on airports. Except running around trying to find my delayed flight, I did not have much to do. The above story is the first of the trilogy centering around one of the many status of the flight. I plan to write two more on the status of the flight. The only thing common in all the stories would be the Airplane. All those people you see on the airport and plane have their own story. This story just may be true for somebody.