I’m going to write a book called, “The Fearful Frequent Flyer: A Practical Guide to Overcoming Your Irrational Fear of Flying” and it’s going to sell millions of copies. Well, maybe not a million, but I know my mom will buy at least three copies. Anyway, my inspiration for this literary stems from a lifetime of fear and my recent interaction with two non-speaking Indians of low caste.
As many of you know, India once was socially organized into caste. While this practice has been banned for many years, a residual caste system still exists. There is a very clear gap between the privileged and working classes. This vast distance is evident everywhere you go in India. It’s disheartening to see the mistrust and mistreatment of people who are considered lesser beings by those who fancy themselves elite. Having grown up in a place where Martin Luther King’s message of equality rings from the mountaintops, India’s avid racism is quite unsettling.
Yesterday, my friend Beth and I boarded a flight from Delhi to Mumbai after a week in Rajasthan. Because we were among the last two people to check in, we were seated on opposite ends of the aircraft. It goes without saying that I was a little more than nervous about going it alone, but I knew I’d manage somehow. Hopefully.
I was seated near the front of the plane amongst a group of very dark, very quiet, very male, Indians. I must admit I was a tad uncomfortable at first, but after taking a look around I came to the conclusion that this group of men were travelling by plane for the first time:
Sitting with perfect posture.
Carefully guarding brand-new passports.
Silently glancing at each other.
Nervously watching busy flight attendants.
Communicating in hushed Hindi wispers.
My usual ritual on an airplane ride is to wear my Tibetan prayer beads, tightly grasp my St. Christopher’s medal, bless the airplane, say a prayer for a safe flight, and thank God for all that he’s provided me. I also bring my iPad and play Trivial Pursuit.
When the captain turned off the fasten seatbelt sign, I quickly pulled out my device and started a game of TP. It wasn’t ten seconds before I felt their eyes on me. Eight men. Staring wide-eyed, fascinated, at the colorful tiles dancing across the screen. They’d never seen an iPad before. Feeling sheepish and quite spoiled, I decided to switch games and opened Angry Birds. No reading required.
I passed the iPad to the man on my left and showed him how to launch a red bird into a pen of green pigs. Squeals of laughter and smiles as bright as the Mumbai sun shone on 5 beautiful brown faces as they watched the pigs explode with flairs of histrionics. They were hooked.
The rest of the 2 hour flight zipped by in minutes as I, and my two new friends, attempted to communicate through Hindi, English, hand gestures, and Angry Birds. Our flight attendant graciously translated for us several times throughout the duration of our trip only enhancing our understandings as we shared snacks, swapped passports and told stories of travel and families.
These first time flyers looked to me for answers when they felt turbulence, heard a bell, observed movement of the wings, felt pressure in their ears, or experienced any discomfort. I’ve learned, because of my obsessive/compulsive flight worries, what every movement or announcement or sound means and was able to ease their anxiety. My experience with these two first time flyers made me so happy I forgot all about being anxious. They reminded me why I moved to India: to share joy. I will forever be grateful for my time on Jet Airways flight 9W352. I learned, again, to appreciate the little things in life and embrace each opportunity to enhance my life in positive way.
And to my two new friends (who will likely never read this):
Best of luck with your new jobs in Kuwait, I wish you safety, health, prosperity, and peace as you embark on your new journey. It was my pleasure to meet you. Thank you for bringing me peace.