Friday, 23 May 2014


I have always had major trouble falling asleep on plane-rides.
While I'm a fairly deep and sound sleeper at home on my own bed, while I'm traveling, no matter how long the journey might be and no matter how many sleepless nights have passed before I boarded the plane, it's virtually impossible for me to fall into that NREM sleep that ensues after the many mad/ psychedelic dreams I get to see every night.
I lie wide awake on such flights, hunting for something interesting that I might read, or try to engage myself in the in-flight entertainment, but I find that the only thing I am capable of doing at such times is stare at the people around me until my eyes get tired and my contacts feel dry and exhausted from all the staring.

Recently, I was on a plane flying from Los Angeles to Shanghai, packed with passengers that seemed to be flying back home. As luck would have it, I ended up being seated on the last seat on the aircraft which basically meant three things: I was seated right next to the toilets (STINKY!), passengers were constantly (and impatiently) waiting next to my seat for a turn to hit the stinky loos, and for a little over 15 hours, I couldn't recline my seat. My back hurt like I had mercilessly lifted some serious weights, and I was cranky and hungry (it doesn't help if you're a vegetarian on a Chinese airline).
You know how some people are just blessed and end up sitting next to attractive co-passengers on such long journeys? Yeah, I'm definitely not one of them. I always manage to find seats next to some seriously obnoxious/ terribly gassy old ladies.
But this time, on this flight, my luck was a little bit different.
Being the only Indian on the plane (I think) also made me the only person on this huge Boeing aircraft who couldn't speak or understand Chinese. When it appeared as though we were almost done boarding from Los Angeles, I was doing the tango in my mind because despite having to sit on the last seat on the plane, the two seats next to me were empty. But my mental tango was interrupted when an old Chinese couple finally appeared and took the two empty seats.

I am not exaggerating when I say that for the greater part of those 15 hours, all that this old couple did was fight and yell at each other. There were bouts of silence every now and then when either (or both) of them would fall asleep, or when the air-hostess would arrive with some refreshments; but these bouts didn't seem long enough to the headache that was slowly taking over me.
It amazed me how such loud and angry sounding noises (noises because I couldn't understand what they were yelling) could escape such an old, frail person's mouth.
They fought and they fought, and all I could think of was how these two people who seemed to want nothing more to do than to strangle each other, could have managed to stay married and grown old together. Of course, these were all possibly silly assumptions considering the fact that I didn't have a single conversation with my neighbors because of our language barriers. I sat there conjuring stories of what they may be fighting about, trying to deduce some sense out of what could anger someone that bad, and my imagination completely failed me.
It hit me how we always tend to paint a picture in our heads about how old people are always gentle and kind, without a single mean or angry bone in their aged bodies. Perhaps that's why this is the one memory that stood out for me from that long and uneventful flight. I suppose it's normal to have a broken perception stand out in one's mind, and appear like a highlighted hoarding in your brain's collective memory.

When I finally got home after my super long journey, and hit my dear old bed, I passed into a dreamless sleep, only to wake up after 12 hours and feel grateful for all that I am blessed with.
Perhaps I was most grateful for not having to see angry couples fighting with each other for extended hours, or for having a bed to stretch my weary bones and creaky joints on, or for having a kitchen where I can cook edible vegetarian meals in.
Or maybe the gratitude was actually for that Boeing 747 that flew me home to everything I love, despite its noisy neighbors and smelly lavatories.
After all, what is it that they say about journeys that bring you back home? Ah yes-those are the best ones.

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