I’am chicken-hearted when it comes to travelling by aeroplanes. The mere mention of flying would send waves of shivers to my spine. I had flown before, on two occasions, both domestic and short distance travels. But, this time it was different. I was supposed to travel to Dubai on work and that only meant a long distance travel, and on my nemesis.
I was thrilled from the outside that I was travelling to a foreign land. But inside, it was the opposite. I had my own fears.
Since I’am not a frequent flier, I knew little less about the formalities that one had to follow at the airport. So, I had one of my colleagues write and send me an email about it. To my surprise, he mailed me a detailed (procedural) instruction on what one needs to do during departure and also on arrival at Dubai. I was mighty pleased and immediately took a print out of the instruction sheet (A two page manuscript it was).
Although I was busy most of the days, my primal fear of flying somehow seemed to creep in from nowhere. My fear was a plane crash and I know it is a dreaded thought, even as I write this.
I stopped reading newspapers or watch the news for the rest of the days, in the fear that there would be news on some kind of an air crash which would demotivate me. To make things worse the TV aired the movie Neerja. On any other day, I would have watched such a good movie, but now, the story of that movie was an add-on fear.
My fears kept haunting me and I finally decided to speak to my wife and mother about it. With the best choice of words, I explained them that I was scared of flying and the fear of me dying in the event of an air crash was bothering me. That was comical and silly at the same time, and they both roared to laughter.
They assured me that nothing of that sort would happen as flights were one of the safest means of travel and if fate has destined such an occurrence, then, we cannot change it. This assurance somewhat alleviated my fears and I was back to normal, partly though.
The day of my journey finally arrived. I ensured that my instruction sheet was tucked in my pocket. I remembered to pray God and promised Him that I would visit the nearby temples on safe return. That was one way of assuring myself that I would return back safely. That done, I got into the car and almost forgot to wave at my mother. My wife as always, was confident, and seeing that I decided to curb my fears. Maybe they were right after all that I need not fear that much. I decided to surrender myself to fate.
Luckily for me another colleague of mine were travelling in the same flight. I called him and he informed me that he would arrive at the airport on time. A company is always good in such occasions.
As I arrived at the airport, I took out my favorite possession and studied the first instruction. It said ‘Show your passport and ticket to the policeman at the entrance’. The instruction was word perfect and things went exactly as it was scripted. I was beginning to feel like a mercenary with a mission, as in movies.
The second instruction read “Go to the designated counter and submit your passport and baggage. Receive the boarding pass’. I was about to search for the counter, when an airport security staff asked me to go to the security counter to have the baggage scanned. This step was missing in my instruction sheet and I lost my faith on it.
After the baggage check I went to the counter and received my boarding pass. At this point, I decided to wait for my colleague. What if I had to undergo another unknown process which was not listed in the instruction sheet.
My colleague arrived on time. We shook hands and I remained calm. I made sure to show-off that I was not referring to any instruction sheet and informed him in a confident voice that I had collected my boarding pass. To my disappointment, he did not for see anything and went to collect his own boarding pass.
Post immigration control we sat at the gate for infinity. I was beginning to feel nervous again, so, I called my wife who gave me another dose of assurance. But as the time was nearing to board the plane, my fears were starting to become more immune to any form of assurance.
The announcement was made to board the plane and we walked towards it. I looked at my colleague just hoping that he too was nervous, but, he just smiled back at me.
Inside the plane, me and my colleague were offered different seats. He was seated somewhere in the back where I could not run and reach him on an event of any danger. To add to my already worse situation, I was given a window seat.
A fat lady sat beside me, squeezing her bulky frame in the seat. Helpless I sat quietly in my seat. Finally, the plane moved and I started my prayers. I closed my eyes and clenched my fists during take-off and once in the air I just glanced outside the window. It was a scary sight, to look at the landscape below. The earth circled around in front of my eyes and I decided to pull the shutter of my window, but, the fat lady was already peering through it, almost over me. So, I decided not to close it as it might offend her.
This was a day flight and if it was this scary, I began to wonder how it was like flying in the night.
My nerves calmed once we were above the clouds. By now I had no fear or any sort of feeling. I was numb. I began to wonder if I were already dead. I looked beside me and the fat lady was munching on some cookies of an unknown brand.
Admist all the chaos, I was experiencing this new found sense of calmness. From where did that come from? Maybe it was the aftermath of fear. There was a growing sense of pride, because, I thought I had overcome my fear, and why not, I was thousands of feet above the ground with nothing but the airplane’s base separating me and the ground below. A sudden turbulence would then bring me back to my apprehensive state.
Time began to crawl and since I had nothing to do, I decided to take a nap. The next time I was awake was when the flight attender announced to us that we were reaching Dubai. I woke up and looked around as if to assure that I was still in the plane. Everyone were peering outside their windows. I gathered some courage and looked outside and it was an awesome sight. The towering buildings and the modern landscape was wonderful to look at.
We finally landed (safely for me) and I bid adieu to my colleague. I chuckled at the thought that all the while my colleague hardly knew about this fearful disposition of mine. I slung my backpack and walked outside the airport where another colleague of mine were to receive me.
It is still laughable when I think about it, and as of today I have somehow overcome my fear to a certain percentage. Perhaps there is nothing to fear after all.