I love traveling. It gives me anxiety and fills me with wonder. Much like my first flying experience.
I listened to the safety announcements of the cabin crew like my life depended on their words. I read through the flight safety manual before the boarding was completed. When the plane hit the runway, I clutched the edges of my seat and looked out the window. As soon as the plane lifted off the ground, a wave of nausea hit me and i turned my head back towards the seat if front of me. I did not want to be that passenger who was sick on the flight. I kept repeating this in my head till the sick subsided. Throughout that flight, my tummy turned and I was queasy. I felt claustrophobic, and open the air conditioning vent to the fullest. Pretty soon, I was freezing and turned it off. This pretty much summed up my activities in flight!
To get my mind off the horrible feeling, I sat looking out of my window seat for the entire two & half hours of flight time. When we started at the east coast of the country, it was twilight. I loved watching the landscape change below me- from the green and blue of the Ganga basin to the brown hues spanning the rest of the country. Even after the plane had flown over the clouds, I kept looking out – imagining figures in the puffs of cotton and clouds. When it grew too dark to discern any shapes, I kept looking at the blinking lights on the wings of the plane.
The flight captain announced our descent into India’s city of Dreams. I had never been so far away from home- and alone at that! There were too many thoughts rushing through my head at that time. And then, there were none…. The sight in front of me had left me bereft of any thoughts other than sheer wonder.
As we flew lower out of the clouds, I saw in front of me a million little stars – yellow, twinkling stars… And we were flying over them, and towards them. The famous Queen’s necklace, which I had only seen in photographs, now stood in front of me- lighting up the dark edges of an endless sea. The photographs could not do justice to the scene that was unfolding in front of me. I had never seen anything more beautiful. As the plane approached the runway, thousands of little lights glowing in the shanties of Asia’s largest slum- Dharavi, rose up to meet us. I could only look on with wonder and think- “This is what hope looks like”.
Mumbai became my favourite city if the world that night, and continues to remain so. That day- the 8th day of the 11th month of 2008, was the day I knew I would always travel. I would bear the anxiety attacks, I would overcome the fear of the unknown, I would do whatever it takes- to travel, to witness the wonders of the world, and to bring and take hope from all my travels.
That night, I had found my calling.