They were quite oblivious as to where they were headed for, or to be specific, where they were being taken. But it didn't matter to them, for the journey was pleasant and their companions were interesting.
The flight captain never communicated with the passengers and the air-hostesses kept mum. Every passenger had settled down, except for one boy in a blue shirt and dark trousers, who was as restive as ever. His seat number was 222 B, between an old lady and a bald-headed middle-aged man. He excused himself and squeezed out of his seat; at the expense of a few swearwords from the middle-aged man. “Thank you,” the boy said, took a stroll along the narrow passage of the plane, and reached the front. He cast a glance at all the passengers that seemed to be in their own world. Some were snoring, some were chatting with their fellow passengers, and some just kept to themselves.
Soon his eyes fell on a girl who looked his age. She was comfortably sitting, with a calm expression on her face, next to a woman who was reading a magazine. The girl was looking out of the window. In blue jeans and red top, white shoes, with her hair let loose, she looked spunky. The boy never took his eyes off her, and the girl never turned away from the window. I wonder what's so fascinating about clouds, he thought. Look at me, damn it! And she finally did.
He smiled at her and she raised her eyebrows.
“There are two vacant seats here. Would you mind sitting with me?” he asked.
“Not at all,” she said, getting up.
Once they were settled in their new seats, he asked, “What is she reading?”
The girl craned her neck to see the woman with whom she was sitting till then, turned to him and said with a wink, “You know what she is reading.”
“Of course I do. Such a moron, I say,” he said, laughing.
“Come on. Don’t say that,” she said, laughing. It was too conspicuous from the way she laughed that she agreed with him.
“Well, anyways,” he continued, “I’m Tarun.”
“Splendid! And who is your sister? Munni?”
“Oh please! I’m sick of it. Everyone made fun of my name after that song came out, you know. Why did they have to write a song with my name?”
“So that Katrina could shake her booty.”
“She does it either ways,” she said, flicking her hair.
“Yes, that’s true. And as long as she does, the world will be a happy place,” he grinned.
It was two o’clock in the afternoon and an air-hostess gave them their lunch and proceeded to the next row. She didn’t speak a single word.
“These are the worst kind of air-hostesses I’ve ever seen. Such pathetic service,” Sheela murmured.
“Touché,” Tarun said, “They don't talk, they don’t smile, and mainly, they are not beautiful.” He paused for a moment and then said, “Hey, why don’t you serve food? I’m sure everybody will like that.”
“Are you flirting with me, mister?” Sheela asked, smiling.
“No, missy. I haven’t started yet. I meant it. I mean, look around. You are the only young and beautiful girl in this whole goddammn plane.”
“Sshhh. They don’t appreciate blasphemy here. Careful,” she said, with a finger on her lips.
“I don’t give a damn.”
She looked at him with mild anger as she opened the silver paper of her food packet.
“All right, all right,” he said, throwing up his hands in the air.
He too opened his food packet and took a spoonful.
“Gosh, dal rice? This has got to be the worst flight service ever.”
She just shrugged her shoulders and continued eating.
“So what do you do?” he asked.
“I’m an artist,” she said.
“Artist as in?”
“How cool is that! And what a co-incidence! I’m a painter too,” he said, cradling his chin.
“Really?” she was fascinated.
“Yes. But there is a small difference.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you paint pictures with colours. And I paint pictures with words,” he said, taking another spoonful of his food.
“Ah, a writer, I believe. What a beautiful way to say it!” she was impressed.
The laughter they shared together then was more delicious than the food they were eating.
Sheela asked him a few minutes later, “So, do you have a girlfriend?”
“Was that a question or an offer?” he was quick to answer.
“What?” she was startled. “Of course it was a question,” she said, laughing and shaking her head. “Flirting comes naturally to boys, doesn’t it? Every little opportunity is used. Well, see where you are now. The rules of flirting are different here.”
“Really?” he said, “Let’s see. After all we have all the time in the world.”
She turned away, took a spoonful of her food and asked again, “Tell me.”
“Oh, that? No. I don’t have a girlfriend.”
“You don’t look like you are single.”
“I know. It’s just that I’m keeping my options open,” he said, grinning from ear to ear.
“Typical guy’s answer.”
“What about you? Do you have a boyfriend? Wait, before you could answer; it is a question as well as an offer.”
“I’m sorry to say, my dear. Your offer is rejected. But at the same time, I’m single too.”
“Oh, great. Then I was wondering if we –,” he was cut in.
“Don’t have any imaginations about wooing me, all right?”
“Funny you should say that, Sheela. After all, this journey is going to be very long, trust me.”
“Yes, maybe,” she said with a tinge of sadness.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, noticing her melancholic expression.
“It’s OK,” she said.
A moment later an air-hostess cleared their empty food packets. Several minutes later the plane landed in an obscure location. Nobody knew what place it was. The pilot didn’t even bother to announce that he was landing. Sometime later a few more passengers got on the plane. Every one of them had a confused expression on his/her face. They checked their tickets and found their seats.
Tarun was clearly enjoying Sheela’s company very much. As they had occupied others’ seats, Tarun was worried that they would be sent back to their places. If Sheela was worried about the same thing, she didn’t evince it. Fortunately for them, no such thing happened. In fact many seats were still unoccupied. There were going to be a few more stops on the way, they were sure.
“Had you ever seen an aeroplane like this before?” Sheela asked, crinkling her eyes.
“No. This is weird. A 3000-seater plane? And a black-coloured one?”
“Maybe these kinds of planes are meant to be for special purposes,” she said, looking around.
“I think so too,” he acquiesced.
A few minutes passed and Sheela still looked sombre, pensive. Tarun, in an attempt to perk her up, said, “You know what. I’m still not able to get over the idea of that woman reading Lifestyle magazine."
It did the trick. She chuckled. “She had it with her when she got on the plane.”
“I’m sure she did,” he said, with a sarcastic smile.
She shook her head, smiling; craned her neck to see the woman and started laughing hysterically as she turned towards him. They held each other’s hands and continued laughing.
“So, tell me,” Tarun said when their laughter had subsided, “How did you get on this plane?”
He finally asked the question to which there was no easy answer. And thus began a conversation that would never end. They talked about their dreams, their desires, their fantasies, their parents and siblings and friends, their careers, and mainly, they talked about how they had lived……and died.
Copyright © Karthik 2011