It was an explosion; though it looked tiny, it had killed everyone aboard. For once, it reminded me of crackers bursting in the azure sky during Diwali. This was different. It was not fun as the fire splattered the colour of blood. I gazed again through the window, wondering what really was happening but it had vanished, in seconds. Boom! It was all gone, burnt in ashes. The moment I caught held of my senses, I ran towards the luggage counter to report what my eyes witnessed. So foolish of me, obviously the entire airport was engulfed in the smell of death, shattered, torn in to pieces. Saccadic eye movements asking bizarre questions made me nauseous; I too was at the rim of questioning.
I asked a passenger who looked quite lost like everybody else.
“What happened to that plane? Was it an explosion? Which plane was it?” In the verge of curiosity I had forgotten all my friendly manners learnt for years.
“Nobody really knows what is happening. Rumours are to be believed then we are still at risk. Terrorists are walking around in this airport right now. I just want to get back to my family as soon as possible” he whispered, rigid with fear and some strange longing to be alive.
“Do you have any idea which plane was under attack?” I didn’t know why that piece of information seemed important, which of course was important!
“Looks like, its JA 9w 321. That was the one to departure just now” he replied again submerged in the valley of unknown emotions.
I couldn’t believe the words he uttered and after re-confirming, I just had to thank god for making me the sleepyhead.
Like always, I got up at 3 am to catch up my early morning flight. Staying at a good three hour drive away from the airport, I jiggled in the car unable to sleep. I made myself comfortable on the soft cushiony sofa only to make up for my deprived sleep. Thank heavens, flight was delayed by an hour. The best part of sleeping in an airport is, nobody wakes you up except the announcement chap but he seemed to have no effect on me. So I slept like a small baby sleeps on mother’s lap. And when I was finally woken up by an old fellow -the kind who intrudes in everybody’s business- I was pissed off to be precise. I gazed outside window, still yawning, cursing the old fellow only to see a miniature airplane explode in the sky right in front of me; the same airplane which I had missed due to my torpid sleep. I thanked god, a zillion times for keeping me alive, for delaying the flight by an hour, for making me sleepy and for not hearing the announcements.
Considering the lightning speed work of journalists these days, my family would presume I was dead too. Neena! She would be broken. I had to call her at the earliest. But not-so-surprisingly there was no network in my phone and all the paid booths were dead. Damn the jammers, I had to call my family to inform I was alive. After pestering ‘cut-the-crap’, airport security officials for long, they threatened an arrest for causing security breach. Growling tiger to a tiny mouse, I let myself in to the lounge silently, waiting for the jammers to lift the curse. Thoughts about Neena began seeping in making me restless and calm at the same time. I knew she would be worried but the very thought of her made my lips twitch. I was smiling, in an airport where hundreds of people had died, where my own life had no guarantee, where terrorists were walking like civilians, and where death had invaded our privacy prying in to everybody’s life. Yet, there I was, sitting with frightened, agitated, horror-struck strangers, smiling silently thinking about my Neena.
I had first met Neena on the day I was born. We were born in the same hospital, same day and our cradles being placed next to each other made us fall in love instantly. Neena was not only my birth mate but also, my class mate, neighbor, distant relative and best friend. We grew up like two bodies cladded in one soul. I had proposed to her in second standard amidst the entire family, literally screaming, that I would marry only Neena and she acting like a woman already, smiled in consent. I loved everything about Neena and as she grew up, she looked no less than Angelina Jolie. She had a lean and athletic body with naturally thick and pouted lips, which any model would envy upon. With brown eyes, long lashes and a perfectly heart shaped face; I let out a deep sigh every time I watched her cross me. But, the best part was her giggling laughter, which pierced my heart rendering a smooth pain making me fall in love with her every day. That was my Neena, an angel chiseled out of heaven walking straight in to my life as if she was born for me. Neena could have done so much better in selecting a groom considering my short and squat body, making me look shorter irrespective of being taller than her. I wasn’t smart looking at all and to Neena’s standards, I knew, I could never match. With all the physical irregularities kept aside, we were madly in love. Not since second standard but since our birth, we were born to lighten up each others’ lives. And so we obeyed destinies command. We got married right after college unable to bear the distance of two gates. Marriage not only bonded us for law but for eternity. Things never changed after marriage like warned by my friends, but my involvement in family business did. She often complained about my business tours. Having no other options left, I disappointed her each time, leaving her alone for weeks. This time it was going to be different as I had asked her to join me in Dublin, after my meetings were accomplished, for a romantic weekend.
But the plans got crashed along with the crashing plane. Oh the terrorists!!! Didn’t they get any other day for killing people? When I was parading between romance and helplessness, an airport officer pulled me out of my reverie.
“Excuse me sir, you need to come with us for some questions” I obeyed hoping I could go home soon.
They questioned me like I had planted a bomb in the plane I was supposed to catch and faked my sleep. This is what is wrong with the government; they catch the innocent walking past by the guilty. Anyways, after a lot of questioning, they asked me to wait in the lounge again. Phones were still dead and so looked the people in the airport. I sat again thinking about Neena as only she was giving me constant hope and much needed support in that valley of unexpected silent death. I sat, slept, prayed, hummed, dreamed, counted hours, minutes and seconds but we were stranded in the airport for almost fifteen hours. Finally, we were asked to leave, I breathed deep to suck in some fresh air.
I rushed towards a taxi and jumped in out of excitement, to tell Neena, how I had escaped death. I once thought of calling her but chucked the idea as I wanted to surprise her. But again, took my cell phone out to find a dead one. I smiled silently, imagining her crying yet smiling face on seeing me. I stopped on the way and bought a bunch of her favourite Gerbera flowers and Cadbury silk, which we both licked in competition. Even after three years of marriage, we still acted like high school teenagers living in the cocoon of love and playfulness. Love meant everything to us; we fought, we kicked, we licked, we cuddled, we ran, we stopped, we flied, and we filled infinite colours of joy in our lives. A drop silently made its way out of my eye, imagining the beautiful days I had lived with Neena and countless to come. As the driver pressed the brake pedal hard, my heart accelerated anticipating her smiling face. When I reached my house, I was overwhelmed with tears flooding, only to feel how much I was loved. People hugged me but no one spoke. I hesitantly pushed the crowd, making way in to my bed room to see my Neena. In between, my mother stopped me, looking perplexed, tears rolling her eyes and uttered a meek line, ‘are you still alive?’, as if she was sad to see me alive. It didn’t bother me. I walked hurriedly towards my bed room, which was crowded again – I wanted to shout, leave me and Neena alone for a while, I am alive – only to find my Neena lying on the bed all alone with eyes wide open and that soft white skin turned blue. They were waiting for the police to arrive and take her body. I was asked not to touch her. I did not move- stood there watching my beautiful Neena lay motionless- god knows for how long.
Her father handed her suicide note to me, which read,
“Life started with Akash and so will death. I see no life without his presence. I promised to follow him and I will, no matter where he takes me. I am sorry dad and mom for this drastic step, but I am sure you will understand that I can’t survive a single second of my life without My love, My Akash”