Love In Turbulent Times
A choppy flight to Goa that became a metaphor for a happy married life
On my recent trip to India—just before the lockdown—I travelled from Delhi to Goa to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday.
On either side of my aisle seat were two honeymooning couples. While I was navigating my way through the in-flight entertainment instructions, I overheard the young girl next to me say to her husband, “But I want to do this. It’s only been a week since we got married and you’re already saying ‘no’.”
Curious, I turned towards the couple, and heard the husband calmly explain to his wife why she couldn’t shoot a video inside the aircraft or during take-off.
“But all my friends do it, and I want to put it on Facebook. My friends won’t believe I flew to Goa,” the girl insisted.
The husband looked sheepishly towards me, willing me to understand his predicament. “Peer pressure,” I mouthed, and he nodded, relieved.
Soon the couple exchanged seats—the young girl happily clicking photos—while the husband and I struck up a conversation discussing life in small-town Haryana, his responsibilities towards his parents, his marriage and the importance of both partners working, and, of course, India’s financial situation.
Suddenly, the plane dipped, startling the entire cabin—we had flown into a turbulent zone. The thrashing-about was so severe that the flight attendants serving lunch had to grip the overhead luggage hold and stop service. The couple on the other side of the aisle were holding onto each other for their dear lives—with the man whimpering uncontrollably. The wife, quite terrified herself, tried to calm him down, “Shab theekh hai, main hoon na, (It will be okay, I am here, darling).” While the flight attendant kept reassuring the young man that everything would be fine within minutes—once the pilot flew a little low—his tears wouldn’t stop, and he didn’t let go of his wife’s hand throughout.
The aircraft steadied soon afterwards and the young man said to me in Hindi, “Didi, I don’t want to die—at least not yet. You see, I’ve always wanted to sit in an aeroplane and, for the past 10 years, I have been saving ₹500 each month to make it happen.” He had saved enough for both their tickets and a good hotel in Goa. “I want to give my wife a holiday that she’ll remember for the rest of her life. Because, once the holiday is over, I will go back to my peon’s job and my wife to hers. And, I have my parents’ responsibility and two unmarried sisters. I’m scared but I can’t die.”
I nodded—unable to say anything.
I turned towards the other couple, across the aisle, to check on them. The young girl smiled and said, “Nah, mujhe daar nahin lagta … Manoj hain na. (No, I am not scared, I have Manoj.)”
When I disembarked, I saw both the couples, walking away hand-in-hand, with not a care in the world—confident that their love will see them through turbulent times.