Friday, May 25, 2007


He wakes up. Looks down at his watch. Ten thirty. "ETA 15 minutes" says the monitor up front. He reaches sideways for the seat-belt, breathes in and buckles himself up.
"There, that's the city," the girl to his side gestures at her grandmother. The old lady sits up to look out the window. He leans back so that she can get a better view.
The plane turns to port, homing in on the airport, breaking through the last of the clouds. The city looms up slowly. All is quiet inside the aircraft. No banter. No calling out to the airhostesses. No watching tv. No talking into cell phones. Even the babies have stopped crying. If silence is prayer, then they were all believers now. Very soon, they will be back to being people, back to their quotidian lives, back to the numbers and words that populate daily existence. But for a little while longer, they will remain passengers, deprived of their egos and the security of their bounded imagination, forced to exchange faith for convenience, rebellion for conformity, time for thought.
He reaches into his jacket and starts his ritual.
Passport. Check.
Did Icarus have a checklist? Did it have a bullet point saying 'Beware the sun at all times'? Was it just testosterone, a fatal transgression committed in the fever of youth? Was it because he wanted to go to heaven without dying that the Gods sent him back? Or was it just disguised suicide? Pity. Someone should have told him. The sun never lets you near. Maybe that's why we glorify him. Flaws shine in intimacy.
He takes his passport out, flips to the visa, looks at the immigration stamp.
That's when they take your identity away, don't they? That's when you take a break from existing, don't you? That's when you become a position on the plane, a statistic curled up inside a spreadsheet, that's when your life remains suspended in this aluminium coccoon where hope is neither absurd nor a refuge, but a compulsive state of mind. Suspended until you land. Suspended until they stamp you back into the assembly line of existence, returning your self to you whereupon you drive away into the welcoming morass of your life.
Wallet. Check. Ipod. Check. Paperback. Check. Ipod. Check.
He smiles when he catches himself double-checking the primary source of music in his life. Music removes him from the mundane, heightens every moment, shades his life with colours he would otherwise not perceive. Music is what he uses to negotiate with the world.
Terms of negotiation. Give and Take. Give, give, give, or take, take, take. At times slave, at times master ... every moment you trade with the world, but then you like to play games on the planes of your consciousness, you don't like to believe that you don't barter, that you are above and beyond human need. But then you need. All of us need. Love, hate, solitude, communion, power, submission ... it pays to adopt an attitude to help you get through your days. As long as it helps you trade.
"Pretty excited huh?" the girl asks him. He smiles at her and nods his head. "Yes."
He'd helped her board her grandmother. They'd got talking. She was touring the continent with the old lady. He was on business. Strangers thrown together for the duration of the flight. And like it happens sometimes in such situations, a common chord had been struck ... You get on this plane or bus or train. You meet people. You strike a conversation. Sometimes you like the other person. At other times, you keep politely skirting the fence of personal contact and decline to venture further. Sometimes you bid goodbye and remove these people from the vicinities of your memory. Sometimes you exchange phone numbers, fall in love, marry, beget children, die. Where is the excitement in all this? Excitement exists in those shadows where the light of consciousness cannot penetrate, in the deluded mind which thinks but does not realize it thinks.
And yet, when people ask him if he's excited, he almost always says yes. He cannot understand why. Maybe it's wonder, a sense of intirgue, a need for confirmation that he feels, but he cannot bring himself to accept that since these, in turn, would spawn excitement. Or maybe he realizes that the glaring light of awareness is too much to bear and that people are better off living in darkness.
So, either way, he says yes. Because he's undecided.
The plane starts dropping. His ears pop. Another reminder of the imminent confrontation with reality. He can feel the plane tense, the metal plates pull together as the aircraft plunges through the stratosphere. All pretense is up now. Anything could happen. The earth zooms up rapidly, streets and houses whiz by in a blur of urban colour. The overhead cabins get rickety as the plane picks up speed. Faster and faster.
And then the feel of rubber on tarmac, the bumpiness of the earth below them.
Touchdown. Deliverance.
Relief in the air inside the cabin as the passengers let out a collective sigh. The plane taxis down the runway to the gates. If it were not for propriety and seat-belts, he believes they would all get up and let out a cheer and pat each other on the back. It brought to his mind a conversation from the past.
So did you like flying?
Depends. I don't like to fly for long. I like the earth too much.
Poor Icarus, he thinks and reaches up for his bag.
In Hannover, Germany on work. Expect posting to be sporadic (as if it already wasn't).


Languorous_chaos said...


Echo said...

"Music removes him from the mundane...
Music is what he uses to negotiate with the world..."

As always,(Aren't you tired of me prattling the same sentences over and over again?), lovely choice of words. Very apt for my situation since I have starting using the radio as an analgesic during the 4 miles of routine cycling...

And, My My! Aren't we a globetrotter :)

Karthik said...

It was worth the wait !! Enjoy u'r business trip !! :))

~SuCh~ said...

Fantastic Post! Keep 'em coming.
Spent atleast five seconds relishing each line. A class apart... The rarest of gems are the most precious... Your back-from-a-hiatus posts never cease to please...

musafir said...

languorous chaos

That's all? Bah.


Thank you :-) ... and I never tire of appreciation, otherwise I wouldn't write.

And cycling? Four miles?? *raises eyebrows*


Thanks :-) ... been here two weeks now. So far, so good.

So when's the next "mature fiction" post coming up? ;)


Danke tshchuess :P ... your comment reminds me of something my brother told me when we were playing cricket -- that he couldn't believe how I could come back after a month or so without playing cricket and still play beautifully {I know, too conceited, but hey, if I don't who will? :D}

Not like I've had a block or anything, just that I've been writing a lot of drafts and not publishing. Not been happy with my writing. Which reminds me, I liked that post of yours on ARR and Ilayaraja; wrote a similar one and didn't publish it. Should do it one of these days, I guess.

Arundhathi said...

Did wonder !!

musafir said...


Ah, looks like someone's back ... did wonder what?

Arundhathi said...

Where you had been ... was on a trip myself *pun unintended*

musafir said...


Oh no, I didn't leave India until mid-May, was just busy with life offline ... so where did you "trip" to?:)

Arundhathi said...

'Tripped' across the seven seas ;)
When you back?

musafir said...

Must have been a 'long' 'trip' that :D ... should be back soon, mid-July or thereabouts.