Amit was at the airport on time, a full 2 hours before departure. The check-in process was smooth and fast, no one travels on Saturdays I suppose, he thought to himself as he cleared security check. With his luggage checked in, all he carried was a tiny laptop bag but without a laptop. He was going on a 10-day vacation, he didn’t need his work to tag along. He entered the Hyderabad airport’s shopping area. An array of different brand stores shouting Richness laid in front of him. He conveniently ignored all of them and walked towards the food court. He had 1.5 hours before he would board his flight, might as well eat something before I reach there, he thought to himself and stood in a queue of hungry passengers for a burger. He knew how unhealthy burgers were but he had promised himself to go crazy on this trip and not worry about the calories at all. He rarely got time off work to enjoy anything. He had been eating food at his office cafeteria regularly. He used to tell his friends, “These chefs do not even deserve to be street vendors”, but everything was about to change. He was engaged to the daughter of his father’s friend. She was a chef at one of the poshest restaurants in the city. Amit was visibly drooling in the hopes of good food as the lady at the counter asked him for the third time what would he like to eat. He placed his order and stood aside, a little embarrassed of his short day dream.
After 20 minutes, he was done with his burger, and sat down at his gate 25 sitting area. He noticed that the gate was divided in 2, 25A and 25B. His flight was from 25A while there was another scheduled flight about 5 min later than his from Gate 25B. He wanted to know why can’t they just number the gates 25 and 26 but decided to dump the curiosity away until after he’s back from his trip. He sent a quick text to his fiancee telling her he was about to board the flight in 30 min. She didn’t reply. Must be busy, he thought and kept his phone back in his pocket. He went back to reading his book. A few minutes must have passed when he felt a tap on his shoulder and heard, “Excuse me?”. He looked up to see a man roughly his age smiling at him. “Yeah”, he replied.
“Do you mind taking your bag off the chair, I would like to sit here”, the man said calmly.
Amit looked around. What was a seating area with only 10 seats occupied a few minutes ago was now almost full. He looked at the man again, smiled, and put his bag down. The man took the seat saying, “Thank you”. Amit nodded at the man with a smile. Amit went back to reading his book and within a minute he heard the man call him again, “Are you going to Kochi or Srinagar?”
Amit looked at him again. He was sitting on his left, Amit pointed to gate 25A and said “Kochi. And you?”
“Are you from Kochi?”
“No, I am from here. I am just going to Kerala for a short trip”
“Oh I see. Same here. I am going to Srinagar for a trip as well”.
There was a long silence until the man spoke again.
“I am Mahesh”. He extended his arm to shake hands. Amit was experiencing a little discomfort with the conversation as the novel he was reading was at a very interesting turn. He didn’t want to be impolite so he shook Mahesh’s hand.
“I am Amit, Amit Saxena”
“Bond, James Bond style”, Mahesh burst into laughter at his own joke. Amit remained unmoved.
“For how many days are you going?” asked Mahesh again.
Amit closed his novel, put it in his bag. He was visibly irritated but Mahesh was oblivious. He waited for Amit to respond and kept staring at him. Amit gave in and looked at Mahesh. Once he did. He was compelled to answer. Mahesh’s face was bright and calm. So calm that he gave Amit an unnerving envy. How can someone be like this? He thought. He stayed silent, so did Mahesh, but soon enough Mahesh’s face started demanding answers. He didn’t move. He didn’t blink. He just stared.
“For 10 days, and you?”
“For 10 days as well. What a coincidence it is right?”
“Yeah. Amazing.” Amit was genuinely shocked. “So What do you do Mahesh and why this trip?”
“I am an IT guy, perhaps like you too”. Mahesh looked at Amit’s laptop bag and then his own, a gesture that said, We are in this together. He continued, “So as it happens, I just finished a project and I am now on bench. I thought why not go for a trip before I start something new.” He waited for Amit to say something, Amit just nodded. Mahesh continued,
“You know how it is with us right, I mean we never get a chance to explore a lot of places. So, I thought before I get married I should go on one last adventure. And why not? I deserve it”. He paused again for Amit to respond. Amit just stared at him, listening intently. Mahesh unwillingly continued, hoping for this conversation to become two-way soon.
“Then it was about scouting location. I thought Kashmir would be a good place to go, given that I am single and it’s winter, I could go skiing, etc. Usually Indian tourists go there in Summers, you know, to beat the heat”. Mahesh chuckled a little, again hoping for Amit to say something. Amit didn’t. He just nodded in agreement and smiled. Mahesh finally gave in and used his Trump card.
“What is your story?”, Mahesh asked.
“Yeah, I mean why are you going where you are going?”
“Aaah well, it’s pretty much similar to yours. I wanted to explore a new place, before I get married, so I booked myself a trip to Kerala. As it happens, I am now engaged and still going on the trip alone because my would-be better half is working and can’t take a few days off. I think it’s a good idea to travel solo from time to time, but it could be my last one, you know”. Amit explained. He didn’t have to pause. Mahesh began talking almost immediately.
“Oh my God. This is the biggest coincidence ever. I just got engaged too. This is my last solo trip as well. I think we are long lost brothers.” Mahesh forced a laugh as he completed the statement.
“Yeah, it’s shocking”. Amit replied, he was surprised. He knew that coincidences like these were reserved for Bollywood Movies only.
Amit looked at his watch, 5 min to boarding. He preferred boarding at the very end. It was easier that way. He didn’t have to stand in a queue for boarding, and he didn’t have to get up for fellow passengers if he was early and had the aisle seat. It was different this time. Mahesh was annoying him and he didn’t want to sit there any longer. He checked his watch again, 4 minutes. He looked at the gate, airline crew was preparing for check in. Passengers were already standing in a queue. He knew if he got up now he had to stand there for another 10 minutes. He had to choose the less of 2 evils. He looked at Mahesh, Mahesh was looking at his gate 25B. Mahesh was sincere. He was calm, composed, looked like a man who had nothing to fear. At this moment, looking at Mahesh, Amit realised, the trip he was taking was not for fun and enjoyment before he gets married as he had come to believe. The trip was to come back home like Mahesh, satisfied with life. Amit couldn’t leave. He had to talk to Mahesh. He wanted to know the story of this man, the man, who made him realise how agile his own mind was.
“Hey Mahesh”, Amit called out.
Almost immediately Mahesh looked at Amit and replied, “Yeah?”
“How are you so calm? Aren’t you afraid, a new place, no prior travel, did you study about Kashmir a lot? Are you aware of the place?”
“No I am not. I wanted to explore it on my own. No study. I don’t even have my hotels booked”
“Strange. I wish I was like you. I was so scared to take this trip. I have no idea if I would have made it. I have this whole thing planned”, Amit took out his phone and showed his notes. It contained maps, hotel names, directions, places to see, budget, things to buy, and more such items on the long list.
“People are different right Amit”, Mahesh pointed out.
“Yes they are. But I would love to be an adventurer, like you. Not be afraid of what is going to come next”
“How do you know I am not afraid?”
“I can sense that. I can judge it from your body language”
“Well, yes. I am not afraid. I like to challenge myself”
“I want to be like you I am serious”
Mahesh looked at Amit and smiled. There was a call for boarding from the airline for both Srinagar and Kochi.
Mahesh got up, “Well, it was nice to meet you Amit. Have a great trip”.
Amit replied, “Yeah, a trip for me. An adventure for you. Have a good one. I wish I was going on an adventure”.
Mahesh replied, “What you are doing, is no less than an adventure. See you Amit. Nice meeting you”
“Thanks Mahesh. I have half a mind of going to Kashmir now”
“Yes. That will be an adventure”
“I can make that happen”
“No time for jokes”
“I am serious Amit. Do you really want to go to Kashmir?”
“Alright, let’s exchange boarding cards”
“Yes, let me go to Kochi, and you go to Kashmir. We are already checked in, no one checks ID from this point onwards”
“It’s your only chance to go to Kashmir”
“No”. Amit hesitated. “It’s not legal. I can’t do it”
“It’s an adventure”
“Yes. But err…”
“Now or never Amit”
Amit sat silently for a few moments. He sprung from his chair later and almost shouted, “Okay, let’s do it”
“Very well. Here is my pass” Mahesh handed over his boarding pass to Amit. Amit gave him the boarding pass to Kochi. They were laughing at their madness.
“Off you go to Kochi then, here’s my business card, feel free to use my tourism package, call me when you land and I will give you all the details” Amit told him eagerly.
Mahesh looked at the card and smiled, “Thanks Amit, this is my adventure too now. Enjoy”
Amit walked over to Gate 25B. He was last in the queue of remaining 4 passengers. He looked at Gate 25A as Mahesh checked in and went inside the gate towards the plane. He was soon out of sight. It was then that he realised that the lady standing at the counter was asking him for the boarding pass for quite some time already. He apologised and handed over his boarding pass. As she checked him in she said, “Welcome to out flight to Srinagar, hope you have a great time”
Amit thanked her and went towards the airplane. As he entered the plane, the stewardess asked for his boarding pass to help him with his seat. He obliged. At this moment Amit realised that he didn’t even bother to check the seat number. The stewardess handed back the boarding pass to Amit and replied, “Welcome to India Fly Airways. Your seat is 2A, thank you for flying business class with us”
Amit’s excitement knew no boundaries. Not only he was on an adventure, he was now on a luxury adventure. He took his seat. The Air-hostess soon brought him some juices and water. She looked at Amit and asked, “Mr. Amit, please let me know if you need anything else”.
Amit recalled that he never mentioned his name to anyone along the way. He asked her, “How do you know my name?”
The Airhostess smiled and replied, “I read it on your Boarding pass sir”. She walked back to the flight gate smiling.
Amit slowly picked up the boarding pass and looked at it, it said ‘Saxena, Amit“
Cover Pic: Slideshare