Flying Lion Air

I seldom get up, close and personal with my fears. Apart from marrying the man I love, against some initial premonitions, I’ve had life come to me pretty easily. I’ve never harboured those Do the Dew or AXN X Factor instincts to explore the adventurous schemes of life.

I tried to snorkel twice but never got off the boat when we were in the middle of the ocean. Some such incidents stand witness to my very own version of the ‘Never say Die’ spirit.

I basically chose to never play with fire.

Until recently, when I took a Lion Air flight from Jakarta to Bangkok, a little after their infamous incident in the same region.

If the world allowed you to collect your miles in a single program that connected all airlines, I’d earn free tickets for 3 months basis the miles I’d gathered thus far. Hence, in all this time I was okay with the act of defying gravity up above the world so high. It was the overlapping of the various variables between this flight and that which had met with an accident, that scared me.

Thai Lion Air.

Taking off from Jakarta.

Phew! This one had the pit of my stomach sinking under the weight of my worry.

I’d contemplated changing my tickets but the asterisk marking my itinerary NON REFUNDABLE in bold, though fine, print made me question if my life, err my fears, were worth another 7000 INR. Much procrastination and many prayers were followed by me successfully boarding the flight and sitting there on my aisle seat with bated breath, recalling the names of as many Gods I’d ever worshipped.

Through the 3 hours 10 minutes flight, my senses were on red alert.

I was trying to read the air hostess’ face; scouting for fear, dilemma or anxiety across her facial lines, concealed under all that make up.

The pilot / co-pilot didn’t do the introductions as we prepared for take off. One of them even went to the loo and that leak break set my heart in motion at Bolt speed!

Innocent question: Are they allowed to attend nature calls while flying ? Should we rather invest in adult diapers to take care of the unforeseen ?

The air hostess served them water and coffee in the confines of their cabin. A little later, and much to my surprise a co-passenger from one of the premium seats was even allowed into the captain’s cabin. That – I’m sure is not common but the Lion was the king of the jungle and who was I to complain. I decided to stay put as long as the stranger’s presence in that cabin didn’t cause turbulence- whether intentional or otherwise.

I troubled my co-passenger – a middle aged Indonesian lady working as a University teacher, traveling to Thailand on one of her many collaborative exchange programs.

At one point as were passing through an area of turbulence, I held on to her hand with my sweaty palm and I don’t think she’d expected that when she first came and sat next to me.

Parents, family, husband, friends had all told me to board the flight equipped with some devices of distraction. I carried a bag of Doritos, my Kindle with the latest non-fiction by Adam Grant on give and take in professional relationships, an episode of Criminal Minds pre-downloaded on my Prime Video app, two episodes of the documentary Dog, also pre-downloaded on Netflix, pre-downloaded the movie Karwaan starring Irrfan Khan and a packet of chewy mints.

Nothing except the mints, helped. I finished the click strip pack by Wrigley’s within 45 minutes of take-off, and NOTHING came to my thought trail’s rescue thereafter.

My stomach had generated enough acids to be at discomfort with the influx of corn chips.

The book was partially helping until I reached page 21 and realised I was registering a word, just praying that the Divine forces not take my life, just yet and give me strength to see this through!

The Criminal Minds episode featured a sex offender and the heart advised to skip that negativity for the time being. The mind gladly complied.

The documentaries on Dogs didn’t stream because…well, Netflix.

Karwaan was reeling on my phone screen much to my co-passenger’s delight who had only ever heard of Shahrukh Khan from our Bollywood stories. However, I decided to pass up the movie too when the bus accident was unfolding and once again the heart yearned to not hold the mind hostage to this negative footage, albeit staged.

I shifted focus to educating the lady about Bollywood. I even brought her up to speed with SRK’s surrogate legacy – AbRam, until I realised she was yawning sheepishly.

All attempts of distraction had failed and my knuckles hurt from grasping on too strong. I decided to play with a pen to give it some exercise. Long before I knew it, I was penning down this experience on a notepad I’d whacked from my hotel in Jakarta.

Still an hour from our estimated time of landing, I wrapped up the paraphernalia I’d scattered in my minuscule tray space and went back to playing the jaagran record in my head, chanting “Jay Ambe, Jay Ambe” until the wheels of the aircraft aggressively kissed the runway and I smiled to myself for having survived this bravely.

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