Recently I was on a holiday to Kenya. My 9 day trip was packed from day 1. Visiting different places each day & many long game drives. I had planned for night flight back home with the hope to catch on good sleep & wake up fresh in my home country.
The flight had two columns with 3 seats each side. We were at the second row. The take-off happened quick & it is only when the first infant started wailing did I realise that in just 3 rows consisting of 18 seats there were 8 children aged below 5. (yes I actually counted) Maybe it was holiday time & everyone was going home to meet their grandparents. I felt sorry for the moms who had to pacify their wailing child. Felt relieved that I had crossed that phase in life as I looked at my young man peacefully watching the movie ‘Superman’ as the flight took off.
Soon it was time to sleep & here began my ordeal. The flight per say was very comfortable. It’s the co passengers that I forgot to take into account. The first row of 6 seats, 3 each separated by an aisle was occupied by a single family. One man, two women and 3 children all related or maybe close friends. They obviously forgot that there were other passengers on board. Because they kept ALL the reading lights on through the night. While the two little boys slept peacefully under the bright light that was used as a makeshift night light, the 3rd infant just decided to play all night long under papa’s supervision. This gave the young moms their most required me time. Sitting on the centre seat on either side of the aisles, they started off on some family gossip in a local language that I very well understand. Chatter chatter chatter through the 6 hours we were in air making sure that I know exactly which Aunt said what and which sister in law wore/ate what.
Soon the lights came on and the pilot made an announcement that we had entered Mumbai & would land in 30 minutes. I started hearing sounds like that on a cell phone. Being completely sleep deprived, I thought I was hallucinating, when I saw the lady in front of me actually turn on her phone and check messages while we were still flying. It took 20 minutes to descend and touch ground after that. While the flight was still taxiing at good speed, our family (by now I felt like I was a part of them as I knew so much) got up, opened the overhead cabins, got out their luggage & then with all hand baggage and children in tow, started moving towards the exit. The aircraft was yet to stop. (It is unfortunate that they didn’t know how to open the door, or else I’m sure they would’ve jumped off too. It would have done the world some good.) The cabin crew were still buckled up like all the other passengers, waiting for the plane to halt.
For now, this is the travel lesson I learnt: ALWAYS carry earplugs and eye masks when on an overnight flight.
So, it was another ordinary day. She was busy with insignificant thoughts like what to wear, what to cook, whether to move out or continue to live with the stranger she married… While the former two were simple, the third one got her confused as always. Bored of the train of thoughts that took her nowhere, she decided to seek escape in social media. A platform that often bored her for being fake. But today would be different. She had a new message. It was from someone unknown, never heard the name before. It said , ‘Hi! Do you plan to run the Goa Marathon next month?’ It was normal for people to connect to her on running related issues. She had another life, that as a runner. She could’ve assumed, this was someone who needed help with some logistics; travel, stay, collection of the running bib or any other matter. But it couldn’t be. She had two accounts on the social media & this one, she never used for any running related coordination. She had managed to carefully partition her life. She maintained a different account for that part of her life where she was a helpful, well connected runner & motivator. This part was where she was the really happy, confident, beautiful & carefree mother , friend & a family person. Cautiously, she replied with just, ‘yes’. She was ready to close and move on to something else, when suddenly this name turned online & she received her next message. Something that would change a lot for her in the time to come. ‘ok, see you there then. But promise, no hugs this time’
Seriously! Who was this? He didn’t need any help & then what about hugs? Not a person to forget things too soon, curiosity got the better of her. She clicked on the unknown name & a photo suddenly looked back at her. Here was a face she had seen on the running tracks before. A few cordial hellos had been exchanged earlier. He was from another city she knew. But what about hugs?? So the next message got sent. ‘what is this about hugs? What am I missing?’ An awkward silence followed, then a lengthy message. ‘ last year I was so excited after my good run, I hugged you at the finish. Felt stupid doing that as we don’t even know each other. Had been looking for you ever since, to apologise. So here is my sincere sorry for reacting that way.’ So here was a guy, who spent a year trying to find out her name & track her down for an incident so insignificant that she didn’t even remember! Sweaty hugs after a good run are not that uncommon. She was not the one to give or get them usually, but it surely wasn’t something she would make a big deal of. This guy was either a stalker or a really sincere & honest person. She decided to go with the latter & responded. ‘Apologies accepted. Touched that you took the trouble to track me down just to get things cleared. Funny that I had forgotten the whole incident until just now. Thanks to this, I will remember it for a long time to come 😀 cheers!’
A new friendship had blossomed at the most unlikely situation.
Somewhere in her real world, outside the beautifully painted social media account in which life looked perfect, things began to look different. A hope started to emerge. Maybe there was a life waiting for her outside these four walls, away from the stranger whom she lived with. Maybe she needed to give herself another chance!
My day started when the alarm blared to a horrendous tone (even the sweetest music can sound bad if that’s the one waking you up from your Sunday morning sleep). Cursing myself for pursuing running as a hobby, I went on to make some fresh coffee to actually wake me up. (I was moving around like a zombie until then). The thought of a pleasant rainy day, picturesque surroundings & awesome company is what really made me get out of bed.
My strong cuppa followed by a sandwich infused some energy into me & off I went to join the rest of the group. We reached the location chosen for our run that day at about 6 AM. The weather was just perfect with strong cool breeze blowing & the sun nowhere in sight. Each of us started our own respective runs. I did’nt go with any plan, but let my body & my mood do the talking. Ended up doing a very Forrest Gump-ish run. I had no idea about the distance, pace or time I intended to run. I had no reason for running. I just ran because I felt like and at the pace that my feet agreed to carry me forward. I kept running till I thought I had enough, then, I turned back to go the start. (where the group had assembled)
I was on foot for more than one and a half hours when suddenly the winds grew stronger, the clouds grew darker. With just open land in all four directions, I could see the rains fast approaching. I kept running & the rains caught on with me within a minute or so, completely soaking me in its cool showers. The drops hits hard on my skin & it felt better than what any Jacuzzi could offer. The pure water was so sweet. I was now running with my arms stretched out looking upward to the sky & keeping my mouth slightly open, trying to take in as much rain as possible. Few villagers wearing plastic ponchos & running to find shelter in an otherwise open place, stopped to look at me with bewilderment. This was the best cool down I have ever experienced after a run.
I love Mumbai, I love Monsoon & I love running. Managed to cover a distance of about 14.5 kms (about 9 mi) in 1 hour 50 mins including a warm up & cool down walk of about 1.6 kms (1 mi). Happy week ahead!