6 months. | Shorts [Fiction]

Monica Kapoor’s heels clicked sharply on the floor, as she walked between the aisles, adjusting seatbelts, shutting overhead cabins. She paused as a little boy of about seven stood in the aisle, trying desperately to shut the handle of his trolley bag. Monica smiled.

‘Let me get that for you. Should I put that in the overhead locker?’ The boy nodded with a shy smile. Monica beamed at him and neatly tucked his bag in the locker. The boy scampered into his seat.

Monica moved on with a well-practised smile to help the other passengers. Today, she had completed 6 months as an air-hostess. It filled her with an odd sense of tranquillity. She absolutely adored her job. It was tiring, but the nicest kind of tiring. In the past 6 months, she had visited some of the most beautiful cities, striking them right off her bucket list. Besides, there seemed to be a never ending supply of cute guys in-flight. She trotted over to help the handsome man in seat 24C, who seemed to have dropped something under his seat.

William Carter fumbled around for his pen, having dropped it under his seat thanks to his butter-fingers. He looked up as the air-hostess walked up to him and asked if she could help him. He shook his head, and scooped up the pen. The air-hostess walked away. Carter pulled out his travel journal and began to pen down the details of his flight journey. He was heading back home to Canada, after his 6 month holiday in India. It was a sabbatical of sorts, a break from his normal job as a software developer. He had learnt a lot about himself through this holiday. India in itself was a beautiful country, myriad and unstoppable. Carter had spent 6 unbelievable months meeting fascinating people, eating maddeningly spicy food, swimming in the Ganges as well as the Arabian sea, and learning about the history of the vast country. He was surprised he had convinced himself to return back home, agreeing to do so only with a promise to go back to Hindustan one day. Perhaps to Rishikesh, retreating into the calmness offered by the ashrams.

His train of thought was interrupted by loud wails from a baby. He let out an inaudible groan. The seat next to him was going to be occupied by a young mother carrying her screeching baby. The flight journey back to Canada was going to be hell.

Namrata Aggrawal staggered into seat 24B, close to tears. In her arms she was carrying her purse, a baby-bag, and of course, 6-month old Ankush, who just wouldn’t stop crying. Namrata was convinced her son was a demon-child, ever since he had kicked up a solid crying session right after they had crossed the security check. They were on their way from Delhi to Toronto, where husband/daddy Rajesh was waiting eagerly for them. Namrata had spent the last eight months in Delhi with her family and in-laws, for the birth of her first child. On her mother and mother-in-law’s advice, she had stayed in Delhi until Ankush was half a year old, assuming it would give him enough time to be able to travel on a transit flight. How wrong was she. Since she had booked her tickets last minute, she had been unable to get the first seat, which would have allowed her to obtain a baby crib. Not like Ankush would let her put him down in a foreign cradle.

‘I’m really sorry about this.’ Namrata said to the foreigner sitting next to her, who looked positively neurotic. ‘I don’t know how to calm him down.’ The man’s face immediately softened.

‘It’s alright. His first time on a flight?’ the man asked, looking sympathetically at Ankush. Namrata nodded. She suddenly felt someone tap on her shoulder. She turned around to look at a middle-aged lady with a very kind face.

Meenakshi Shah smiled down amiably at the mother sitting with her baby. Both of their faces had turned red, the baby because it was crying relentlessly, and the mother because she seemed at loss about handling the situation. Meenakshi, who was a mother of two herself, understood the state the mother was in.

‘Would you like me to hold the baby for a bit?’ she asked the mother. The mother looked surprised for a second, then mumbled a hurried thankyou, carefully placing her child into Meenakshi’s arms.

‘What is the baby’s name?’ Meenakshi asked, cradling the child in her arms.

‘Ankush.’ the mother answered, stuffing her bag underneath the seat in front of her. Meenakshi cooed at baby Ankush, who seemed to be calming down now.

‘My name is Meenakshi.’ The mother nodded, her expression somewhere between gratefulness and i’m-not-sure-how-to-respond-to-this-situation. She introduced herself as Namrata, and then asked if she could run to the washroom for two minutes. Meenakshi nodded fervently. She adored babies, being a self-confessed pro at handling the little things.

‘Don’t worry, he’s perfectly safe with me.’ Namrata thanked her again, and rushed to the washroom before it was time for the flight to take off. Meenakshi paced a few feet with little Ankush in her arms, talking to him softly. She was on her way to London, the stopover for this Delhi-Toronto flight, to meet a potential marketer for her precious jewellery brand ‘Viva’. Her business had just hit the 6-month mark, but was still restricted to sale in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Dubai. She was looking to shift her business to London, the city where she had spent 4 years of her life as a student several decades back.

Namrata returned back, looking stable now. She took a now-silent Ankush from Meenakshi, and thanked her again. Meenakshi waved with a laugh and said that she would be ready to help if the need arose again. She returned back to her seat 25D, next to her co-passenger in 25E.

Cory Rodriguez stared at his Android phone in disbelief. It had crashed abruptly just a couple of minutes back, despite being only 6 months old.

What the fucking fuck, Cory thought angrily. He considered smashing his phone on the tray-table in front of him, but restrained himself. He let out a groan and settled back into his seat. On his left hand side sat a middle-aged Indian woman, who had immersed herself into the in-flight magazine. On his right was his friend Harry Li, who was talking to his girlfriend. On his iPhone. Cory felt anger surge into him again. How could the bloody phone just stop working like that?!

Cory was heading back home, along with 12 other classmates, after their annual educational trip abroad. This one had been in Ladakh, a mountainous region in the state Jammu and Kashmir in India. The class had spent two weeks travelling in and around Ladakh, and two days in the capital Delhi. Cory had taken close to 500 photos on his phone, all of which now stood in the threat of being erased. Cory had no idea what the damage was.

‘Chill out, dude. I’m sure it’s just some battery issue. We’ll hit Kensington the moment we get to Toronto, and get that thing fixed.’ Harry said, not even looking up from his phone. Cory rolled his eyes.

Ladies and gentlemen. The flight is now preparing to take-off. Kindly fasten your seatbelts, straighten your seats and latch in the tray-tables. Make sure all your luggage is stored in the overhead cabin, or under the seat in front of you. Refrain from getting up from your seat until the seatbelt sign has been switched off. Bear in mind that this is a no-smoking flight. Thankyou and have a pleasant journey.

All the passengers stared at the TV screens in front of them, about 60% of them watching the video that instructed all about the exits, life-jackets, oxygen masks, emergency landing procedures, and so on. Statistically, the odds of dying in a plane crash are equal to quadruplets being born — but not just any quadruplets,naturally conceived quadruplets. And not just any naturally conceived quadruplets, but naturally conceived identical quadruplets (see note at bottom). What was the point of listening to all this banter?

Monica Kapoor settled into her cabin crew seat after making the announcement. William Carter shut his travel journal and tucked it into the front seat pocket. Namrata Aggrawal sighed in relief because Ankush had finally fallen asleep. Meenakshi Shah was still immersed in her in-flight magazine. Cory Rodriguez resigned to watching Modern Family on his tv. Everything seemed settled.

Until flight BA101 exploded 20 minutes into its flight time. There were no survivors.

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*note: statistics of a plane crash: http://www.askmen.com/entertainment/special_feature_200/223b_special_feature.html *

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