As I am waiting by the gate to board the plane, I look around me. All I see is rows of people from different countries lining up for their share of promised sunshine. Some have large hats squashed under their arms and some are reading Lonely Planet in hope of finding that one hidden island in the Maldives that will fill their senses with a calm of a gentle sea. Some are immersed in the latest John Grisham. While many are snoozing on the shoulder of a loved one having travelled all the way from Russia or UK.

Far in the distance I see an old couple holding hands and munching on salted peanuts. They only have eyes for each other as if the world around them does not even exist. I wonder what its like to be married for 50 odd years and what a ride these two must have had. Sitting next them is a girl with blonde and hair and blue eyes adjusting the bikini on her Barbie.  A group of young students who have gathered in a corner burst into bouts of laughter over sipping Fanta and munching Pringles. A large Russian family is gathered around cranky toddlers trying to capture the moment on their shiny iPhones. I see Arabs, Americans, East Europeans, Indians, Sri Lankans; all gathered at the gate to fulfill their dream; to grab a little piece of heaven drizzled with sunshine.

As I finally settle down in my seat and sip on orange juice, I look around to see if the flight is full. All seats are filled and not an ounce of space is left in the overhead bins – everything from duty-free shopping bags to soccer balls are neatly stuffed around backpacks and heavy coats. The plane is overflowing with life and expectations.The loud excited chatter spills into my seat and I break into a smile. No matter who you are, how rich you are, how old you are – holidays are always special! 

As we begin to depart, I can hear soft murmurs from behind my seat. As I peak through the cracks, I see two delicate hands with orange nail polish filled with intricate henna nervously playing with the seat belt. I can tell, she is newly married. Her black abaya has beautiful pink Chinese Peony flowers embroidered on the sleeves. Her husband is trying to tell a joke in an attempt to ease her tension. And then suddenly I hear her laughing………. freely……. as if she is alone with him in a garden and no one is watching. Her khole lined dark eyes are full of shiny dreams for her new life with a man she probably does not know that well. She looks at him with the tenderness of a new born child and her cheeks tun a dark shade of crimson. He gently caresses her fingers while gazing into her deep eyes. Her Jasmine perfumes rides over her laughter and fills my senses. I close my eyes and wonder what her story will be like few years from now. When the colours of the henna would have faded and her nails will chipped from changing diapers and doing laundry. May be his jokes will not be funny anymore and she will look at life through a different lens!

I just wonder what her story would be like………

As I feel the plane moving, the gentleman beside me has already transcended to la la land and I can hear his snores above the sound of the engine. The glasses and towels are collected, blankets opened, seat belts fastened and with one loud bang we take off for Maldives…… hope of finding that perfect island where life is beautiful and the ocean is blue!

 Part 2 to follow


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Shivani Adalja

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