"Glad to have you", said he With so much surety that he is- Wide eyes and tears within Controlling himself not to bleed After so much of wait He met me Or I met him, A long emotional conversation On a call We did nothing but we talked- I cried, he controlled Everything got unlocked, We saw the madness of each other And glanced every part It was purely intense And it lasts- The love that we have Nothing can surpass I remember he said, 'He loves me alot' He really brings happiness to my heart, He gives me joy , Please my part;
As a personal historian, my entire time is devoted towards capturing the incredible lives that people have lived. It's filled up with so many remnants of the past, so many stories that put one human being or a family at large under the spotlight. It happens to me everytime that when I am narrating their stories, I completely step into their shoes and take this marvellous journey not as an outsider, but as a member of the family. What they experience, what they see, what they feel, I experience, I see and I feel, every fleeting moment of it.
The interviews are my favourite because honestly I can sit there and listen to them for decades if they go on and on. I see them open their wonderful lives to me, invite me into their safe space and then share with me whatever they would probably share with the mirror on the wall or the diary inside their closet. When they see all of those extremely valuable stories pieced into a concrete manuscript, there is a smile on their face that I cannot explain. It's probably the smile that mandates to how grateful they are feeling for the life that they have lived.
Of course there are stories of pain and suffering too, but overall they're just glad that they're here and that someone is going to read all about their exploits and draw some little life lessons from there. However, as exciting and fascinating as all of this feels when we indulge in the lives of other humans, it's never the same when it comes to writing about one's own chronicles. Writing my own stories has always been the most challenging for me because I would never know where to start, or how to put everything in a coherent and clean manner because everything is all jumbled up here.
Anyway, this story is more important than my shortcomings to ruin it. So, here goes nothing. The year is 1996 and I am in Kashmir with my Mum and Dad after returning on a vacation from Saudi Arabia where my father was posted with the health ministry of the Kingdom. As a kid, I always used to be fond of these vacations back in my hometown because I was only 3 years old when we moved to a remote town called Hotat Sudair, 150 kms away from Riyadh City. My brothers back home would always be excited to have their little brother and parents around as they grew up with my Grandma and wouldn't travel with us to Saudi Arabia.
After a month of holidays, my father was called back to work immediately and so we had to cut our holidays short and book our flights from Delhi to Riyadh (which we did not find and so instead had to book one to Dammam). I don't exactly remember what it was but due to some perilous circumstances, flight services going out of and in to Kashmir were halted. I believe this was because of the build up to 1999 Kargil war and since the ties between the two countries saw an all time low during Narsimha Rao's period as the PM and charge was then taken up by veteran and seasoned politician late Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
So, in order to prevent our flight from being cancelled for no show, my father decided to race against time and we left for Delhi in our car, accompanied by our late driver Ali Mohammad Sahab, may his soul rest in peace, I used to be so very fond of him because whenever he would go out, he would always bring me almonds and shireen (small white sugary balls) to eat. He was a very experienced driver and we were making good time until the convoys started moving in and since it was a hilly road, we had to halt every time a convoy would pass us by and it would sometime take 30 minutes for them to pass.
We only had a day left to reach our destination and we weren't even close. Eventually, we missed our flight by a good time margin and so we just decided to check in at a hotel because we were tired and we were famished. We get to the hotel and my father gets a call from an unknown person. Back in those days, we did not have smartphones and so had to do with those basic Nokia phones that looked and buzzed like bleepers. So, on the other side of the line is a gentleman who apparently in a very relieved tone asks my father if he was the same person to have booked a flight on the Boeing 747 Saudi Arabian Airlines plane flying to Dhahran, Dammam.
My father thought they were calling to have another flight scheduled or process any refunds but what the guy said next shocked my father so much that he just frantically called for my mother and hugged her tightly. I did not understand what was happening then but I do now. This person was an official with the Saudi Arabian Airlines and he was breaking out the news to my father how we were the only survivors of a plane crash. Minutes after taking off from Indira Gandhi International Airport, this Dammam bound plane met with a gut wrenching mid air collision with a Kazakh cargo plane over the place called Charkhi Dadri in Haryana.
Referred to as the most deadliest plane accident in the aviation history, all 369 souls on board the plane perished (may all of them find peace). As soon as the news broke, we started getting calls after calls of people telling us "how grateful you must feel to be alive" and that was indeed true. At least the adults in the family who could understand what had happened, this was nothing short of a miracle.
Had flight services not been hampered that day, we would have been on that flight. Had the convoy not delayed us from reaching Delhi, we would have been on that flight. Had the authorities in Saudi Arabia not called my father back from holidays so soon, we would have been in Srinagar and taken the news very differently from how we took it then. Looking back to that fateful night, I still shiver and am awestruck at the strange and mysterious ways of time. Whatever it was, whatever it meant, when I think about it, the only thing that runs through my mind is how grateful I am to be alive.