Chapter 3 - A diversion (Feb 11)
It was 3 hours since she was on the flight to Dublin, 7:30am India time and Zoya was not sleepy at all. Her fear of flying had kept her mind and body alert. She was watching her 2nd movie now.
Aditya, her co-passenger, was in deep sleep. When the airhostess had come with their meals, Zoya asked her not to disturb him. From their brief conversation, she reckoned that he had a hectic day ahead of him and needed his rest. Maybe it would make him less cranky.
He had looked so surprised when she started a conversation with him earlier. If she were not in a flight, maybe she wouldn't have. She didn't talk much, let alone with strangers. But talking (even if to him) helped divert her mind from the fact that she was flying. Take off and landing were the most difficult part for her and it helped when her mind was not focused on those unpleasant parts.
The plane was moving steadily now. She had pulled down the shutter of the window and with the stable movement of the flight; it didn't even feel like she was thousands of feet in the air. She prayed for no further turbulence.
Unbuckling her seat belt, Zoya stood up from her window seat and scurried through the space between the front seat and Aditya's knees to reach the aisle. Thankfully, there was enough space between the seats in business, so she didn't have to disturb him. Once she was in the aisle, she took out one of her shopping bags from the overhead compartment. She had bought some clothes and basic toiletries while she was waiting for her flight, at the Delhi airport.
She went to the washroom and changed into fresh undergarments and clothes- a pair of blue jeans and a white shirt.
Zoya looked at her reflection in the mirror- the lack of sleep had made her listless and dull. She splashed some water on her face. In another 6 hours, she would be in Dublin. Then a short drive to the hotel and she would meet Yash.
He would be so surprised to see her and when she would tell him that she braved a nine hour plane journey, that too alone, just to be with him, he would be over the moon! The thought of his face and his bright smile, made her happy.
Aditya slowly opened his eyes, adjusting to the brightness in the cabin. His watch showed the time as 12:30pm- it was 8 hours since they had taken off. In less than an hour, they would be arriving in Dublin. He set his watch to Irish time- which was 5 and half hours behind India in February- to reflect 7 am.
He stretched his arms. He did end up getting his 8 hours of sleep and now felt fresh. He was feeling a bit hungry and decided to grab a quick breakfast at the airport and then renting a car to drive from Dublin to Limerick. He set a reminder on his phone to call and inform the Limerick team to set up everything once he landed.
A few minutes later, the cabin crew began preparing for landing. An airhostess walking passed him asked Aditya to lift the window shades. He craned his neck and saw that his co-passenger, the girl Zoya was wide awake, staring intently at the movie being played on the small tv screen in front of her.
She had headphones covering her ears so tapped her lightly on the shoulder. She jumped on her seat and turned to look at him with wide eyes.
He gestured her to take off her headphones. "We are about to land." He informed her when she unplugged the earphones. "You need to lift the window shades." He pointed at the covered window on her left side.
Once she was done lifting the shades, he asked her, "Did you not sleep at all?" He had noticed her eyes were red and she was somewhat jittery.
"I can't," she gave a meek response, "Too stressed to relax. I hate flying, especially the take off and landing."
"Good call boarding a 9 hour flight then," he said sassily, out of habit than anything else. As expected she didn't appreciate it.
The flight shook a little and the captain turned on the seat belt sign. Aditya noticed how Zoya clutched the armrest immediately. Maybe he could be a little supportive. It was clear that she was scared to death of being in the air. And he felt a little bad at being snarky to her initially.
"It's just a little turbulence," he assured her though she was hardly listening, "It's very norm-."
Before he could complete his sentence, the flight suddenly shook- much harder than earlier. This time Aditya instinctively reached for the armrest but since Zoya's hand was on it, he ended up placing his hand over her. The shaking of the plane didn't make either of them take notice.
"-Normal," he spoke in a voice, a little higher than a whisper, "It's normal."
At this point it felt like he was assuring himself more than her. The turbulence continued for a few minutes- intermittently rocking very hard. The passengers around him started gasping; some even yelping and the child in front of him started crying.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the pilot's voice crackled on the PA system, "we are experiencing severe turbulence. There is a major thunderstorm around Dublin. We'll be diverting our route and landing at Kerry airport in southwest Ireland. Please fasten your seatbelts and wait for further announcement."
The feeling of weightlessness crept in him as the plane dove downward. The first time didn't bother him- he was a frequent flyer and a flight losing altitude was usual. The plane went into free fall again. This time his heartbeat spiked and he heard someone around him shriek.
Oxygen masks deployed in front of the passengers and he immediately grabbed his and put it around his face, pulling the tube to start the flow of air. He turned to Zoya, and saw her fumbling with hers. Her face had gone pale and tears were streaming down her face.
He reached for it and put it around her face. He took her right hand in his and gave it a slight squeeze to reassure her. She turned her watery eyes to him and nodded. Her eyes shut the next moment when the flight shook again.
"...please put your masks first before helping others," the pilot's voice, overridden with static, filled the cabin.
The cry of the child in front of him, drew his attention ahead and Aditya saw that the mother was struggling with her mask and the child hadn't even put on his. The 2 cabin crew attendants were firmly seated, with belt fastened, in the front of the craft.
Aditya knew this was no time to be a hero, but it was a child; he couldn't not help a child. Cursing, he removed his mask and unbuckled his seatbelt. He stood up and took a swift step toward the kid.
"Sir!" one of the cabin crew screamed at him, "Return to your seat now!"
Aditya ignored her and helped put the mask around the child who was wailing louder and louder. The flight jerked and Aditya grasped the seat for support. He returned back to his seat and put on his belt and mask. The entire episode took less a than a minute.
A sidelong glance at the girl next to him caught his attention. Zoya was looking at him, through watery eyes with something, what he imagined to be surprise.
***(Kerry Airport, Ireland)***
When the flight finally touched down on the runway, Zoya could feel a weight being lifted off her. These last few minutes in the turbulent aircraft were one of the most terrifying moments she ever experienced. The constant jerking, and shaking was scary but what she thought would give her a heart attack, was the free fall. When the flight would just drop down, she thought that would be the last moment of her life.
At last they had landed. It wasn't Dublin but it didn't matter. She was grateful that she was back on earth. She promised herself that the last flight would be her going back home from Dublin and she would never set foot in one of these monstrous things again.
There was a melee at the Kerry airport. Many flights to Dublin were diverted here, in this small airport and soon a large crowd had gathered. Zoya only had the shopping bags in her hand and her purse. She waited near the airline counter with the passengers from the Delhi flight for further announcement.
A tall lady, with a heavy Irish accent, working in the airline came forth, "Till the thunderstorm in Dublin recedes, we have made arrangements for you here in. You'll be given a hotel room and a flight ticket to Dublin once the weather clears."
***(Hotel, Tralee, Ireland)***
They were given a room in an old hotel in Tralee (a town in Kerry). It was a cozy room with worn out furniture and a small single bed. Zoya didn't bother much about the arrangement. Once the weather cleared, she would be on her way back to Dublin. The thought of boarding another flight did send jitters down her spine but an airline staff had told her that it would be an 1 hour flight. Just like the Delhi-Dehradoon flight.
The flight however would come at a later date. Right now she was stuck in Tralee some 5 hours away from Dublin and Yash. The clock in her room showed 4 pm. She was supposed to be with Yash now, having coffee somewhere, telling him of her small adventure.
The thought of food made her stomach rumble. It had been sometime since she had eaten something and the stress of her recent flight experience had made her even hungrier. She did get a few hours of sleep after she had checked in the hotel.
She wanted to explore some restaurant in the town but it was raining heavily so she decided to eat at the small caf inside the hotel. Collecting her cup of coffee and a chicken sandwich from the counter, she looked around for a table.
Since a lot of passengers from different flights were given stay at the hotel, the caf, even the lobby was jam-packed. She was about to head back to her room when in the sea of people, she spotted a familiar face. It was Aditya, her co-passenger. After disembarking from the flight, she had lost sight of him.
He was slouched over the table with a map spread out in front of him. A cup of black coffee lay untouched next to the map.
"Hi," Zoya chirped gathering some enthusiasm. She put her coffee and sandwich on the table. There was no vacant chair so she stood opposite to him, across the table.
He looked up from the map and gave her a nod.
"That was one crazy experience, wasn't it?" she tried to lengthen the conversation, feeling a bit taken aback at his lack of response. He was quite helpful and supportive back in the flight, during the turbulence.
He nodded again and took a sip from his coffee.
"What are you doing?" Zoya gestured to the map.
This time he responded in words, "I have to go to Limerick. It's a couple of hours drive from here; shorter route than Dublin. I am trying to note the directions."
"So the flight being diverted was good for you," she commented with a smile. "Where are you getting a car from?"
"A rental place nearby," he replied, "though they don't have anything yet. A lot of travellers have been diverted here and the rental doesn't have enough cars. I did pay the staff there a little extra in case he gets hold of one."
Zoya nodded and stood awkwardly for a couple of minutes. Aditya narrowed his eyes, "Is there... Anything else?"
"Erm..." she stuttered before replying, "I wanted to thank you... for what you did in the flight... you know helping me with the mask."
"Yeah... okay," he muttered, taking another sip of the coffee.
That was an indication of sorts that maybe he didn't want to talk further, but sometimes she was so daft that she couldn't register.
"Why are you using a map for directions? Don't you have an app for that on your phone?" she asked and finally took a bite from the sandwich.
He crinkled his eyebrows, "When was the last time you checked your phone?"
Zoya shrugged her shoulders. After checking in at the hotel, she had straight away dozed off. On waking up she took a shower and now was at the caf.
"Thanks to the crappy weather here there is major network issue." He informed her casually.
Zoya's eyes widened as realization dawned on her. Crap! She forgot to call her family. They would be so worried. Her flight was supposed to land in Dublin 8 hours earlier and she had not even contacted them.
Muttering a quick "bye she bolted to her room, and in her haste, she left behind her cup of coffee and the partially eaten sandwich.
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