Do Not Be Alarmed

When these words are said, they usually have the opposite effect as intended. For one often isn’t alarmed, until told one shouldn’t be.

Halfway en route to Hyderabad, the pilot announces that everything is under control, not to be alarmed, but due to mechanical difficulties we are returning to Delhi. I wonder about this. We are one hour into the two hour flight. Wouldn’t it be more effective just to continue? Either way, it will take an hour to get to an airport. I’m assuming they have mechanics in Hyderabad.

I see all the passengers looking around with questioning eyes. The flight attendants come through the aisle, smiling, reminding everyone to buckle their seat belts. Several people ask questions, and I hear a Hindi answer with a sprinkling of English: technical, okay, new aircraft.

The return to Delhi seems more turbulent. Almost as though the pilot does not have control of the plane. We rock back and forth, and bump up and down. I keep telling myself that I’m imagining this , that it’s just a little turbulence. I see Delhi below us. We descend, and hit the landing strip with a thud. And don’t seem to be slowing down. We finally do, then come to a halt. It’s then that I notice the dozen fire trucks moving along side and behind us. And the dozens of jeeps with bright yellow “Safety Taxi” plastered on their sides. The flight attendants tell us to remain seated. I watch men in bright yellow and red helmets and orange safety vests examining the landing gear. Standing, pointing, nodding, walking around, stopping down, taking pictures with their mobile phones. After what seems like an eternity, we de-plane, board a bus, and are driven to another Air India plane. As we are walking up the stairs to board, the older Muslim man in front of me, white crocheted skull cap snug over his salt and pepper hair, turns to me. “God is watching over us today. Otherwise, we would have crashed and died. Thanks God.”

I smile. Yes, thanks God.

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