I met Priyanka way back in 2003 on a flight back to my hometown from Muscat. A sassy eighteen something with specs which complimented her oval face, wavy black hair let loose, classy blue sweater and one of the prettiest smiles I have ever seen on a girl. She sat there with a book in her hand but was lost in thoughts. She was my co-passenger. Yes, that’s right; you always hope that your co-passenger is a beautiful person, your age and that night, everything was in my favor. I don’t exactly remember all the things that we talked about, but there are a few which still remains in my memory. And I will honestly try to tell you almost closely, if not exact, the dialogues in particular.
Oman Air was scheduled to take off at 23:00 and we reached the airport at around eight. I had just finished my high school and was returning back to Kerala for college. My parents came to see me off and that was the first time I flew alone. Luggage check-in went without much trouble and I got in the plane with my backpack which contained a letter from my friend Jitu who had asked me not to open it until I was miles up in the air and a cover that contained a bottle of Johnny Walker which I got from the Duty free for my grandfather. Trust me, doing your schooling in a foreign country and leaving the place and your best friends when you are eighteen hoping that you will see them someday in some part of the world takes it out of you. I got into the plane expecting a dull ride that night and I thank all my stars that I had Priyanka to help me through it.
I checked the seat number on the ticket and advanced inside. I remember it was somewhere in the middle. I reached my seat to find a beautiful girl sitting in the seat besides where I was supposed to sit and she was lost in thoughts. I told myself – “No, this can’t be true. She is beautiful and she is my co-passenger? Something is wrong, definitely.” But it wasn’t. An air-hostess confirmed too. I put my backpack and the cover containing Johnny Walker in the flight cabin and sat down. She was still deep in thoughts.
Minutes later, the flight took off and after a while we were up among the clouds. The captain announced it was safe to remove the seat belts. I reached for the earphones and plugged the jack to listen to the song playing on the screen in front of me. But I couldn’t hear a thing. I tried re-connecting and whatever tricks I knew at that time to get some sound out of those earphones. But I failed miserably and given my state of mind at that time, I let out a curse – “Stupid fucking earphones”.
I heard someone giggle by my side. I turned around to see Priyanka and her smile. I was lost for a moment but I held control.
“You know, probably those earphones may not be working. You need to ask the airhostess for new ones”, she said with that smile on her face.
“I think I should. Thank you” I said after getting back to reality.
“You are welcome.”
I called for the airhostess and asked her for new earphones. She gladly gave me another set and made sure to check it herself that it was working or not. I plugged the earphones to my ear and started listening to the song when a voice within me told – ‘What are you doing? You have a beautiful girl sitting next to you on a four hour flight and you are listening to music? How often does this happen to you? Talk Damnit! She is friendly; she was the one who asked you to get new earphones.” So I took off the earphones and made my first move.
“You know that you weren’t supposed to hear what I said, right?”
“Yes, I know that, but couldn’t help it. Don’t worry, I curse all the time.”
“I am not telling you that.”
“Well, at least you do. Fair enough.”
A moments silence.
“Let’s start over. Hi, I am Vijith”
“Hi, I am Priyanka.”
“So you are on the way to Kerala”, I asked. I remember this pretty perfectly well because that was the moment I realized what a stupid question I had asked and that was the moment I realized how bad I was when it comes to talking to girls.
“Unless the pilot decides elsewhere”
“Yeah, right. Stupid question. So where in Kerala?”
“Cochin. And you?”
“The capital city, Trivandrum.”
“Oh great. So are you going for vacation?”
“No. I just finished school. I am going to do my college there. What about you?”
“Same here. Which school did you study in?”
“Indian School Muladha. You?”
“Indian School Salalah.”
“Hey, I have been to your school for the Arts Fest.”
“Oh I see. Did you win anything?”
“First prize for mime. Yeah, we have got a great mime team.”
“Thanks. I like your school. I like Salalah. It is just like Kerala, greenery everywhere. Have you been to my school?”
“No, I haven’t. But I know about it.”
“Oh, I see. You know, I was the Head Boy of my school.” I said. I remember saying this because that was when I understood that I was trying to impress her.
“Great. I was the Head Girl at my school too.”
“Same pinch.” I didn’t pinch her. I used to say that a lot when I was in school.
“Same pinch back.”
“So your parents are not travelling with you?”
“No. They are still in Salalah. It’s just me. My uncle will be picking me up.”
“Same here. My grandfather will be picking me up and the bottle of Johnny Walker I got for him, which is inside that cabin.” I said pointing to the cabin.
And then we talked for some more time. And then when it reached that awkward silence, she returned to her book and I plugged on the earphones again. Five minutes into the song and I remembered the letter inside my backpack. I got up, took the letter out of my backpack and went to the flight toilet. Jitu, while handing the letter to me asked me not to cry while I read it. So I thought the toilet would be a good option as I didn’t want Priyanka to see me cry. It would ruin my tough-boy look. And also this was when I got impressed with airplane toilets - You can check out more about that HERE.
I went inside the toilet and read the letter. To be honest, I felt sad, but I didn’t cry. Given a circumstance where some fat guy would have been my co-passenger instead of Priyanka and I had a boring flight until then and had nothing to uplift my spirits, I would have wept like a baby. But I did not as I was on Cloud Nine, quite literally. Jitu, I am really sorry. I know I was supposed to cry. I cried when I read that letter a few days later, I swear.
I went back to my seat and sat down. Priyanka was still into her book. I wanted to start a conversation but I didn’t know if I should disturb her or not. Finally, I decided to go for it.
“What are you reading?”
“Oh, it’s a Sidney Sheldon novel.”
“Aren’t that guy’s novel a bit raunchy?”
“What do you think I am reading it for?”
“Nice. I like that. Hey, you know I just went to the toilet. Do you want to know what I did in there?”
“No. That’s gross.”
“No, it isn’t. You see, my best pal Jitu gave me a letter which I am supposed to open and read only on the flight. I went inside to read it.”
“That’s sweet. Wish my friends had given me something like that. So what did he say in the letter?”
“Here, read it.” I handed over the letter for her to read. Jitu – Yes, I did that. Sorry man, I was trying to impress her and I was pretty naïve at it. I will make it up to you.
“Hmm. He is your best friend.” She said after reading.
And we talked throughout the flight. And somewhere towards the end, we exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. She told the number was the home phone number of her uncle and she will be staying with him. I gave her my grandfather’s home phone number. When the flight finally, came to halt, I was disappointed. We got up; I picked up my backpack from the cabin and followed her outside. We were at the baggage claim point when I realized that I left the Johnny Walker inside the cabin. Grandpa was going to be pissed at me. Then, I had to make a choice – Johnny Walker or Priyanka. I went for Priyanka; that whiskey would have been harmful for grandpa anyway. I told her that I left the bottle inside and she told me that there was still time and I check with the officer and see if I could get it. I told her there is no use.
After we collected the luggage, we walked towards the exit where she found her uncle. She introduced me to her uncle and we said goodbyes. That was the last time I saw her. She got inside the car, waved at me through the window and went away. I stood there among the crowd with my backpack and luggage replaying the entire events that happened. Gosh, I felt good. Suddenly, I heard grandpa calling out my name from behind. I took my luggage and went towards the people I knew.
Priyanka was the first girl who gave me her phone number on the first meeting; well, apart from my friends, and the first girl who introduced me to someone in her family. She was the first stranger whom I tried my charms on. We exchanged a couple of mails but then lost touch. She told me that she had gotten into CUSAT, a university in Kerala. I wonder where she is now and I wonder if she would stumble on to my blog and read it. I lost the paper where I had written her contact and I have no idea what the password was for my Hotmail email account I used back then. But that was one heck of a journey, my favorite. Every time I get on a flight, I do think of her and wonder where she is. She must have been married by now with kids or maybe have chosen a job of journalist and is still single.
Wherever she is and whatever she is doing, she will be the Priyanka to me, the cute girl with specs and a magnificent smile that I met in an airplane. Priyanka is that one girl I never saw again.
Image Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/iareef/4505929594/