This article has been submitted by Meghana Rao for the CLATGyan Blog Post Writing Competition. If you think this article is a good read, ‘Like’ this article on Facebook (the button is at the bottom of this piece) or post a comment using the ‘comments’ section below.
‘Oh shit’, I cursed as the not-so-polite airline staff informed me that I was late for my flight. My friend, Simran, assured me that I’ll be on the next flight home. But my dad was never going to let me hear the end of this. It had taken a lot of persuasion and puppy dog eyes to convince him to send me to Dubai to attend my best friend’s graduation. He’d warned me that I should be at least two hours before time otherwise I may miss my flight. I shut my eyes and tried to ignore the throbbing of my brain against my skull.
I’ll tell you this now – if an older guy offers to buy you a drink, DECLINE.
Cannot stress this enough.
A hurried phone call to my dad and a half truth later, I found myself on the next flight home. Simran and I bid a teary farewell that had less to do with emotion and more to do with the light at the airport. I half stumbled to my Emirates flight bound to Bombay. After settling down in my aisle seat, I closed my eyes only to be woken up by an older female clad in an abaya. Apparently hers was the window seat. I let her in and she settled down and smiled at me warmly. I smiled back meekly. ‘Hello there, how’re you, child?’ she asked. ‘I’m good, just a little tired,’ I replied, my voice raspy. She called for the stewardess and asked her to get me some bread and I shot her a puzzled look. ‘It helps with the hangover’ she said and my eyes grew wide. ‘Oh don’t look so shocked’ she said playfully. ‘I could smell the liquor from the end of the aisle.’ I blushed, embarrassed to be caught. I wasn’t exactly, well, legal yet. I’m not a great role model. -laughs awkwardly-
Anyway, coming back. She said she knew a thing or two about hangover. But she advised me to eat something before I ever tried to drink again. ‘I’m Afsoon by the way’ she said ‘Meghana’ I said. ‘Meghana, that’s a lovely name.’ I smiled. ‘So. What do you plan on doing after school gets over?’ she asked. ‘Well, I’m planning on giving CLAT. It’s for undergrad law. So let’s see.’ ‘Why law?’ ‘Its something that I’ve always wanted.’ ‘Let me tell you this child,’ she said softly ‘no matter what anyone says, make sure you complete your education. Where I come from, the Taliban are not scared of guns. They’re scared of girls with books.’ I sat still for a minute. This had soon turned to more than just idle chit-chat. ‘You’re from Afghanistan?’ ‘Yes. Born and raised,’ she said with a sad smile. ‘How’re you on Dubai then?’ I blurted, not realizing how rude that came out as. At that moment the flight took off, I hadn’t realized that the flight had been in motion for a while. After the turbulence settled, she said ‘I came here soon after I turned 18’ with a sad smile at her lips. I sensed a deeper story but didn’t feel like prying. ‘Its really pretty here, yeah?’ ‘Yes,’ she said ‘especially Dubai mall, what a beautiful place!’ I nodded. I remembered simran dragging me to store after store begging me to buy clothes and makeup and whatnot. Three hours and five shopping bags later, I convinced her to take us home. ‘Its huge, so many stores in one place’ I added. Our meals were brought to us and we chatted idly for a while.
‘You remind me of my sister’ she said after a pause. ‘Was she pretty too?’ I joked. ‘She was the prettiest and the smartest girl I knew. She passed away couple years ago.’ ‘Oh,’ I said, taken aback. ‘I’m so sorry!’ ‘Inshallah, she’s probably happy now with my parents’ Afsoon said. ‘What happened to them?’ ‘My family died of pneumonia. They got me married off and sent here almost 17 years ago.’
I didn’t know how to respond. I usually never speak to people at the aircraft. Strangers had never poured their hearts out to me before. I mumbled that I felt sorry, for which she smiled sadly. She did that a lot, I noticed. ‘But you survived.’ ‘Yes I did. Allah was kind to me. He sent Ahmed to me. A quick nikka and we were here.’ She smiled when she spoke of her husband. I smiled too.
An hour later our flight landed. We spoke until we reached our luggage. She spoke in fluent English almost incessantly. We had to part ways at the exit gates, my dad was waiting at another gate. ‘Gauri,’ she said. ‘Im sorry?’ ‘My sisters name. Gauri,’ Saying that, she smiled and walked away, leaving me standing there for a while. Shocked.
‘Gauri!’ I heard someone yell. I turned around and saw my dad jog towards me. He panted when he reached. ‘Explain why you’re late!’ he said, taking my bags. But I couldn’t form words. My parents had always fondly called me Gauri and I don’t think I ever mentioned that to her.
Meghana Rao is an eighteen-year-old dreamer.