Misha grumbled to herself as she boarded the Air India flight. “Why must we go to London again? We’ve already been there three times in the last five years. Why can’t we see a different part of Europe? Or, better yet- America?! Papa’s precious cricket is more important than anyone else’s wishes. He’ll enjoy watching the match at Lord’s Cricket ground, but what about me?! Hmmmph.”
It may have been easier if she didn’t have to travel alone. Papa, ever the smart businessman, saw the prices of tickets skyrocket around the dates of the Cricket World Cup 2019, and booked himself and mumma on an earlier, cheaper flight, while she stayed back in Delhi’s heat to finish her college exams. Her parents would enjoy living in her tauji’s London home, while she only had her grandfather for company. “Hmmmmmmph!”
Making her way through the crowded aisle, she groaned when she saw that she had been assigned the middle seat. A fat uncleji had spread himself across the aisle seat and was snoring away, while a dumpy lady was busy reapplying her lipstick at the window seat. On the other side, a young couple loudly attempted to force-feed ghee-laden parathas to their fussy toddler. Misha rolled her eyes, it was going to be a lonnnnng flight.
Stowing her carry-on in the luggage rack above, she artistically manoeuvred to her seat, plugged in her headphones, and began snacking on the cookies she had bought at the airport.
Ten minutes later, a smart air hostess tried to catch Misha’s attention. Reluctantly taking her headphones off, she asked, “Are you talking to me?”
“Yes ma’am, would you please come with me?”
Alarmed, Misha started, “What’s wrong? Is there a problem with my luggage?”
The air hostess refused to disclose details. “Please come with me ma’am. I will explain everything to you. Oh, and please bring all your belongings with you.”
People were beginning to look at Misha. If there was one thing she hated, it was being the center of attention. Dusting off cookie crumbs from her lap, she wondered what the problem could be. She had never travelled alone and was terrified that something would go wrong. Taking her mother’s advice, she had dressed in a simple white t-shirt with black slacks, but threw her sleeveless waistcoat on for a dash of personal style. Now the t-shirt was crumpled, had a visible brown coffee stain, and the waistcoat looked out of place. “Messy Misha getting in trouble as always”, she thought to herself.
Trying not to make a scene, she grabbed her stuff, and quietly followed the sari-clad stewardess.
“Ma’am…”, began the air hostess once they were alone, but was immediately interrupted by the crackling noise of the microphone.
“Welcome on board, ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I’m sorry to announce that our departure has been delayed due to unexpected rainfall.”
“Rainfall, what rainfall?”, Misha peered at the nearest window. The skies had been clear when she arrived at the airport, but a sudden squall was making the rain pelt down hard. How strange, it doesn’t usually rain in May!
“Ma’am, as I was saying…”, the air hostess beckoned to Misha.
“Listen, I’m travelling alone and I’m really worried. What did I do wrong?”. Misha hoped that playing the ‘kid-travelling-alone’ card would help her.
“Ma’am, you have done nothing wrong! Since you are travelling on your own, and Economy Class is full to capacity, you are being upgraded to Business Class.”
“What? Really? That happens?” Misha couldn’t believe her luck!
Smiling, the air hostess replied, “Yes of course it does. Come this way please.”
Across the curtain, the air smelt different. There was ample space to walk between seats, comfortable chairs that reclined fully, passengers sipping on little glasses of orange juice or champagne, and everyone, including the stewards, looked happier! It was Misha’s first time flying Business Class and she found it the epitome of luxury.
She was taken to the front of the cabin and assigned the aisle seat to the left. There was a passenger next to her, but he was busy looking at the frantic raindrops slashing the window.
Settling herself in, Misha pulled out the sizeable TV screen and was delighted to see the large selection of movies and shows.
“Excuse me miss, when will the flight take off?”, the passenger next to her addressed his question to the air hostess walking past. With half her attention on the list of films, Misha attempted to hear the answer. She wanted the plane to take off before they changed their mind and sent her back to Economy!
“I’m terribly sorry for the inconvenience, sir. The captain believes we should be in the air in the next 10 minutes, as the shower has reduced in intensity. Is there anything I can do for you till then, Mr. Dhoni?”
Misha did a double take! Seated next to her, looking calm as can be, was the cricketing legend and ex-Captain of the Indian Cricket Team- Mahendra Singh Dhoni, himself!
“Oh my god, ohmygod, ohmigoddd.. you’re Dhoni!!”, she managed to squeak.
Quite amused, he extended his hand and said, “Hi! Yes, I’m Mahendra Dhoni. And you are?”
Horrified at how childish and star-struck she seemed, Misha swallowed hard and timidly took his proffered hand.
“But… didn’t you fly from Bombay yesterday with the team? I saw it in the newspaper today morning!… Oh, and I’m Misha… Misha Kaur”, she smiled sheepishly.
“I’m impressed, a young person that actually reads the newspaper! You must be quite smart. I was supposed to be on that plane, but my daughter requested I stay to watch her performance at school. All the boys were very understanding and helped to hide my absence. I’m flying a day late but I will be there for the team’s first public appearance in London tomorrow.”
“Wow that is so nice of you!! You just gained extra brownie points… not that you needed them,” smiled Misha.
“When you reach my age, you’ll realise the importance of family. The boys have become my family too, but my responsibility to my daughter comes first. Of course, this situation was easily manageable. It might have been different if her performance had been later.”
“Aren’t your wife and daughter accompanying you? Sorry if I’m asking too many questions… I don’t mean to intrude!”, said Misha.
“Hahaha, it’s ok. As a sports person in the public eye, I’m used to people being very familiar with me. And I don’t mind. It’s nice of you to ask…. They will join me next week, as we get closer to the matches. They are my lucky charms, you know. I would feel lost without them!”
“That’s so sweet. God bless you!”, Misha couldn’t help sounding like an old aunty, while she mulled on how affable and humble this icon of cricket was.
Just then the crackling reappeared. “Ladies and gentlemen, please accept my apologies for the delay. We will begin our departure shortly”.
As the stewards began the safety demonstrations, Misha settled in to her large leather seat for the most memorable plane journey of her life. She thought of her darling papa and his precious love for cricket. He would be met with a huge hug for choosing London as their holiday destination and letting Misha travel alone.
This story was inspired by the picture prompt at the start of this post, and the cricket mania currently ruling Indians! The situation in this story is completely imagined, though I have used a real-life cricketing icon as a character. Any resemblance to any person, situation or incident (or movie scene as I have been told!) is purely coincidental.
Here’s to INDIAAAA, INDIAAAA! Let’s get that cup, ek aur baar!
This blog is a part of the #BirthdayBlogTrain hosted by Gunjan Upadhyay http://tuggunmommy.com/ and Neha Sharma http://growingwithnemit.com/. I would like to thank Judy from www.theotherbraininc.com for introducing me to this blog train and would further like to introduce Shipra Trivedi from www.vibhuandme.com to share her take on the prompts.
*This is not a sponsored post.
**Featured image courtesy- http://www.metro.co.uk. Copyright in all content belongs to nooranandchawla and cannot be republished or repurposed without permission from the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action.