Seat No. 18D

By-  Rijul Nadkarni (RBG)


If you’re observant enough , flight journeys are always enticing , offering something different , something out of the ordinary with each passing journey you make . For the first timers , it’s  a pulsating experience – the airport infrastructure, systematic procedures , the enormity of the  aircraft , the hospitable flight attendants , the safety instruction drill , the cute little windows , the take-off , landing and the mesmerizing view as seen through the window. They’re just overwhelmed by the vastness of the occasion . Then there are the more frequent flyers who are divided broadly into two categories . Firstly , the ones who like to use every second of their flight journey to do something useful like complete a novel , finish a business assignment , hold conference calls , check e- mail etc. They have absolutely no time to spare .  Secondly , there are the thinkers ,the procrastinators who would just bide their time window shopping or just sitting there observing people ,activities and probably end up penning  their observations later !  26th January 2016, Flight No. 9W 818 from Bangalore to Delhi gave me a chance to jot this down .

26th Jan 2016

Somewhere High Up In The Skies

Dear You ,

Oh, you!

I should have known. I should have known you would be something special, something different, yet such a mystery. You appeared out of nowhere, like an oasis in a desert, like the sun peeking out of a gloomy sky, like the first showers bathing a parched land, like the…

I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let me start right at the beginning.

I dragged  myself out of bed early, for an awfully early flight. Well, actually, it wasn’t all that early. But I guess after four years of college, anytime before the sun rises is probably about two days too early!  My sniffle from the previous week hadn’t vanished, and gloomy predictions of a miserable flight, sneezing the other passengers into epidemic fears, were beginning to ghost through my mind.

I floated through the airport security check, and in no time, I was settling into my seat , an aisle seat. Well, I didn’t really care, I was just dreading the flight and an impending sneezing avalanche, and the subsequent avalanche of work that would bury me upon my arrival.

Then, I saw you.

Most of the passengers had already been seated, and I was just about to sink into my seat for a nice long nap, when you turned up  like a gentle summer breeze , and you were looking right at me.

You were like a dream. Big, brown eyes that can drown a man in them. Wavy hair, left loose, smelling faintly of, well, everything perfect.

You pointed at the seat next to me, and gave me a little half smile. “18D” , you said , continuing to smile . I scrambled up, and let you through, hoping you wouldn’t hear my hammering heart. You settled into the seat next to me. I didn’t really notice what you were wearing because I was drowning in your eyes. But when you sat down next to me, and I shuffled over to give you a little  space, I noticed your feet. And I just couldn’t stop staring! You were wearing little slippers with plastic flowers on them, and you had painted your little toenails a bright red. I suddenly realized I had been staring for quite a while at your feet. I turned to the other side, pretending to be looking out the window the other side, and then swivelling my head back towards you to pretend to look at the window past you.

There were just the two of us in our row, with the window seat empty. Then you suddenly switched over to the window seat, and left the middle seat empty between us. I hoped the fragrance of my cologne had nothing to do with it !

Then unbelievably, my sniffles came to my rescue. I coughed  and whispered an involuntary “excuse me”…

“Sorry, did you say something?” came an involuntary reply . As impossible as it sounds, my heart began to hammer even faster at the sound of your perfect voice. I nervously shook my head, giggled like a teenage girl, and made some sort of non-committal shrug. You just smiled and turned back to the window. I began to curse myself in my head.

I tried to feign nonchalance, and whipped out a novel, and began to “peruse” with all the “focus” I had ever mustered. After what seemed like an hour of trying to pretend to have an interesting read, with what was otherwise an actually very interesting read, I gave up and went back to swiveling my head between the windows on the opposite sides of the aircraft.


All this while, I had desperately tried to come up with suitable ways to start up a conversation. This is what the conversation in my head sounded like:

“Hi! Flying back from somewhere? Or flying to Delhi for the first time, or… Lame! How about… This is an absolutely beautiful sunrise… No! Stupid, stupid, stupid, she’s sitting right at the window seat! Maybe this… Hi, I’m… NO!! Gods in heaven, what’s wrong with me??!!”

After  what seemed like another hour, I decided I would just simply… smile. I finally mustered up the courage, and turned to you. You were asleep. I cursed myself again, and added a few mental self-kicks and a few mental punches to the gut for measure. I had blown my chance, I told myself.

Settling into my seat with a sigh, I glanced at you again. And again. And again. You looked so… peaceful. And beautiful, curled up in your seat. I didn’t stare at you longer than a second, because that’s all it took for your serene face to be imprinted in my mind’s eye forever. Then I stopped cursing. And I began to smile to myself.

The rest of the journey passed far too quickly for my liking, and before I knew it, I was stepping aside, making way for you to pass ahead of me as we walked down the aisle of the aircraft towards the exit. We walked, slightly apart, but still close enough for my heart to continue to beat with the intensity of a runner who had just run a marathon.

We just walked towards the exit. Then we parted. You went towards the transfers section, and I went towards the baggage claims.

I sighed, and took one last look at you, through the glass separating us. Our eyes met. Then you smiled at me. A radiant, heart stopping smile, completely disarming, and completely innocent. A smile which lit up your beautiful face like the sunrise bathing the land in glorious light in that moment.  I won’t exactly say a rainbow sparkled outside, and the angels began to sing. But in that one moment, I felt… hope. Hope for everything. Hope for a beautiful world, hope for beautiful moments, hope for everything dark and gloomy in my life giving way to sheer and pure radiance.

That smile. Your smile. A huge goofy grin was plastered across my face. Your eyes twinkling,  your eyes smiling, and your eyes shining, you turned away.

And that was that.

I just kept smiling at myself, and picked up my bags, and was just stepping outside the airport, when I froze. I raced back, desperate to find you, desperate to tell you something, anything, desperate for a chance to see that smile again. It was not meant to be.

I spent the entire day , berating myself for not saying something to you. It took me a day to get to where I am right now. Where am I right now? Quite simply, I’m at peace. I had a moment, a moment so beautiful, the kind of moment that teaches us the meaning of being human. A moment of pure magic.

Your smile. It still haunts me. But not because I didn’t talk to you. Not because I didn’t seize the moment but because the moment happened, and it was perfect. You smiled, and it was perfect. And that was that.

With my heart in your hands, I remain,

Seat No. 18C

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Very nicely written.. Hope seat 18D too read this someday..

Rijul Nadkarni

Haha , Thank you Sir ! I’ve no idea who she is or where she is , so its too much of a long shot for that to happen