Airlines have featured a lot in the news recently, and not necessarily for the right reasons. I was reminded of a minister of parliament in India, who had called the economy section of all airlines “cattle class” in a famous tweet several months ago. He took a lot of flak from trolls, who objected to being compared to livestock. Recent actions by some airlines have now demonstrated that their passengers should be prepared to be prodded and herded out; the minister’s comments were therefore not entirely misplaced.
My wife has never enjoyed air travel and starts to get “butterflies in the stomach” weeks before she has to board a flight. A few weeks ago, she was preparing to travel to India to spend time with family and especially her mother, who is over 90 years old. Our two granddaughters had come for a “sleepover” on the weekend before their nani was to travel. At the end of a hectic, fun-filled day they finished gambolling in the bathtub and prepared for bedtime. As my wife was drying and combing the hair of six years old S while I looked after the three years old J, my wife said to S, “I really don’t feel like flying. I get so nervous, specially when I have to travel alone. Plane seats are so uncomfortable that my back hurts and I can never get any sleep.” S looked intently at my wife and then very seriously suggested, “Nani, you can carry a piece of J and me in your heart; we will keep you company.” After a thoughtful pause, she then added, “Do you have a favourite blanky (blanket) and pillow? You should take them with you on the plane and you’ll be fine. My sis and I always have our blankies and stuffies (stuffed, soft toys) next to us when we go to bed.” Sagacious advice that no doubt, stood my wife in good stead.
Each of us seeks a “security blanket”; a unique amenity that we need to help us cope, particularly when we find ourselves in situations that overwhelm us. Accretion of wealth may help to provide comfort to some people, others might reach out to friends or family looking for reaffirmation, or congregate with a community or religious group simply for that feeling of “belonging” and a sense of receiving spiritual guidance. Eventually, any symbolic act or thing, even a child’s “blankie” or “stuffie” – that we choose to believe in – will serve as the opioid that helps lull us.
A mother might use an amulet or a cross to protect her child from the “evil eye,” grown men from the subcontinent tie “sacred” threads around their wrist or wear rings with different gemstones designed to supposedly counter specific adversities. We seek any “crutch” that we feel would help tide us over a difficult phase but unwittingly expose ourselves to those who might take advantage of our momentary weakness and gullibility.
The legendary shaayar (poet) Dagh Dehlvi wrote thus, to demonstrate complete trust or just plain naiveté:
“Ghazab kiyaa tere vaade pe eitbaar kiyaa
Tamaam raat qayaamat ka intezaar kiya”
[Oh, that I placed my faith in your promise
The entire night (passed in) waiting for the day of judgement (arrival of the beloved)]