Extraordinary in the ordinary

On the journey of self-discovery, in flight mode

As I see the floating clouds from an airplane’s window, the horizon ahead, the never-ending streams of vapor formations, I realize the existence of an incomprehensible space that I have no control on. It is so liberating.
Published at Hindustan Times.

There’s something unique about being mid-air. Right from the time I board a flight until I feel the grind of touchdown on the airstrip, my mind gets transported into a different zone. Silent, stable and blissfully uneventful. It is an unusual pause in life away from the humdrum and eccentricities of our daily lives on land. It is a state of limbo.

In the hour-plus time between departures and arrivals, between origin and destination, technology does not hound me. I can’t operate my phone to see any new message or notification. A constant humming envelopes the environment inside the aircraft. There is hardly any noise, just a couple of safety instructions from the pleasing airhostesses or an occasional blip sound of the blue overhead buttons when pressed for assistance. There is low inclination to speak to a stranger. In other words, it is a stage of the highest level of inactivity that one can possibly engage in apart from meditation of course.

Over a period of time, I have come to realise that there are three feelings that I experience on my mid-air sojourn.

Firstly, the views that I see at the time of take-off and at the time of landing always leave me humbled. When I see the expanding and contracting visuals of the world below me, the vast landscapes, the serpentine rows of traffic over ever-winding roads, the uncountable glistening lights twinkling ceaselessly, the humongous population teeming with life in the settlements below, the cultivations and changing topography, the sea, and the land – I realise that I am a speck of existence on this all-encompassing planet. The moment this feeling sinks in, slowly, any sub-conscious anger, apprehension or pain that I may be harbouring, simply fades away.

Secondly, when the plane is airborne on its trajectory, I watch myself sitting all strapped up, immobile, and digitally disconnected. Gradually, my mind opens up to a holistic perspective of living. I find myself mulling on life as it is, not just life today or tomorrow, but a long-term view of things, a different take on issues that need to be sorted. I believe that I have arrived at the clearest understanding of circumstances of life when in flight. This is because in that absolutely distraction-free environment, the sense of level-headedness is definitely more heightened than what I usually exhibit in the thick of worldly activities.

Perhaps, this lull is what makes passengers doze off as soon as the plane is off the ground. We are attuned to being constantly preoccupied with tasks and wired-in to gadgets, to the extent that we treat rest or sleep like a favour that we do for ourselves. However, for me, being mid-air does not make me sleep. But it does make me think. And think with an aerial view, literally and metaphorically.

And thirdly, as I feast my eyes on the floating clouds from the window, the horizon ahead, the never-ending streams of vapour formations, I am simply in awe, just like a child. It never ceases to amaze me how the forces of nature are running the planet in all their beauty and balance. There is so much happening in the vast space above and beyond us. I feel so grateful to be a part of this space over which I have no control. And sometimes, the feeling of not being in control can be liberating.

Yes, there really is something about being mid-air. So next time you board a plane, try keeping aside your book or your tab or any external crutch that enables you to pass time. Instead, just like your mobile phone, turn on your own flight mode and let the forces take over.

This article was published at Hindustan Times.

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