The Transit Passenger
An Open Short Story by P. Anil Prasad
|Drawing by my friend Jayan|
I am a transit passenger. I landed at the terminal three of this airport just twenty minutes ago and I have to go to terminal five for my connection flight. I ensured I got my passport back from the emigration counter. At times people forget it at the counters. Many times I have witnessed the plight of such people. I have more than enough time in this airport, because the connection flight has been delayed for six hours. I have a twelve hours transit visa stamped in my passport, using that I can roam round the city. But the climate is too cold. Therefore I do not like to go out. I will roam round inside this very large airport. There is nothing in my hand bag other than a set of dress and a tab. Therefore I can freely walk. Moreover it will save me from the boredom of waiting long hours at the departure gate. Common, let us walk.
My mobile seems to be ringing. After the security check in the earlier airport I did not take it out of my handbag. I forgot to switch it off during the previous take off and landing as well. One minute, please, let me attend the call.
“Hello Risha, bolo, yes...yes...I landed here...but the next flight is got delayed for six hours….no problem, I wall walk around here…you naughty...I do not see much beautiful ladies around me...how is your fever? Are you okay now?...yea...yea...take rest. I will call you later”
It was my wife. Whenever I set out on a journey, she would request me to call her frequently. But most often I forget my promises to her and she calls me in time without any complaints and ego issues. Now also she calculated my flying time to this airport and called me in time, even though it was mid-night there. I feel sorry for her...more over I feel guilty as well. She was down with fever when I started from home. I should have cancelled this trip, but I always give preference to the commitments being given to others than my responsibilities to her. Every time I take decision that next time I would give top priority to the promises being given to Risha, just to breach it. I am really a bad husband! Let us move on.
This is a very busy airport, but we will not feel the rush. That spacious is this airport! Excellent design! The portraits fixed to these pillars are really amazing. Perhaps this is the peculiarity of this airport. Similarly the patterns of the floor tiles also very interesting. Now a days, in most of the airports, they use plane tiles. The plane tiles provide you the impression that the area is larger than its real size. But here the pattern tiles give a very different experience.
In the airports, I seldom spent time at the shops and cafeterias, instead I will sit or walk around watching and interacting with jovial and energetic people. In this middle age, enjoying their funny comments and watching their power boosted movements retain me in better energy levels than hiding myself in a book or leaning over my tab or smart phone. Yet another group which makes me refreshed is the small children who usually play around. Sorry, I am not forcing my interests upon you. You may have different interests.
I always feel these airport terminals are a different world. One reason for that is the kind of ambiance we are having here. The next important reason is the fact that once entered in the terminal, majority of the people adjust their normal behaviours. The manner in which they walk, talk, sit, drink... everything changes. Some people are different like day and night when they are outside the terminal and once they are inside it. Similarly the things that do not attract your attention while staked in a regular store outside, attract you more when its is displayed in an airport store. Of course, it also cost you much more for that appearance. I do not intend to say the world inside the airport is better than the world outside. The only thing I want to say is that the two environments are different.
Oh! we have already walked more than two kilometres and reached terminal four. Why should we walk straight to terminal five? Let us sit near that youngsters' group for some time. Good! The seats are very comfortable.
Last year also I reached this airport around the same time as a transit passenger. The stay was for exactly twelve hours. Not because the connection flight was late, but it was the regular schedule for it. But I cannot forget that day. You know why?
As on today, last time also I landed in terminal three. But my connection flight was from this terminal four. That time also Risha was down with fever, but she called me in time as she did today. I walked from the terminal three to here and sat near that gate fifteen. You can see fifteen straight in front where the sharp curve starts.
Immediately after sitting on a seat there, I noticed a lady who was sitting on a chair in the row of chairs facing me. Her head was swaying. Initially I thought she was sleepy. But when her eyes fell on me, she seemed to be seeking help. Now a days, it is not that easy to ask some one 'are you fine?' - the chances for you being misunderstood is very high. You know, in our daily life we practice to distrust people. Anyway, my mind demanded me to take the risk. I walked towards her and asked whether she was fine. Then with a painful smile she collapsed towards me and I cried for “Help...”
When the ambulance was moving in lightning speed to some hospital, I sat highly confused in it. I could not believe the series of events that pulled me into that. I was helping the security personnel in the terminal to take her to a stretcher and then move her to the airport healthcare unit. At the healthcare unit one officer asked for my passport and then her passport. The officer seemed to have misunderstood that we were travelling together. I showed my passport first and the officer verified the transit visa and returned it. When he repeatedly asked for her passport, instead of saying I did not know her, I searched her hand bag, which she was still holding tight to her, and found her passport and handed it over to the officer. He examined it and while returning it he told me “She needs immediate medical care at a hospital. We are arranging it. The hospital authorities will let you know further formalities”. Without waiting for my response, the officer instructed the health attenders there : “Take them to the ambulance, quick!”. Now there were only three of us in the ambulance, the driver, the unconscious lady and myself. The ambulance stopped at the emergency area of a large hospital of that unfamiliar city. Immediately the hospital attenders came with a stretcher and moved the lady to it. While I was helping them, the airport ambulance driver came to the rear and locked the door. When the two attenders and I pushed the stretcher into the hospital, at a glance, I saw the airport ambulance moving out of the hospital gate.
While the doctors were examining the lady, the nurse asked me to fill up a form. “Sorry, I don't know her. I am just a fellow passenger...” When I stood confused, the nurse noticed the lady's handbag and asked me to check it for her details. Then I remembered that I put her passport in my pocket after the examination at the airport healthcare unit. When I took it out of my pocket the nurse looked me with suspicion. Without caring it, I filled the form using the details from the passport. Her name was Fathima Sharma, an unusual name and more surprisingly she was from my own city! Then I got the reason why the airport official guessed we were travelling together. When the doctors completed the initial procedures the nurse briefed them about the issue. “She has severe viral fever and has to be admitted and we need a bystander. If he is not willing, how can we...”
“Don't worry doctor, I will be with her till we are able to contact her family” - immediately I said as if a reflex worked.
“We highly appreciate your greatness” - the doctor patted me on my shoulder with a sweet smile. While I paid the initial bills, the hospital attendants moved Fathima to the executive pay ward. The nurse connected IV fluid and asked me to watch Fathima throughout and call her if any difficulty is noticed as Fathima had very high temperature. Along with observing her, I had to do a lot of things.
First of all I contacted her family using the contact details in the passport. Her father Mohammed Ali Khan picked up the call. I briefed him of the situation. Some one from the family had to reach the hospital urgently because I could not stay more than twelve hours in that country with the transit visa. I enquired him whether they had some relatives or acquaintances in that country. Fortunately Fathima's cousin was working there. Her father connected me to him. But he was in the other end of the country and it would take five hours for him to reach the hospital. Still it was a very comfortable situation for me.
Actually I was travelling to facilitate a very important business seminar, which would commence in the next day morning for which only nine hours were remaining. Now there was no way to reach there in time because the only connection flight might had gone already. Therefore I had to contact the organizers to communicate my inability to turn up and request them to make alternative arrangements; a completely improper thing to request in that last hours. When I was about to contact the organizers, I saw her shivering heavily. Immediately I called for the nursing support. Nurse rushed into the room and removed the IV fluid and told me in high fever cases IV fluid may make the patient shivering. It took another thirty minutes for Fathima to return to the normal condition. Thereafter I called the organizers, though they were not at all happy about the development, however, since it was a case of helping a human life, they responded moderately and promised to find out another facilitator.
By the morning Fathima's cousin Shihab Muhammed arrived and he was a very gentle man. He thanked me and said a heartfelt sorry for the difficulties I faced. I told him it was my duty as a human being. He asked me about my next plan. Then I told him that I had to arrange a return ticket for that day. Then he said: “My younger brother is working with an airline company. Hopefully we can arrange a ticket without much issues”. Fortunately in one mobile call he was able to arrange the ticket and in a few minutes I got the e-ticket on my mobile.
During the entire stretch of my six hours return flying, I felt some kind of a discomfort. While stepping down from the flight at the airport in my city, I felt severe giddiness and darkness filled in my eyes. When I opened my eyes again after four hours, I saw Risha leaning over me, with her eyes filled, in a hospital room. I understood that I was also down with the similar kind of viral fever Fathima had. But Risha did not know that story.
“You got fever from me” Risha said in a sorrowful voice
“Don't worry. How are you now”
“Nothing serious. It seems to be a common cold, not the viral fever as we thought”
But I had severe viral fever. My entire body was aching. I had to spend seven days in the hospital. I was able to remain comfortable in the hospital only because Risha was near me with all support and soothing words. More than my body, my mind was aching then. I took little care for her when she was found feverish two days before. Then I thought my seminar was more important. But I was not able to attend it as well. The care I did not give to Risha was given to a strange lady. But Risha thought that I returned half way because of my illness. 'Shall I say her what really happened?' - many times I asked my self while in the hospital bed. But my mind was then so weak to boldly say Risha the things happened amidst my travel.
Am I boring you with my detailed narration of a personal experience? Look, what is happening there at the gate twelve? People gather over there...let us go and check.