Grace finds us wherever we are
As the hours were passing by, it became increasingly clear that the flight that was scheduled to leave from Kochi, Southern India to Delhi in Northern India at 8 pm was no longer a certainty. The flight was scheduled to be an international flight since all connecting flights in Delhi
were flying on to international destinations. Having cleared immigration and security, a small cluster of foreign tourists, we were in that strange limbo of no longer having a Visa to be in India, yet not having left India. All personnel from Air India had left two hours earlier with no explanation for the lack of departure, any reason for the delay or when the flight may take off. Because we had gone through immigration and security, we were not permitted to go back to the airline’s ticket counter to receive any assurances. Amid the dozens of Indian nationals, was a small group of foreign nationals, sprawled out on the floor, sitting up against pillars and pacing the floor.
There were two women all dressed in black and wearing the traditional hijab leaving for Riyadh. They were huddled together in the far corner of the gate enclosure avoiding contact with the rest of the waiting passenger.
There was the young Indian mother, American born, with her two young children, returning home to Chicago from a visit with family in Kochi.
A young couple in their twenties from England. Two women clearly in love and consulting with each other about what may be happening with the flight. Sitting close together, their fingertips occasionally brushing up against each other in an effort to show affection without drawing attention. Exchanging loving glances and reassuring winks.
Like me, traveling alone, I observed a woman making entries into her journal. I would later find out that she had recently been divorced, following a twenty year marriage that ended with the devastating diagnosis of her cancer. She had beaten it once and now only two short years later it had returned. Rather than deciding on more aggressive treatments, she wanted to take the time to explore a world she may not have much time left to explore. She had travelled alone through Europe and Africa. Finding herself at this airport, waiting to get to Dehli with a connecting flight to Hong Kong.
And here I was, quietly observing strangers at the airport following a two week trip that was the grand finale of a long and difficult year for me. All of us in our own little world, sharing occasional glances and slight nods. As the night went on and the clock started approaching midnight, the young children started to get tired and irritable. The young Indian mother overwhelmed by the task of keeping an active young boy entertained and a small girl from crying and wanting to go to bed. The night had worn her down and from where I was sitting some distance away, I could see tears forming in her eyes as she was trying to calm her daughter unsure of what she might tell her to ease her anxiety. Across the hall, one of the young women from England noticed as well. She gave a slight nod to her partner and made her way across the waiting area to the young Indian mother. Speaking briefly to the mother, she then turned her attention to the son. Within seconds, the son was laughing and actively engaged in a silly conversation with a stranger. The mother turned her attention to rocking her little girl with a smile of gratitude towards the English woman. Soon after the other English lady joined and the three started playing a silly game in the middle of the corridor in the international terminal of Air India.
Across from me, the other single traveller was also watching. We exchanged smiles and she waved me over. We shared our stories of heartbreak and courage, our adventures in India, and our hopes for our future. The two Muslim women, huddled together in their corner had been watching us, and decided to take the chance to speak to us. Hesitantly they walked towards us, as if expecting to be re-buffed. We smiled and encouraged them to come on over. With impeccable English, they inquired if we knew what happened to the flight. They were both professors at the all women’s university and needed to be back to work by Monday morning. As the time passed, the Indian mother joined us with her little girl and the English women, having worn out their little friend, came to sit with us as well, one of them holding the sleeping boy in her lap. Here we all were. Complete strangers, different cultures and religions, all united in uncertainty in a foreign land, tired and irritated, yet laughing and encouraging each other. Telling funny stories of our time in India. It reminded me of the 80s classic “The Breakfast Club”
Our flight eventually left Kochi in the early hours of morning. We were separated in the airplane and only briefly saw each other again in Dehli. At first, it saddened me that we never exchanged contact information or Facebook profiles. Then I realized the perfection of it. Our connection was one of common humanity, caught in a difficult situation in a foreign land. In that moment of needing support and reassurance, there was no need to separate or identify based on labels or religious beliefs. We all need love, connection and community and the human spirit will seek it wherever we can find it. I will surely never see them again, yet I know that the time spent sitting, sharing stories and sleeping together on the floor in Kochi airport, will be forever imprinted on my heart as one of great kindness, compassion and faith in our common human experience on this wonderful, diverse planet earth. It was yet another reminder, that when we allow ourselves to see beyond what separates us, nationality, color, religion we are all the same, without the labels that so often divide us. It is in those moments, we are living a truly present life and when we open ourselves to receiving what is, rather than what we feel we should have, such as a flight that leaves on time, we can find beauty and love even among difficult and frustrating situations. Grace finds us wherever we are, opens our heart and transforms us, then leaves us better for having welcomed it. For me, I know this was the perfect ending to a wonderful, eye opening and consciousness expanding trip to a beautiful land filled with pain and suffering and a nation of people with incredible courage, strength of spirit and resilience.