Lost in her thoughts about her grandmother's condition, Naina found her seat and placed her cabin baggage before resting in her window seat. A few moments later, a little girl arrived holding her grandfather’s hand. She sat beside Naina in the middle seat while her grandfather sat beside her.
Looking at her, Naina smiled but she didn’t. Wondering as to what pain she was going through, Naina extended her hand by saying, “Hello little one! My name is Naina.”
She looked at her grandfather before cautiously shaking Naina’s hand. A moment later, she faintly whispered, “My name is Kreeti.”
Hoping to cheer her up, Naina offered, “Would you like to sit beside the window?”
A faint smile appeared on her face and soon enough, they swapped their seats. Looking at Naina, her grandfather said, “Thank you magalu. You saved me the trouble of persuading you.”
Before Naina could assure him it was not necessary, she heard, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome onboard Flight AI 812 with service from Dubai to Mangalore. We are currently third in line for take-off and are expected to be in the air in approximately seven minutes. We ask that you please fasten your seatbelts at this time and secure all baggage underneath your seat or in the overhead compartments. We also ask that your seats and table trays are in the upright position for take-off. Please turn off all personal electronic devices, including laptops and cell phones. Smoking is prohibited for the duration of the flight. Thank you for choosing Air India Express Airlines. Enjoy your flight.”
As soon as the announcement was completed, Naina enquired, “Why is she sad? Doesn’t like to travel?”
Her grandfather replied, “I’ve lost my son and she lost both her parents in a road accident. I’m talking to my home and she doesn’t want to leave her parent’s place.”
Naina was heart-broken listening to him. While she turned to look at Kreeti as she peeped through the window, her grandfather continued, “I’m all she has.”
It took Naina a while to digest the information that this little one shall have to live all by herself. Leaning back in her chair, Naina placed her hand on Kreeti when the flight took off.
After the first round of refreshments was served, Naina heard, “Good afternoon passengers. This is your captain Aakash speaking. First I’d like to welcome everyone on Air India Express Flight AI 812. We are currently cruising at an altitude of 33,000 feet at an airspeed of 400 miles per hour. The time is 1:50 a.m. The weather looks good and with the tailwind on our side, we are expecting to land in Mangalore approximately fifteen minutes ahead of schedule. The weather in Dubai is cloudy a high of 31 degrees celsius. If the weather cooperates we should get a great view of the city as we descend. The cabin crew will be coming around shortly to offer you dinner. I’ll talk to you again before we reach our destination. Until then, sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of the flight.”
The moment she heard relax, she couldn’t help but remember her grandmother. There wasn’t even one person from her family to take care of her. She continues to stay in India for no reason and as the years go by, she is getting weaker and weaker.
For good or bad, Naina decided to take her back with her as soon as she recovers from her sickness this time. It was about time she started staying with them and since Naina’s mother is going to retire, they can make the best of their time.
Turning to look at Kreeti to see what was doing, Naina could see tears in her eyes. Hoping to help, Naina asked her, “Is everything fine little one?”
She didn’t answer. Listening to Naina, her grandfather asked the same question. This time, she replied, “I don’t wish to leave home. Let’s go back, grandpa.”
At such a young age, children usually cry so loud but she didn’t. Naina couldn’t help but think that Kreeti was hiding her pain. She could also observe how Kreeti’s grandfather couldn’t help in any way. It was evident in his tone that he was sunken in sorrow when he mentioned, “We are going to a better place mom’magalu and we will return soon.”
Naina could see that Kreeti knew her grandfather’s words were a lie but she just didn’t say it out loud. Looking at her grey eyes, Naina wiped her tears while saying, “You have beautiful eyes Kreeti. Tears diminish their beauty.”
In sheer disappointment, Kreeti replied, “My mom used to say that... I miss her.”
Naina couldn’t help but control my tears. What could she say?
Meanwhile, Kreeti continued by asking, “Will I ever meet them? Will they watch over me?”
Looking at the black clouds, Naina replied, “I’m uncertain if they will return Kreeti but they will always be watching you.”
Her eyes widened as Naina continued, “Out of the billions of stars in this universe your parents are two brightest stars. No matter what happens, they will always be watching you.”
Holding her little hand, Naina mentioned, “They will be your guide and light your way in the darkness.”
Kreeti just looked at Naina. For no reason, it felt as if she believed Naina. Without saying another word, she put her headphones and started listening to songs.
A few minutes later, Naina and Kreeti ate dinner following which Kreeti she fell asleep. Leaning in my chair, Naina recalled her grandmother’s words, “Why don’t you come back and stay in India? You have enough wealth. What more could you seek if not home?”
Unnoticingly, Naina fell asleep too and woke up to the announcement that the flight has reached Mangalore. The sun was waking up as the plane landed. When it was landing, the jerk was so hard making most passengers hurt themselves. Within no time, Naina and Kreeti were devoured in flames.