Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Fear Of Flying

Every time I travel by an aeroplane, my insides drop to my feet. I hear a roar in my ears, my stomach muscles work overtime and my heart beat accelerates. A friend, who also happens to be a doctor, tells me that I have some "underlying issues" and I need to go through some "cognitive coping strategies to deal with the anxiety disorder". Remind me never to have a doctor for a friend.

I feel if some one up there wanted me to fly, he would have given me wings. It is unnatural to fly strapped in a weird giant bird making a strange noise.  Every time I fly, I make it a point to sit next to my tolerant husband. That way, I can really grip his hands hard, twist his fingers  and squeeze his palms almost to a pulp. That is the punishment the guy gets for insisting I fly with him. If I had my way, I'd be walking or driving every where.

This time, when we went to Rajasthan for a short trip, I flew in the smallest aircraft I've ever flown in. The damn thing did not even require proper stairs. You could just haul yourself up the plane. And there was only one door. The familiar claustrophobic feeling slowly engulfed me. I thought a strong cup of tea or coffee would settle my nerves.  (Damn the puritan Indian airliners for not serving liquor on board).
 "Sorry ma'am, for your own safety, we would not be serving any hot beverages in flight," the cheerful air hostess informed me.
 " Why the hell not?"
 " Because bad weather and turbulence might cause your coffee or tea to spill."
 I nudged the husband. " Honey, may be we should just spend Diwali in Mumbai. I hear the lights have a spectacular effect on the otherwise dull city and makes it almost pretty."
"There, there," my husband just patted me indulgently. " Take a few deep breaths and count backward from 100 to 0, you'll be just fine."
 "Yeah but did you hear the air hostess? Turbulent weather ahead. What will happen if lightening strikes?"
"Chances are the bolt would pass through the nose or the wing tip and exit off through the tail." That explanation did not sound very comforting. What if the bolt decides to enter through the fuselage? That would be a disaster, right? My husband of course was blissfully unaware of my incessant worries. The flight was at an ungodly hour and he had slept off even before the plane took off.

Rajasthan is a lovely state. I have been there countless number of times and every visit I discover something new. This time the discovery was in Ranakpur temple, around 100 kms from Udaipur.

I saw this temple for the first time when I was in IInd year college. A gang of us had gone there during our
Holi break. That was quite a few years ago. The temple had looked absolutely breathtaking. Exquisitely carved pillars, underground vaults, beautifully sculpted domes, the temple looked majestic amidst the Aravalli range.This time though. it was a disappointment. The light marble looked black and ugly. There were too many people inside and we were barred from going up.Somehow the temple had lost its pristine looks. The peace that we found there so many years ago had disappeared.

Perhaps we looked lost. Or perhaps we looked disenchanted. A little girl came to us and offered to show us around. Her name was Yogini and she was the priest's daughter. Since the temple's inception, the men in her family had been the priests there, performing the Puja every day.. Her brother, who was only 5, would be the  the 20th generation priest one day.

She acted as our guide, telling us various stories associated with the temple, expertly weaving fiction with facts, history with mythology. She knew the story behind each pillar. She knew the temple like the back of her hand. Her command over Hindi was impeccable and I could not help but be impressed. She was only in Grade 5.

End of the tour, we asked her if she liked to study. Her beaming aunt, who was standing behind us for sometime, informed us that the girl stood first in her class every year.
" So what would you like to be when you grow up?" We asked, expecting the answer to be the standard 'a doctor' or 'a teacher'.
 " A pilot," pat came the reply.
 I was flabbergasted. " Why a pilot? Wouldn't you be scared to fly a plane? Going so high up in the sky?"
"Not at all. To be able to fly, to be able see the earth in a whole new way, to be able to soar... it would be so liberating"

So there. That is what I found in Rajasthan this time. The cognitive coping strategy to combat my anxiety.

 There is joy to be found in soaring after all. Even a little girl knows it.


Nupur said...

before anything else :P FIRST

Nupur said...

how imaginative and confident of the girl to put forward her reasons of being a pilot :) Pat on her back !

LOL @ the racing heartbeat and tensions in your muscles while flying ;)

Told you the other day...your pictures and now your post reminds me of our trip :)

Deepa said...

Maybe you and I were separated at birth! I have a fear of flying as well. And I've blogged about it at least 3 times in my blog. Do check out my labels under Humour and Ranting.

I hate traveling in the monsoon. More clouds means more turbulence. Like you, I hold onto my husband's hand (if he's also traveling with me).

Apart from the clouds, lightning is my greatest fear. A few months ago, I was flying to Ranchi. And just as the plane touched down, an awful crack of lightning split the air. I broke out in sweat. What if we'd been airborne when it happened.

If things (read my fear) gets overwhelming, I read Hanuman Chalisa :)))

Kavi said...

wow ! What reasoning ! she indeed will fly some big planes !


Kavita Saharia said...

I used to love air journey before but after a nasty nasty experience now i hate flying.The fear is not that dominating when i fly alone with my kids .

Kavita Saharia said...

Loved reading about Yogini .

Anonymous said...

Did u hear that the pilot on the Mangalore flight had slept off! My husband was good enough to tell me this just before the plane took off on our return trip from Nepal! I had this urge to go and nudge the pilot once in a while! :( Hope Yogini's dream gets fulfilled.

Rachna said...

I don't fear flying, but like Deepa said I hate flying during monsoons. The turbulence makes me very uncomfortable. Otherwise, I love to watch the clouds, the take off, the landing, the descending. It is awesome to experience the strange feeling of being so high up in the sky. I liked reading about yogini too :).

Aparna said...

@ Scribbler, the girl was so confident, could not help falling for her!The family seemed to encourage her dreams so hoping she would be a pilot one day.

@ Deepa, nice to know I have a twin! I learnt to keep my anxiety under control due to a lot of relaxation techniques I learnt in my yoga class. I used to be a lot worse earlier. Once I am in the air I'm fine, it's during take off and landing I fall apart.

@ Kavi,I am hoping she would!

@ Kavita, I know, I hate it when I fly without my kids. I always end up wondering who will look after my kids if I die in the crash!

@ Jyothi, once we are flying to Delhi and the pilot came out to chat with the passengers. Can you imagine my state? There was a co-pilot but what if he was a total nincompoop?

@ Rachna, once the plane takes off, I'm fine and do enjoy my journey. The earth looks beautiful from up there.

Kanupriya said...

Happens with many other people too :), so you're not alone and try to shed off your fear for flight accidents, accidents can & do happen on road also. My mom too is very paranoid about flight journeys. Flying has its own fun. Due to lots of business tours, I have been traveling alone on all kinda flights for so long, initially used to enjoy it a lot. But must confess that after accidents like what happened in AI Mangalore or France, now when the turbulence comes and the plane acts weird, I do get scared a bit :).
Wish the gal Yogini achieve her dreams soon :)

sujata sengupta said...

As fresh as a breath of fresh air. Loved the post, and the little confident girl in it.

ZB said...

"Not at all. To be able to fly, to be able see the earth in a whole new way, to be able to soar... it would be so liberating"----Explains my stance on flying.

Why do you get so scared? I love flying, though it feels scary to look down and see houses and rivers as tiny as grains of beach sand.It feels scary to imagine the condition of the bones when dropped at such heights. But WTF, you die anyhow, so if this is it then might as well enjoy it.

Envy you, you always get too see amazing places. Makes me feel as if i am an All-work-and-no-fun person.When was the last i went on a vacation, think..think.... 5 years ago on honeymoon. to Goa.SHIT, I need a vacation. TC;0

Renu said...

Earlier I also had a fear of flying, but now i have stopped fearing anything in life..loved reading about Yogini, may god fulfil her dream!!!

Deepanjan Ghosh said...

You know how, just before the aircraft leaves the ground, there's this moment when the engines really power up? It goes like....wwwhhhheeeeeee and then BAM!!! and you're off. That's what really scares me. Coz it feels like the aircraft is really falling apart.

Destiny's child... said...

What a smart little girl and how confident! I really hope her dream comes true :)

Sonu K said...

Nice post ...Looks like the smart girl will take all applauds..
God will let her dream come true..
keep writing.

Onkar said...

I think, most people have this fear of flying. When you leave the ground, some fear is inevitable.

SM said...

beautifully written

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Flying scares me too, especially the thought of flying with two pesky kids during day-time, when they are wide awake and full of questions and mischief.

Rama Ananth said...

It is a lovely post Aparna. I really liked the little girl Yogini.
Well I don't mind flying, but somehow these cheap airways and the cheap fares to which are invariably attracted doesn't seem to be a good trend. I miss those days when we were offered good food in the planes, and even in trains too the food used to be so good. Now a days some airlines charge for water too, and even if they give some complementary food it is not worth eating it. It is awful.
You won't believe it, this time while flying in a round about way from Vishakapatnam to Bangalore, which took us first to Chennai and then to Banglore, and from there the small two seater plane was going to Mangalore. Okay, the pilot from Chennai to Bangalore was a woman. I was so thrilled to be flown by a lady pilot. I felt so proud, and when she got down at Bangalore i had a glimpse of her, she was a smart looking Indian in her 30's. To think Kingfisher airlines are employing woman pilots it is so encouraging.
I just heard a few days back from my son saying that he would be joining a pilot training school in the US, for it is easier to learn it there. So maybe one day he will fly us somewhere in the US.
I can't believe people are going into all kinds of hobbies and are always making use of all the opportunities in life.
It always feels good to come to your space.
At the end i would like to tell you, it was humourous to listen to the pilot, in one of our flights saying "we are ready for take off" and immediately saying sorry and changing to "we are now ready for landing".
A person like you would have been so frightened to listen to this pilot, for you would be wondering whether it was in auto pilot while both the pilots were sleeping soundly.

Nona said...

It is indeed an unique way to look at it. :) After you fly next time, please tell us if this cognitive coping strategy worked for you! :)

Amrit said...

I have no other choice ....

Very nicely written.

Sandhya said...

I went by aircraft just twice in my life. The journey to the US was long and it was quite smooth. My ears hurt though. My husband was with me, maybe, that was the reason I was not scared.

Before we left, my husband made lots of arrangements so that our sons will not have any problems if we don't come back! He was worried that both of us were going together!

Yogini sounds great! God bless her and may her dream come true...a brave girl.

I love the way you express yourself so well, Aparna!

dr.antony said...

I often used to wonder why they offer free liquor in flights.One of my friends told me,the reason was simple.Many are anxious, and they get a drink or two,and sleep it off during the flight.Wont even know if the plane falls in to pockets or winds or what ever.Cool trip!

Deepa said...

@ Dr. Antony: I can vouch for that. On a flight from Singapore to Ahmedabad, I downed at least 3 glasses of wine hoping it will knock me out. But sadly it didnt. I reached home safely and a little tipsy. :)

Smita said...

lol! Trust a kiddo to come up with a solution to ur fear :)

BTW love the template.

Bikram said...

:) well i am opposite i love to fly, I did my PPL when i was in india.. so i jsut love it ..

and one thing in doctors is they try to find some sort of disorder in everything :)

Rajasthan is indeeed beautiful I have done a few of bike rides into remote areas ...

glad you had a good time there ..
good post

Gayatri said...

- Hey Nice blog gal :)
- Me scared of 'take off' and 'landing':O
- the hanuman chalisa works ye know (deepa am withya :))
- the time inbetween is spent in total bliss...since there's no point in worrying :b

Anonymous said...

I love flying :) But the first time I got on to a tiny aircraft- I admit being a little uneasy. It did not look strong enough to transport us anywhere :)

That little sounds so confident! I hope her dreams of becoming a pilot comes true!

Aparna said...

Kanupriya, I too hope Yogini fulfills her dreams.

Sujata, thank you!

ZB, I know you are not going to take my advice but trade that watch for a holiday in NZ! I am not scared of dying, I'm scared of the fall! And more over I'm scared of leaving behind my kids who are too small to look after themselves.

Renu, that's an enviable attitude!

Double-Dolphin, i totally get that fear man!

Destiny's child, so do I.

Sonu, thank you. She was applause worthy, completely.

Onkar, some people also love it.

Sm, thanks.

Sucharita, my kids have grown up, they do not bother me so much now but I do remember some pesky moments!

Rama, thank you so much for appreciating my posts. It always gives me a thrill.
I once flew in an all women crew aircraft. I felt proud too! There are quite a few women pilots these days.
The landing-takeoff faux-pas was funny. Actually I am okay once the air craft is air-bourne. It is taking off that scares me so much.

Aparna said...

Nona, I have no other option, I have to make this cognitive coping strategy work!

A, thank you.

Sandhya, next time you fly, chew some gum. Your ears will not hurt so much.
I do understand your husband's worries. Once, my husband and I left the kids behind. I kept on thinking what will happen if we both died in a crash!

Dr. Anthony, that's the idea!

Deepa, :) I can not drink more than one glass. I have a very low tolerance for alcohol!

Smita, by now I hope you have learnt thats kids are the world's biggest teachers!

Bikramjit, welcome here! Rajasthan is always beautiful. I simply love the state.

Gayatri, thanks. I know, the time in between is bliss indeed.

Wordsndreamz, big planes are less fearful as they look more stable. I hate those propellers.

Naveen said...

I almost thought u were going to cost me my job, but then the girl saved me!

Beautiful blog & post. First time up here.

A Journey to the Unknown Spaces

ZB said...

Hi Aparna, I wouldnt trade my Rolex for A NZ trip. This watch is THE only Jewelery( For Most Indians, no offense here please- Indians are Great,a watch is just an instrument, but a fine watch is a piece of jewelery) i wear.I dont even wear my wedding ring, coz i am not a great fan of gold. Do people trade jewelery for a vacation? Moreover my daughter is hardly 2. So when she is 4-5, we are going there. TC Thanks :))

Aparna said...

Nkr4068, welcome to my space. You a pilot?

ZB, I am not a watch person, not a gold person either. I would gladly trade all my jewellery for a vacation in some exotic place. But yes I do agree with you, travelling with a small child is rather cumbersome. It requires a lot of energy and end of the vacation you are so tired that you want to take another vacation to recuperate.

The Holy Lama said...

Really lifts the spirit, this post.

ZB said...

I agree with you. The reason was, as you mention, traveling with such a tiny tot could be troublesome. I too love traveling. Seeing new people, places and travel as a whole are such delightful experiences, which cant have a material substitute.

Next year vacation, we are planning in august 2011, we have made a India travel plan. Bangalore(arrival and stay @ Bro-in-law), tirupathi, shirdi, Jabalpur(bro-in-law native), Varanasi, Agra, Delhi and Back to kerala. Two families, we will have enough baby sitters. We are all bigtime travelo-philles. Its India Dekho year......Thanks and TC:)

Haddock said...

It is good to get first hand knowledge of a small place like this.

Ire said...

You know when I was flying for the first time, my mom had filed my head with all sorts of things but I enjoyed the flight!

P said...

hey aparna, can you give me your email address I have an email that can interest your daughter. a while ago you had blogged about the different libraries around the world. I was sent a forward on it and think it could interest you and your daughter :)
let me know. you can shoot me an email at poorva02@gmail.com


Oh, daring girl. She has a right cause to be thewre up in the sky.

radha said...

Very nice post. My younger one is like you, but makes sure she keeps awake for days before a flight so that she can sleep the minute she gets on. And is a bad co-passenger too.
( Hopped over from Deepa's blog)

Unknown said...

Wonderful dreams for a little girl. May her dream come true.

Almostpundit said...

I dont know if the girl was there or or not, it doesnt matter.... what a way of putting your point forward. Brilliant scripting.. Simply love your free style