I didn’t notice you walking behind me until the air hostess offered to take your guitar during boarding. You were surprising quiet in your step despite the number of belongings at hand – a guitar on your back, an overnight bag in your hand, jacket carelessly draped around your arm, and a hat – that was the most peculiar thing about you. It looked like the kind of cap navy personnel wears. The reverence with which you held it gave me the idea that it belonged to someone else. Someone important. It was carefully encased in shrink wrap. When the air hostess asked you your seat number and you said 17C, I made a mental note to ask you about that hat as you and I were likely to sit together.
With downcast eyes, you patiently waited while I stored my hand carry in overhead locker. You didn’t inject yourself in the situation, like so many men do when they see a woman hauling luggage. I had it control and you stood a few feet apart, patiently waiting. It was a gesture of respect.
You quietly placed your belongings in storage, and took a seat. There was an empty seat between us. I wanted to reply to two emails before initiating a conversation with you about that cap. While I was typing away, another man came and took the seat between us. He was clearly flustered. FIA gave him a hard time, which I learnt while he was talking to his wife on the phone. His daughter’s name was Tatheer and it reminded me of an old colleague with the same name. I wonder what she’s upto these days.
Anyway. This was the end of any chance of a conversation we had. What’s the story of the navy hat? Now, I will never know.
I took my book out and put the navy cap out of my mind.
Remember Tatheer’s dad, who sat between navy hat and me? Turns out he’s a snorer. Breakfast was served, and exactly a minute after his last bite, Tatheer’s dad passed out, snoring softly. It wasn’t too loud but our close proximity made it appear so. He snored rhythmically while tables were cleared and lights turned out. You came back to your seat (I hadn’t notice you leaving). You turned off snoring man’s screen, so that the bright lights don’t disturb his slumber. Snorer’s subconscious took that as a cue and started learning towards you, in search of a more comfortable sleeping position. You didn’t flinch or get out of the way. You stayed exactly where you were, and his back parked itself on your arm. He continued snoring.
And then, when we landed, you took out your belongings, and then asked me which bag was mine. You didn’t have to, but you saw that the snorer was blocking my way (still snoring). You were so gentle. It has been a while since I have come across someone so gentle, and innately kind. It felt like considerate was your middle name, and it wasn’t gender bound as is the case with many. You pulled by hand carry out, and left it on the side for me.
I thanked you again on the way out, and you said, ‘no problem’, with an accent. Now I am even more perplexed. You had a guitar, a face that I can’t pin on Pakistan’s map (possibly Arab), an accent, navy cap, heartwarming kindness, respect beyond gender, travelled from Karachi to Doha, with final destination unknown.
If you and I cross paths again, I won’t be able to recognise you. My mind didn’t register your face. But I will remember the politeness, the kindness, consideration towards others, and the respect you had.
I hope you and your navy hat reached your destination safely.