The lady next to me on the plane from London to Delhi was brilliantly nuts.
She was quite elderly and didn’t speak a word of English. She couldn’t figure out the seatbelt worked and was getting beyond confused at the concept of lifting the flap to release the belt, which both a stewardess and I had to help her out many a time. She kept asking me questions in Indian, waving her hands at me and I didn’t have a clue what she was saying, I just nodded in hope I was on the right track – it seemed to work. At one point I think was was asking me whether she could eat the packed food in a plastic box she had in her bag, I tried to say no – we were about to take off and I’m sure she wouldn’t want paratha and curry on her face. I figured that was the right thing.
She got the hint, shook her head and hands and put the box away. I soon realised that she was not a fan of take off. There’s me, sitting staring out of the window so intently my face might as well of been outside when I got the (now pretty frequent) tap on the arm. At first I tried to ignore it, but she was persistent. When I turned, she was half flung over the middle seat, one hand covering her frightened face, and the other reaching out to me. I was needed. Naturally and without thought, I held her hand. I had understood, she squeezed my hand in fear for the entire ascent. We were now friends.
She pretty much left me alone after that, but little did she realise, she had helped me too. My thoughts had been whizzing and whirling from the moment I got airside so by looking after her, I relaxed. I realised the beauty of people and communication without language in that very moment, and felt overwhelmed with content about the trip.
Apart from me having to climb over her – literally climb – she just wrapped herself up in a cocoon of hoodie and blanket and didn’t stir. Well, apart from devouring the contents of the lunchbox, finally.