Being an avid business traveller, I spend many an hour waiting in airport lounges. Yesterday, I was in transit, and my flight was delayed by an hour due to the fog. I was checking messages on my tab as usual, browsing the social media sites, when I overheard a woman standing in the lounge behind me talking frantically on the phone. I looked behind my shoulder and noticed her gesturing vigorously with her arms, a worried expression scoured her face. I did not pay much heed at first and went about browsing as usual, when I noticed that she came and sat on the chair across me, her face cupped in her hands, she seemed to be crying.
I was hesitant at first, whether I should approach her or not, would she find it intrusive to have a stranger enquiring? Would her problem be too personal? The lounge was relatively empty, as it was still early in the day. I glanced up from my tab every now and then. She was perhaps in her late twenties, with auburn hair tied up in a knot above her head, wearing a kurta and leggings, with two bags placed on the seat next to her, and a purse on her lap. She was constantly fiddling with her phone now, tears still flowing down her flushed cheeks. Another call was placed, I could hear her speak now, she was conversing in a South Indian language, Tamil perhaps, interspersed with few English words. I suddenly realised why she must be so worried. Chennai has been in a deluge since the last two days. Perhaps, this lady was trying to reach out to somebody stuck in the floods? When she hung up her call, I mustered up the courage to approach her and ask if she needed any help.
“Hello, good morning, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. And you look very worried. Would you mind telling me what has happened…is there any way I can help you ma’am?” She looked up at me, paused a while, before saying, “Hi, actually, I had a flight to Chennai today, but looks like it is going to be cancelled due to the heavy rains and floods there. My parents live in Chennai, my father had gone out yesterday for some work, but has not returned home yet. He has been unreachable on the phone since then…my mother is alone and helpless…I wanted to go there…but I’m stranded here…”
Since the previous evening, my social media feed had been replete with helpline numbers for those stranded in the Chennai floods. “Please calm down, I am sure your father is safe. You will be able to contact him soon. Here, please take a look at these…I have this list of helpline numbers that you can call to seek him out. Let us try together. Please don’t give up hope,” I said.
She looked up at me and smiled. A smile of gratitude. I had not done much to help her. Just tried to reach out and offer some hope. She held my hand and thanked me. I did not know her name, she did not know mine. But it was just a simple gesture that helped brighten up someone’s day. We all go through bleak moments, moments of weakness. At such times all we may need is a reassuring word, a supporting smile, to give us hope, to grant us strength, and make us believe that this too shall pass.
We made some calls to the helpline numbers enquiring about her father. They promised to get back to her soon. Meanwhile, my flight had been announced. I got up to say goodbye and told her that I’d pray she would hear from her father very soon. She got up from her seat, thanked me, and all of a sudden gave me a hug, with tears flowing down her cheeks again. Only this time they were tears of joy, the joy of finding a friend in her bleakest hour.