Thursday, September 27, 2007


To this day I cannot guess with any sort of confidence that which was going through his head that night - whoever he may have been.

The plane taxied slowly onto the runway.

Like a huge, bulky tight-rope walker it rolled over the smooth tarmac carefully balancing its huge wings with their blinking lights.

Once on the runway it waited, ready to charge, making great sounds from deep within, as if somewhere deepdown the oompa loompas were shoving all the gasoline into one garangutan of a boiler-like engine that was all set to blow up. The engines slowly revved up and soon the whole frame of the beast began to shudder as the sound reached deafening proportions. As the minions ran for cover deep inside, the strings that were attached to the back of the plane stretched themselves to breaking point – ready to catapult us into the dark sky above.

Whatever I maybe doing – reading a book, checking the in-flight magazines, banging the walls of my head with a stray thought, studying the flight path or trying to catch some shut-eye – I always snap out of it at this point. I would slowly shut the book, tuck it into the magazine slot in-front, gaze out onto the wings, wait, look around and press deeper into my seat – in anticipation. This I always do - without exception, and as if feeding on my thoughts, the tele-screens would go blank, lights would switch off, the flight-stewardesses would disappear and the silence inside would mix with the deafening noise from the outside creating a heady concoction.

Then the strings would let go and the plane would hurl itself forward like a loud animal - the powerful head-beams pushing aside the dark-silent night, making way for the strong bulk of the aircraft. The long stretch of lights on either side of the tarmac would hold their ground as the plane zipped past them and disappeared into the night sky.

On that day, there we were, waiting at the head of the runway, the engines revving up. I was seated just outside the business class, right in front of the partition and from where I sat I could see the in-flight attendants who had taken their positions for take off. They were all strapped onto their seats and were chatting happily with each other. The teenagers next to me were trying to catch some sleep – ipod ON, hand luggage secured neatly in front.

I waited, in anticipation.

It happened as the plane began to move forward.

From somewhere close behind me, 5-6 rows perhaps, there rose the most chilling laughter I have heard to this day. Male and youthful, it exploded inside the cabin silencing everyone instantly and continued to reverberate and establish its presence in the silence. It was a strong voice, strong and patronizing. It had the confidence, and madness, of someone who saw the future, of the dark fate that befell him and his fellow passengers, and had decided to go out in a blaze. There was no prelude, no sober conversation that tagged along, no second voice that provoked it further – alone, he laughed.

The stewardesses look wide eyed to some point behind me. The guy next to me, woke-up with a startle, and then twisted and turned in his seat, to which he was still tied down by his seat belts, to get a glimpse of the face that sent forth the sound. I sat still, wide-eyed for sure, too startled and confused to turn around and look at what was happening. It was then that I realized that a chill was running up my spine and that I was scared.

If I were to sketch it, I would have a cabin full of droop-faced, squiggly-mouthed, wide-eyed passengers. The sleeping ones jumping awake from their seat, their eye-brows popping, eye-shades flying-off, and the fainter of hearts shuddering and chewing on their mandibles, an exclamation mark popping out from the captain’s announcement speaker – and the source of the sound, a kind of omnipotent smudge.

By now the plane was rushing down the tarmac, engines roaring with all their might, seconds away from take off. However loud the engines screamed, the laughter seemed to prevail over it, giving it a sort of invincibility.

All this while no one made a sound, and that was a good 3-4 minutes of clean laughter.

I was impounded with scenes of people tearing away their seat belts and jumping on to the source of the sound – pounding him to near fatality. I was sure that any second now he would be pummeled by his fellow passengers. For a while I felt pity.

Then as the plane was taking off the runway, the wheels bumped on the airstrip, stretching the tension in the air to explosive levels. For a second, I was compelled to belive that there was something going on that was beyond my comprehension, something otherworldly, and that things were about to go terribly wrong and we were helpless. Throughout all this the laughter continued, unabated, wave after wave of renewed energy crashing fatally into the collective psyche in that airplane.

The laughter continued until the plane was well up in the sky and was turning to catch its course. Sometime then, as if snapped out of a trance, the seat-belt signs turned off, the flight stewardesses got off their seats to serve the meals, the guys next to me got busy in some animated and happy conversation, and people all around started to chatter and move about - and the laughter, unnoticed, faded away. I sat wondering about what had happened and soon, I too lost myself in the comforts of the in-flight hospitality

Sometime, pre-dawn, as the flight began it’s descend the captain’s voice seeped into my uneasy slumber. As I slowly started to crawl out of my sleep, I heard echos of that laughter, I’m sure - and once again it filled me up with fear.


Girl With Big Eyes said...

Nice work. Had me all absorbed!

AK said...

thanks.. :)

Mridul said...


Mridul said...

trying laughter therapy to overcome fear ? interesting ... and ignore the prev comment :-P

AK said...

well that is the only possible explanation to that.. will have to go with that i guess.. [ignored the prev comment]

bro said...

it was getting really really interesting till d climax...but d climax disappointed me..[:)]