Monday, September 8, 2014

When I missed my flight...

Leaving a second home, my college in Malaysia, already was hard. Leaving behind friends, a family for life, the lifestyle, the freedom, the independence, I was travelling back home leaving one world, to my parents, my other world. I was finally delighted to meet my parents after counting months, to weeks, to days, finally counting hours to meet them and hug them tight and not let them go. Little did I know the amazing experience of having learnt abroad for three and half years in Malaysia- deen, ethics, faith in Allah SWT- would all be put into a test within this one day.

I was taking the Saudia flight to Riyadh directly. Without informing me, Saudia itself changed my itinerary to taking two flights that included a transit via Jeddah, and the time difference between the two flights were fifteen minutes. Yeah! You read that right. Just fifteen minutes. So where am I going with this story?

After repeated warnings from my dad and sister about being quick and pro-active in claiming my luggage and checking in to the domestics flight and making sure I don’t miss the flight, I was sure I did everything correctly. I ran as fast as I could with 60kgs of luggage in my trolley, enquired the officers about my way to the domestic terminal.  Rushed and quickly took the elevator to the second level and I was sure I could check in on time and rush to the gate. I was actually proud of myself that for once, I would have made my parents proud with how responsible I was.  Nope. I missed the flight. At the check-in counter I was told the gate just closed and I needed some sort of a tag on my baggage which was pointless now because I missed the flight.

I went running up and down, from one officer to another, asking what is to be done. There must be a procedure. It was their fault to have changed my itinerary to an impractical timing. But to no avail. When no one was ready to help, stranded in a strange place, alone with no one by my side, people staring at me taking rounds around them with all my baggage and a little secret recipe cake I got for my family, I had no money to quench my thirst even, how would I buy a new ticket to home? I didn’t want to show anyone I was lost, because I was alone and I heard stories of people taking advantage of girls who were alone and needed help. I had no local sim card on my phone to contact my family and ask them not to go to the airport to receive me, because I wasn’t flying, I suddenly didn’t know what to do.

My next step was simple.  The call for the isha athaan was made and there was a comfortable prayer area for females. I needed to finish my Maghrib in the form of Qasr as well. So I decided to accept this situation I was in, as the Qadr of Allah, since I did everything possible in my hands to not let this happen, but it did. I said to myself ‘Qadr Allah wa maa shaa fa’al” . I went to the prayer area, made ablution, and took my time away from everything in this world. Yes, I was worried about how am I to go home, I missed home. I was tired from an eight hour flight already and I needed sleep and I just needed to see mom and dad. But keeping away all worries, I just stood in front of Him. It was the same Isha prayer, but a totally different me. I stood there, seeing how Big Allah SWT was and how helpless I was. How I needed Him. How anything was possible for Him, while I had nothing in hand. And so I spoke to Him in my Sujood. Told Him exactly these words- ‘Ya Allah, I really have nothing in my hand. I see no way out of this and Only You can help me. I didn’t put myself in this situation and I don’t want to worry my parents. Take me out of this situation and guide me to my way home, ya Rab!’

After resting a bit, I had to do something now to get out of there or at least let my parents know. I had friends in Jeddah but only their Malaysian phone numbers. No one would lend me their phone for an international call now. I walked out again, from one office to another, tired now with all the luggage. Still no one ready to help. Now my concern wasn’t about going home, but about my parents waiting in vain for me troubled about my absence. I needed to tell them and so I decided to look for someone to borrow a phone from. One missed call to my parents will do, I thought. They’ll call me back and I’ll tell them we will figure a way out.  I looked around and whispered in my head for Allah to guide me to the right people to go to. ‘Them?’ I asked myself, looking at an Asian looking old couple. ‘yeah, maybe’ I thought to myself and advanced towards them. I stood in front of them for five minutes, not having the courage to ask for help. I didn’t know if they would trust me. Right then, two children come running towards two other ladies sitting next to this couple screaming ‘Mama dekho! Mama dekho!’ (meaning in in Urdu: mummy, see!) Something suddenly pushed me to go to them instead. So I went to them and asked them politely if they spoke Urdu just to bond with them, and they nodded. Told them of my situation and they lent me their phone to inform my father. And then their family arrived from Pakistan so they had to go and so they left. I told them if my dad called back to tell him I was fine and am figuring a way out. While I sat there wondering what to do, surprisingly, five minutes later, they come back for me. She said to me I was alone and it wasn’t right to leave me just like that. Their uncle told them not to leave the airport until they were sure I was in safe hands. Shocked by the kindness of a stranger, I grabbed all their help with humility.

It took us two hours, and not only did they buy me a new ticket, a new simcard to call dad, gave me some money in hand to buy food or water, ran again from one office to another to ensure I get a seat in the next flight, waited with me for the seat confirmation while I bugged the Duty Manager every ten minutes, but also gave me so much moral support and told me not to despair. They had four small children waiting for them without dinner and they missed their family re-union at dinner as their aunt just arrived from Pakistan.

Indeed, Allah SWT sent me help.

When I told her, I really couldn’t thank her enough and was forever indebted to her, her reply brought me to tears. She said, and she said it without any hesitance, ‘I don’t even want the money back please just pray that my children grow up as righteous kids in this world full of distractions, and as Allah said to help a traveller, I am glad I got this chance to help you’

Simple words she said with so much ease but was so heavy on me. To this day, while I type from home, I remember her beautiful face and her beautiful character. She taught me so much in those words. I pray Allah SWT makes her children righteous and beloved to Him, and they walk to Jannah together. Ameen.

This may be a simple story of missing my flight, yet to me it was more: of trust in Allah SWT, of sincerity in helping someone in need and most of all, of displaying excellent character, that I saw in them. 

Reflection:  In reality, we all have missed our flights that we are yet to take to the Real Home. Only how many of us paid attention to His help? He guides us to it, in every moment we ask Him. We are indeed just travellers lost in this transit. Think about this.

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