A smile that lived

A man was traveling in an airplane. He had just completed his dinner when an announcement came. There is turbulence ahead. Please wear your seat belt. A few seconds later, the plane began to shake uncontrollably. People around him began to scream. The man knew too that he was going to die. He was calm and smiled back at the people who shouted their lungs out. Their life was coming to an end. The plane was fast losing altitude. The pilot sounded helpless but continued to steer ahead. One of the engines had caught fire. Life had become empty and meaningless in just a few seconds. Plans for his family reunion after months had just been shattered. There was no business plan or sales strategy that mattered anymore. He was expecting a large and long due contract next week. He wouldn’t see next week. The dinner was his last supper. Thankfully he had enjoyed it with a glass of wine. He felt complete like he had never before. Suddenly, he had nothing to lose and nothing to gain. He continued to smile as people around him prayed frantically to their Gods. In a matter of a few seconds there would be a loud thud and it would be over. He decided to live each second as if it was the only one left. The end was inevitable always just that it was predictably visible for the first time in his life. He smiled at his futility. He had achieved nothing for all that he had been doing for the last 48 years. His twins were doing well, one in a law college and another learning advanced physics. Just an hour before he had thanked his co-passenger for helping him put his bag in the overhead cabin. His neighbour was tall and strong. But right now he was still, his eyes open wide. They were still like him. He wouldn’t budge from that position. He was cold. The heart in that huge muscular body had given up. The man continued to smile. To his left was a girl fast asleep in her mother’s lap. The one year old had no idea or interest in what was happening around her. She had a calm smile similar to the one he had on his lips. Tears fell like rain from her mother’s helpless eyes. She didn’t howl like the others. She held her breath strongly lest her voice may disturb her peace. She didn’t have the courage to wake her daughter. She kissed her forehead and hoped she wouldn’t wake up to see the destruction. There was no hope for a miracle. It was obvious what lay ahead. He lost his smile for a few microseconds. He remembered his mother. In a flash, he had imagined her in despair on hearing the news. The smile returned. This time wider. His mother had lost him many years ago to his job and to a woman he claimed to love him more. He hadn’t visited his mother when she had her tumour removed last year. He had just been promoted then and was expected to stay on for the board meeting. His mother understood. He was not sure if his twins would be able to make it for the final ceremonies. His grin widened. Life was coming to a still. Strangely his heart beat was constant. Not faster. Not slower. He had never felt at peace like this before. There was a big jolt as the plane gained pace from the free fall and people fell off their seats and rolled over. He had fastened his seat belt on the first announcement itself as he watched them fall over each other from his seat. He couldn’t, however, catch hold of the pen his father had gifted him on his graduation. It was precious and expensive but now worthless. As far as his memory went, he had seen his father cry for the first and the only time when he graduated. That face came alive in front of his eyes. It didn’t change the smile on his face. It was a rigid smile that would stay that way. His wife had decided to separate soon after the twins opened their eyes. She didn’t want children but was unable to express it till they were born. He felt alive for one final time as recalled the ugly divorce that had left him bankrupt, emotionally too. The smile was firm. He counted his breaths as he remembered how he counted cars on the road as a child when his family went for the customary weekly dinner. He didn’t realise when he counted his last. Life stopped, the smile lived on. He had accomplished nothing. He had started with nothing.

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