‘3rd Dec, 2016’.
“Air India announces, rescheduling of its flight AI-549 from Chennai to Port Blair due to technical reason and the new departure time is 9:30 am.”
Having reached the Chennai Domestic Terminal at around 3AM, this delay of exactly 4 hours and 45 minutes meant it was going to be dull day for me.I don’t like these flight delays at all, especially when I am on a business trip, I never like it.However nothing was in my control except the fact that I could control expressing my anger to some staff of Air India.
My colleague Ipshita looked angry after this announcement. This is disgusting-she said, getting irritated by the delay.
‘Take a seat and relax, Ipshita’- I replied trying to calm her.
‘Let’s have a cup of coffee and burger’-Ipshita replied.
So, we went to the coffee shop near Gate 3 inside the terminal.The weather was quite pleasant outside but the inside buzzed with lots of travelers waiting for their boarding.
‘Hey SK! Do you see that guy standing at the ‘Coffee Day’, doesn’t he look familiar?’-Ipshita asked me pointing towards the man, dressed in Black-n-Checks, sipping his coffee while he conversed with a couple of people from the staff from the Indigo Airline.
‘Oh yes, you are right. He looks very familiar’-I replied to her and took out my cell phone and searched through the friend list of my Facebook account.
‘Shubham, my childhood classmate and now FB friend, as I recall his facebook profile has all the photos from our young school days’- I told Ipshita.
“Yes there he is….Shubham! In my FB list. Let’s go and meet him”- I urged Ipshita.
While we had our shares of burger, I told Ipshita, “You know dear, when I look up to Shubham I feel that he deserves everything he has now on the professional front.He is one of the well known and respected faces in the airline industry.Neither is he a business tycoon nor some egoistic rude top management boss.He is one of his rarest prototype, admired by everyone he has met in his life so far and inspiration to many of us during our days of struggle for getting a job and career, very helping he was and a guy to share our secrets.But whatever he has achieved in the present wasn’t a cake walk for him.He has overcome so many hardships in the past to become what he is today."
‘Is it so, SK? Then you must tell me his story someday.’-Ipshita felt anxious to know more about Shubham.
‘I have an idea, SK!’- Ipshita said.
“Why don’t you write about Shubham’s journey in your novel?”
‘Wow Ipshita! That would be great’. –I thanked and assured her that she will learn about his inspirational journey to success soon.
But I hardly knew anything about him in detail. This was a chance I didn’t want to let go waste.We finished eating within the next ten minutes and started to walk towards Shubham who was then sitting on the chair near to Gate 7.He was tapping on his mobile every now & then, looked quite unusual to me.As far as I remember he disliked being glued to cell phones.
‘Hi Shubham!’... How are you?
“O hi! Nice surprise, SK. It's so nice to see you here. After a long time, finally we meet out of facebook pages ha!”
‘Although we had us, on each other's facebook friend list, we never had any chats in past two years.’
‘The clock ticks so fast, doesn’t it?’
‘Shubham!’ Meet Ipshita, my colleague.
‘Hi Ipshita!’-he greeted.
‘Great to see you Shubham sir. I have heard about you from SK’.-Ipshita replied.
"So? How come you have been in Chennai, Shubham? And you still travel a lot?”-I asked.
Pointing to the lady who was sitting next to him, he said, “SK, meet Avni-my wife and Nirvaan- my son. This time I was here for a minor surgery for Avni”.
Namaste Bhabi! Hi Nirvaan!
“What about you, SK?” -Shubham asked.
‘I? For my usual industry training plus I am planning to venture into book-publishing-printing business. So I was here to meet some of the publishing houses. We both got a week leave and our company has sponsored a leisure-trip to the Islands’-I replied.
I and Shubham did our young schooling days together for few years and now we belong to the Airline Industry in India.It’s been almost ten years I know him but not enough.He was my mentor at the RedHat Academy during the RedHat Training Program in 2005.He has been inspirational for me and I always believed that there is an untold story behind this inspirational man.
"Well Shubham, I must tell, you look the same person as you were then in school. You never changed for friends. You did great to keep up friendship with everyone. You are the only string who kept all friends tied together"-I thanked Shubham. He is still in touch with most of the ex-classmates.
‘Thanks SK!’-he said.
“By the way, which flight are you boarding?"
Well, the delayed Air India -he said.
‘Oh great, we too.’-I replied.
‘SK, would you like to give me a company to the book shop?’ I have to buy some books.
‘Sure Shubham. I will.'
While Ipshita and Avni took their seats and started chatting, I and Shubham took a walk towards the book shop near Gate 10. As we marched slowly, I asked Shubham, “So you have become Mr. Traveler, you interact with so many people, don’t you?”
‘Yeah, sort of’-he nodded in approval.
I was keen to write about him in ‘The Journey So Far’ and this was my chance to get everything extracted from him.
But if I asked him directly about his past life, he would have felt awkward.
‘It seems you are fond of Chennai, isn’t it true Shubham? Quite amazing, instead of a Bong Connection, you have a Chennai connection’.
Shubham laughed and said, “I never had a Bong connection and Chennai is like a second home for me.
Lots of friends from different fields of work, lots of young schooldays friends and I have a special bonding to this place”.
‘I learnt, that Shubham loves to explore. Explore the people rather than places, loves to interact with people from different walks of life, from different parts of state, country and religion.’
‘He loves to explore about their thinking process, their experiences in life.’
‘When he traveled for a business trip, airport lounges became his favorite place to explore-the air travelers. Loads of people, some tied to their smartphones as if they are the most techie guys in this world, some glued to the beauties out there, some talking the long walk with their children, some with their eyes stuck at the flight schedules, some wishing their flight was on time, some rushing from the washrooms as there has been announcements for them that their flight was about to leave and some like Shubham, who never wanted to leave the terminal and wished the flights were just delayed and delayed.’
We had still three hours to board the flight.
We started discussing about things related to our work as he searched some latest Novels in the book shop.
I asked Shubham-"I don’t understand one thing; you were far batter student in school. You could have
completed your engineering and got a highly paid job. But you chose the other way. Why? Is Avni, the same girl-your childhood friend? Actually I don’t remember that girl’s name. Which company are you working right now?”
On hearing all this, Shubham took a deep breathe and said that he was working with two of the leading Airline Companies in India, has his own Firm which works as PSA to those airlines. But at the same time he starts to avoid replying for my remaining questions....he kept his silence.
Then he said, “SK, Avni is not that girl, not my childhood friend.I got married to her five years back.”
He has married someone else and not that girl with whom he fell in love during the college days?I was shocked at his revelations later.When he later revealed his story, I learnt if anyone was to be his better-half, Avni was the perfect one.Avni is his blessed present.
‘You were of a great help during RedHat India Exams.’
‘It’s because of you I managed to get the job I desperately needed that time.’
‘I feel really happy for you when top brasses from our fraternity talk and praise about you.’- I appreciated his dedication he puts in his work.
My anxiousness to know about him was making him feel bit uneasy and inexpressible for unknown reasons rather known reason that I mentioned “that girl”. He could sense, whom I was asking about.
To make the mood lighter for him, I said, “No issues if you don’t want to share the rest...just relax.”
‘You like reading novels?’ - I asked Shubham
‘Well, I am not a big fan of Novels but sometimes it’s good to get some inspiration from them.’ – He said.
‘Interesting! Will you read, if I write one?’
‘Actually I am writing one and thought it would be best if I write down the real stories which can inspire others.’
‘To be true and frank, an hour ago, Ipshita suggested me to start with your story.’
‘Would you like to share if you feel comfortable with it?’
‘Tell me about your journey so far, dear.’
Shubham didn’t respond immediately.
He kept searching the racks for novels. He picked one and said, “Do you know this author, SK?”
‘I have heard about her. She is the new sensation in literary world.’ – I replied.
‘Oh I see!’
This novel, it says “Everyone has a story”, looks quite interesting.
‘I must read it’-Shubham replied.
I don’t know what he was thinking while he purchased the novel and read the first chapter.
Turning to me he said, “I too was thinking to write a story but I am not a good writer. In that case, you get the story”-Shubham replied ultimately giving a nod.
‘You will feel comfortable sharing your past and the journey till now?’
For seconds he thought and then nodded in approval.
“That’s great! Well in that case, tell me everything in detail. I want to start with your story”-I appreciated his gesture.
Not many have the courage to relive and rewrite their past.Here was a man, who had gone through so many storms in his past and still so composed, focused and down to earth.
‘Sure I will, once we reach the islands’- an optimistic Shubham replied. But right now let’s enjoy the Airport environment.
‘Ok done!’ –he said and we continued discussing lots of issues prevailing in the Travel Industry and about the islands.
I requested the cabin crew for a seat change so that I can talk to Shubham. Ipshita luckily got the seat next to Avni.
Our flight took off on time after the delay. 2 hours journey felt like two days as my other side was eager to know and write about Shubham. Impatiently, I asked him, “what all had you done after XII std?”
‘Well, nothing much-dropped out of college, did a joke of correspondence course but anyhow managed to perform well, worked in few IT companies and then became an Entrepreneur’-he replied.
‘Shubham; The Entrepreneur, the Poet, the RedHat Guru and what not?’
‘You have got so many skills.’
‘You remember any special moments from any of you air travel?’-I asked Shubham.
I was trying to mould him into the story telling mode.
To my luck, he started to open up and he already sensed it that I actually wanted him to disclose his story.
He said, “you don’t have to set me up SK. Let’s begin and you better get these noted.”
And that is how I came to know that, by the time Shubham turned 25 & later 36 this year, he had seen lots of highs and lows in his life- both in personal and professional front.
Those who left him by letting him down came back in his life at a point of no-return for him.
Time can change many things in one's life drastically. I realized as I read through every story of his journey later.