Adit was then allowed to get in to the Virgin Atlantic flight to New York. Although the time was post-pandemic and air travel should be relatively hassle free, but it was not completely out of COVID-19 tentacles. There were lots of lingering formalities to go through to ensure to the security authorities that a passenger was not knowingly or even unknowingly carrying the virus in himself. Adit had to give his body temperature, his genetic material in the swab from which the authorities could trace, if they liked, his ancestry right up to the Homo sapiens stage and, of course, his body possessions in case he was carrying a suicide belt in his body.
His exasperation was palpable. But he thought that all these hassles could have been due to the fact that he got this air ticket to New York suspiciously from somebody whose whereabout was unknown. However, he assumed that it must be the work of his girl-friend in New Jersey implicitly asking him to come immediately.
He got into the plane and he found that his allocated seat was at the second last row of the plane. There were quite a few rows ahead of him empty. Anyway, he took off his top coat, put that and the small briefcase in the overhead locker and settled down in his window seat. A few minutes later, a middle-aged gentleman dressed immaculately came to the back of the plane and, as it transpired, his seat was next to Adit’s. He put his top coat and other belongings in the overhead locker, but kept a small queer looking laptop in his hand.
Before settling down, that gentleman introduced himself to Adit. “Good morning, sir. I am a Police Officer flying to New York on an official duty”, he said but he did not give his name. Adit, being a thorough and thorough civilian, gave in response his name to the Police Officer and disclosed that he was a retired civil servant.
“Are you going to New York on family business?”, asked the Police Officer.
“You can say that”, replied Adit. “Actually, I am going to see my girl-friend in Princeton, New Jersey, from whom I haven’t heard for the last 12 days, except receiving this air-ticket,” said Adit.
“Sorry to hear that your girl-friend is keeping herself away from you. I am sure she would be delighted to see you in person.”
“I hope so. But first she will have to recognise me. I have not seen her ever in my whole life, nor has she seen me ever.”
“How then did you develop your friendship?” asked the Police Officer.
“It’s a long story. But first tell me what do you do as a Police Officer?”, asked Adit.
“Oh, nothing much, just usual mundane work. I am an investigative officer, dealing with family matters and family issues, marriage disputes, large insurance claims, inheritance claims etc. They are all desk-bound work with only occasional site visits,” said the Police Officer.
“What made you to go to New York now?” asked Adit.
“You will come to know about it in due course. But you haven’t told your girl-friend’s story yet.”
“Our love story is the by-product of the pandemic lockdown. A couple of years ago, when my wife abruptly left home, I decided to concentrate on writing to take my mind off from the mishap on politico-economic issues, social issues, scientific topics etc as a free-lance writer, contributing to newspapers, journals, blog-posts etc. I used to write occasionally even before my wife’s departure.”
Adit paused for a while, composed himself and then said, “One of my old girl friends from my school days called Selina sent me an email saying that she finds my articles interesting and informative. But she feels that they are at times too difficult for her to grasp. She, however, thinks one of her bright school friends, by the name Sudha, who was a political science student, would enjoy and appreciate my articles, if I allow Selina to forward my articles to her. I readily agreed. A few days later, Selina asked me that if I don’t mind, I should contact Sudha on the telephone – she is a divorced lady, lives on her own in a New Jersey suburb. And during the pandemic lockdown period, she is desperately lonely and suffering from depression. It gradually became clear to me that Selina made this plan to put me in touch with Sudha, so that both mine and Sudha’s loneliness can be alleviated.”
“So, you contacted her and then you became friends, is that right?”
“Correct. What surprised me most is the speed with which we became close friends, very close friends indeed. Probably we were both primed to seek companionship in our loneliness. I was lonely in this country and she was lonely in her country!”
“Very interesting. It has got all the right romantic ingredients”, said the Police Officer and occasionally fiddled with his queer looking laptop.
“It is only the beginning. Pandemic may have devastated the lives of many, but at the same time it can implicitly bind together many lives far and wide. We did nothing other than talk, talk and talk on the telephone for the next few days. Modern technology offering Messenger, WhatsApp etc services facilitated endless use without incurring any cost. We never used the video facilities like Skype, Zoom etc. Don’t know, why. But I guess. it was Sudha’s reluctance to appear before a video camera.”
“Let me get some drinks to moisten our throats. It seems you have lots to talk about”, said the Police Officer. “After all, we are at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) allocated seats and we should get priority treatment,” said the Police Officer.
Adit was totally taken aback. “I did not know that I am seating in the MOD allocated seat. How come Sudha managed to send me this ticket in the MoD area?” Adit enquired in complete surprise.
“You have to ask that to your girl-friend.” Then he pressed the overhead button to attract flight attendant’s attention. He placed orders for two whiskies with ice and some cashew nuts. “OK, please carry on with your riveting story,” implored the Police Officer.