2nd December 2016
10: 55 am
First ring. Second ring.
‘Salaam, chachu, can you please let me know if there’s a flight from Islamabad to Germany?’
‘Stay on the line…’
‘… In the evening?’
Two minutes later
‘There is one at 11 AM, every day. You’ve missed that already.’
‘Not morning, I need one in the evening.’
‘What’s in the evening?’
‘Just a matter of convenience,’ I imitate a friendly cough.
‘Daylight not good enough for you?’
‘My friend wants to go, so he wanted one in the evening.’
My uncle mumbles something in his mouth as I hear keyboard presses in the background. The background is filled with the usual office noises: typing, clicking, someone yelling about the toner being empty, a phone starts ringing. someone’s asking for chai when my Uncle speaks again.
‘There is one today.’
‘How about next week?’
‘Not until next month. All seats are booked for the next three weeks.’
‘Why?’ I wail, extending the vowel.
‘Cause it’s holiday season, dumbass. There are three flights from Islamabad every day. But they’re either early morning or late at night.’
‘Both of these times aren’t suitable.’
‘Mister, you are starting to piss me off. Why is it so important that your friend wants to fly in the evening?
‘I don’t know,’ I hope my uncle doesn’t follow up with his inquiry, ‘Can you book the one that leaves today?
‘I’ll call you back in a minute.’
‘Did you get it?’
‘There’s one in the evening, today, and then the next month.’
‘Don’t fool me, Haris! I’ve got the airline schedule in front of me.’
‘I’m not! Check for availability, they’re all booked!’
‘I can’t put it till next month. The deadline’s in a week’
‘I’ve asked my uncle to get one for the evening.’
‘How? There are no seats left!’
‘Let’s just wait for his response.’’
Incoming call alert.
‘Hold on, please.’ I switch to the other call. ‘Yes, Chachu?’
‘You have one hour and thirty minutes before the booking closes.’
‘Should I send you her email address?’
‘Her? Wait a minute!’
‘Long story, I’ll explain,’ I speak as the first drop of sweat appears on my forehead.
‘Why would I need her email?’
‘To send her the ticket?’
‘I haven’t bought the ticket because the system is not letting me.’
‘But, you said there are seats available for today!’
‘There are, but we’re too late to secure one. Your friend needs to reach the airport and get to the Emirates help desk. Once there, ask for Mr Farjad. Mention my name and he’ll handle the rest.’
I scribble everything down on my tiny notetaking diary.
‘Give me a minute,’ I say before I switch to Saba’s call.
‘How soon can you leave?’
‘How soon are we talking about?’
I glance at the clock in front of me.
‘Right now kinda soon?’
‘What!’ Her voice sounded weird with all the static that has been going on recently.
I explain everything to her finally gasping for air as I finish the entire story.
‘Please, can you do it now?’
‘Are you for real?’ she says. I hear sounds of paper and drawers on the other side until she finally speaks again. ‘So I’ll go get ready then…’
‘Stay on the line!’
‘How would I get to know if you made it to the airport?’
‘How am I going to make it if you won’t get off the phone!’
‘Okay, alright! I’m sorry. Just let me know when you get the ticket.’
‘I owe you, Haris!’
‘Not at all,’ I reply when all I wanted to say was, ‘I love you, be safe.’
. . . to be continued [1/4]