Proximity - A True Story From My Travels

Indie Ink Challenge
Challenge by: "Attracted to Shiny Things"
Recommed Reading: K. Syrah:

July 28, 2011

This is a true story. The only thing I have changed is the main character's name.

This is a story from that memorable day when Jane reminded me how to sing at the airport. In front of everyone.

May 19, 2011

I am on my way back from a business trip to Boston, waiting for an airplane. I look for a plugpoint where I would be able to recharge my phone and my computer. I want to do some research. The only place I find near my departure gate is in the corner, near the entrance to the adjacent gate. So I go and sit there on the floor.

This gate is shut down for the moment. So while the laptop is charging, I log on to the web, and start doing some research on recording live music with some new software.

I am sitting far from most of the people sitting on chairs. I am usually sitting far from people. They are mostly watching TV or texting, apparently sitting close to each other.

Another man, wearing a business suit, not unlike mine, comes about 10 yards from me, sets his baggage and starts talking on his phone. He appears very busy talking on the phone, pacing to and from his carry-on. His only interest is this phone call; so how far he is doesn't really matter.

It is a little hot. I take my jacket off, then pack it in my bag. I also take my turban off and let my hair down in a pony tail. I am ready to relax. Streching my legs I go went back to googling my question on recording.

There are so many topics that come up on my search for the question I have; a small subset of them actually look like they would be a close answer to my question. However, when I click on each of these links, I find that I am really not getting any closer to the answer than when I started. I keep going on and on ... refining my search so I can get my answer.

And just then I hear someone crying. Loudly. Wailing more like it.

On the floor space between the busy business man and myself, is a woman crying wildly ... uncontrollably. It is clear that something is seriously wrong ... like she has lost someone very close.

My concentration is broken. I can't google anymore. But I don't have have the courage to go and talk to her.

She is facing the wall and crying uncontrollably. She stops for a few moments. The she starts her wailing again.

I notice her and then I notice around. No one has stopped doing what they are doing. The businessman is still on the phone, unperturbed. A black woman has come to the gate counter in front of me. She must keep helping her customers with their flights, so I am not sure if she can notice. The person who talks to her, notices the crying but he is in line. Another one is waiting behind him is also in the same situation, noticing but busy.

The rest are watching TV. President Obama is talking about our national debt. Now thats a serious issue that everyone else needs to pay attention to. So it has to be me, I think. I have to go and talk to her. But how can I just stop doing my google research for that reason?

But talking to this person would be very hard. What could I say to her. What if she says her mother died? Or someone young? Did I have the words for her?

From the activity in front of it, it is clear that the gate manned by the black woman was going to be opened shortly. I take that as an opportunity and start getting ready to talk to her. I take my phone off the charger; put the charger back in the laptop bag. Then I start shutting down my laptop.

Now she has stopped crying and dialed someone's number, and it is obvious she is leaving a message for a guy. I pretend to continue doing my work, while my ear is wide open to hear what she has to say. She is remarkably cool when leaving her message and controls her emotions very well. I can't hear her well from where I am sitting.

As soon as she keeps the phone back the wailing starts again. By this time I am ready. I get up, approach her, and still from a few yards away from her -- as if her wailing will swallow me if I were too close -- I ask, "Are you OK?"

She replies with a smile, "Yes, I'm OK. Thank you"

Gaining some courage from her demeanor, I go closer and ask, "But there must be something wrong. You don't look OK."

She says, "I just thought I was going to miss my flight. And, in general, its just been a tough period of time."

July 28, 2011

Then we started talking. Her name was Jane and she had a boy of my son's age. We had a lot to talk about. About kids, vacations, the economy, and loosing jobs. A few minutes later the black woman looked at us and said, "I don't know what you said to her, but I see her smiling now."

I smiled inside and out; that day and the next. Jane had actually grown reinstated my courage to talk to someone sad. Talking to sad people has been the hardest thing for me to do; I am the guy who looks for reasons to skip funerals. But Jane reminded me what a beautiful blessing is to talk to someone and making them smile.

It was really a remarkable gift that I have started using now. The next week I talked to a person who I found crying at the Austin airport. She was returning from a trip to her boyfriend who was leaving for Afganisthan to serve in the war. The following week I spent a couple of days consoling a friend who had lost his mother. Jane has become my facebook friend and we often chat about kids, vacations and the economy.

I have never found her crying or sad again; it was just that day to teach me.

Surrounding us is a crying world, a world that is largely unseen. We don't know how to connect to this world, and for that reason we are at an immense loss. Noticing the crying, and yearning to transform it to a smile is a beautiful path; it is the path of singing in harmony.

This is the song of compassion akin to the one that the Dalai Lama sings incessantly; this is the song of celebrating oneness; that what surrounds us is not different from us; this is the song that Kabir sings in our hearts, "there is no I, there is only you!"

This is the song of the realization of our purpose in life. The purpose of life is to sing. And angels surround us to remind. We just have to see how close they are.


  1. Shiv,
    Thanks for taking us for the occasional journey inside your head; your mind works quite differently than mine, so a fresh perspective is always a pleasure.

  2. Thanks Billy for reading this! I am a singer. I believe in equality. I believe everything sings.

  3. Yes everything sings and cries. We're all crying while we're singing don't you think?

    Amy L.

  4. You have a beautiful soul Shiv.

  5. Amy ... I don't think we are all crying all the time. I think we are all singing all the time. The crying happens sometimes to enable the smiling.

  6. You too Serena ... thanks for reading this protracted piece!

  7. I love this piece. I was once the girl who was crying at the airport and there was this old man who took the time to talk to me and cheered me up. Sometimes people need someone else to teach how to sing.

  8. Thanks Janani ... I learned that it is easier to cheer someone up than I thought and that cheering someone else really gives you a smile. I wonder if I should share this post with "Jane"

  9. That's such a wonderful story. It's terrible that everyone else passed her by;but that seems the be the way society is today.

  10. Taking that first step of asking "Are you okay?" is usually the hardest part--though, truth be told, sometimes I find that's easier to do with strangers than it is close friends and family, who we like to think we know so much better but in actuality don't...

    I hope more people take your lesson to heart, and take the time to ask the person, "Are you okay?" Usually that question alone does a lot to begin their healing process... And all it takes is a little bit of our time and compassion... Great post, Shiv!

  11. Shiv, how wonderful that talking to Jane caused this gift to be delivered to both of you. A great piece you have written here.

  12. what a great post, thank goodness there are people like you in the world

  13. Thank you very, very much Shiv.I am a portuguese woman and my english is not very good, so be kind about this, please... I've liked your post very much because my life needs a song, badly, now. I'm not feelling very well in these last days. So I've been at home. With my cats, my canary ... and God's love! Be blessed for all the joy you bring to people like me and for making us see that everyone of us can enlighten other's persons lifes. May The One bless you.