Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depths of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake— taken from the Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore
“It must be difficult for you that there is no way to lock your aircraft. Quite easy for someone to break in and fly away” I said without thinking.
Later, as is usual after any flying lesson, I ruminated over the whole lesson. Reflecting on what I had learnt and the mistakes I had made. But wait thought I, aghast. Whatever prompted me to say that bit about it being easy to break into his aircraft? Such interjections were happening more frequently. I have to watch what I say, I thought for the nth possible time.
For you see, I had the misfortune of being a foreign national who obtained private pilot license in the year 2001. That alone raises quite a few eye brows when I meet fellow pilots for the first time. It brings forth some rapid fire questions; some with genuine interest such as how did I get interested in flying or why I was interested in flying, why now; others more direct, probing questions such as pin pointed location to my c exact place of residence to details of my job to how, why and when I arrived in the United States and this particular city.
We live in troubled times, where the worth of human life is grossly undervalued. How does one counter terrorism, when human bombs are used to cause widespread destruction? I often wonder, how desperately these people must hate this world, humanity and themselves to cause such irrevocable pain and suffering, wreaking havoc with millions of innocent lives. What of those still living, forever affected by no wrong doing of their making; constantly doubted, hampered by prejudice and stunted by caution? Or the rest, living suspicious lives, wary of any chance newcomer? Of all the wasted time and energy that could otherwise be devoted: for another great invention, for another startling discovery, for exploring new worlds, for enjoying the simple pleasures of life, for laughing and rejoicing in the glory of mankind and man’s greatness and achievements.
I can no more blame those people for asking me prying questions or giving doubtful glances or being wary of me as I can reproach myself for being less tactful or for being my normal self. How does one sift through and assess who is good and who is not, when exemplary citizens leading normal and fruitful lives in our very own neighborhood turn tail and perform heinous acts of terrorism?
I know not when the times of yore will return. When we no longer need to question another person’s motives or passion for flying, when we all can say and do the simple things that give us pleasure, when we no longer have to cast a doubtful glance at our fellow neighbor.
I know not whence it will return. Yet I yearn for it. Pine for it.
Maybe only a fool’s hope, for innocence once lost cannot be regained!