For most of my age, air travel is no longer distinctive; we travel by air more out of necessity than pleasure or design. I am no exception, especially when the journey is over 24 hours with transit halts. To a degree most airlines provide the same comfort and discomfort level. The journey to JFK airport from Hyderabad in retrospect was more revealing than cozy. The airports, Rajiv Gandhi,  Hyderabad and Indira Gandhi, New Delhi are an admission of our modern attainment; the Brussels and the JFK airports do no longer invite fascination or excitement.  Moreover, the security checkout by the European airport staff was overdone belittling and denigrating the passengers.  Can they be more humane?  Perhaps yes, if the Europeans are meted the same treatment at our airports!

The journey to Brussels from New Delhi for most part could have been uneventful but for my neighbor occupying the window seat next to mine. For major part of the journey the middle aged person kept to himself, concentrated in reading what appeared to be a Bible. My heart went out to him, absorbing   that he was praying for our safe journey. But then gradually uneasiness overtook me as we commenced communicating; he was a man on a mission, to spread the word and to glorify and laud the virtues and honor of his beliefs and that of his church. For most part I heard him in silence and retorted only when he pressed a copy of the Bible in my hand; informing him of my belief and faith and that I was comfortable with them, and that the Bible remained revered by me and I had read it  in my formative years. My neighbor appeared crestfallen and for the rest of the journey remained incommunicado. For my part I kept to myself recalling a quote I had read sometime back “God has no religion,” Mahatma Gandhi.  We all believe in God, we worship Him. We make every conceivable effort to please Him, we fast, we perform long and arduous journeys, we offer sacrifices both animate and inanimate and we pray with our heart and soul! And yet we remain in fear, insecure, uneasy in mind and body. Why? May be we are not hearing and heeding. “God has no religion” and as children of God we…..? “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make to love one another” Jonathan Swift.

After a fairly long wait we boarded the new aircraft at Brussels. The two seats on my right near the window were occupied a few minutes before the aircraft took off. The occupants were a middle aged American lady and a young boy of African origin. My curiosity stirred on hearing the boy addressing the lady ‘mummy’ and it was compounded as the boy remained engrossed playing games with the remote on the monitor. His uninhibited yells and shrieks on, perhaps, killing the monster or scoring a point reverberated inviting curious and smiling looks from the neighboring passengers. The lady next to him looked down condescendingly and appreciatively. I sought her out and we conversed. Her name was Lucy; she was single and was a teacher in a school in a village in rural New York. She was returning from Ethiopia with her adopted son Chaza, whom she had adopted when he was two years old. Chaza’s parents had died in Ethiopia from Malaria and since then Chaza was with her in her New York home. Chaza was now seven years. Tired of playing Chaza soon fell asleep, resting his head in his mother’s lap. The contrast evident was overwhelming. A jet black child resting in a very white woman’s lap: blissfully and poignantly.  The ongoing debate in me resumed after witnessing the charitable lifelong labor undertaken by Lucy.

Can I do much more than my effort of helping my relatives monetarily? Should I as an individual like Lucy adopt some one for life? Do I have the energy, inclination and the resources to do so?  Is Warren Buffet, a philanthropist, correct when he advises, that the expenditure of money, time and resources on charity you involve in should in no way affect your personal living standard?   There are organizations and societies that do yeomen service and a large numbers do benefit and yet there are many left. But will my contributions to such institutions satisfy my inner self?

I am still searching, for the answers!

“Every good act is charity. A man’s true wealth hereafter is the good that he does in this world to his fellows.”