The world is the same all over when you are 35000 feet up in the sky, enclosed in a capsule with a hundred others, tired, cramped, happy, sad, excited, nervous, sleepy, exhausted. Whether you are flying over Europe, or the vast expanses of Africa, or over the rugged mountains of Asia, it is land that we look upon, it is land that we seek. We are mud creatures, our dispositions yearn for solid ground to plant our feet on, and we want gravity to embrace us in its comforting pull. So when we are 35000 feet in the air, it doesn’t matter if we are looking upon Dublin, or Nairobi, or Kabul – we are looking upon shimmering lights that twinkle in our heart’s eyes, reassuring landscapes that pull our heart’s strings. And alongside all these feelings of belonging, we are reminded of the histories that ravaged these lands, the sly, selfish and arrogant feet that once thudded upon these lands, the wars that yet still take place upon these lands.
Such were my sleepy thoughts on that stormy July night as I leaned my head against the tiny window of a creaking Turkish Airlines airbus TK710 from Istanbul to Islamabad. I had not slept a wink in the past 30 hours but the economy class coffee and the surging Coca Cola in my veins had my brain working in overdrive. I was able to vividly see the lightning spreading through the dark thunder clouds that were gathering over Kabul. Our plane was headed right into the storm and our seatbelt signs had been switched on. I was able to catch glimpses of city lights, and occasionally, I was able to have a clear view of the entire city, shining bright, vivid, colorful, and very much alive. Kabul’s night time aerial view was ethereal. For a moment, one could forget that blood thirsty drones flew over this city, and dropped bombs on innocent children. For a moment, one could forget that superpowers of this world fought their wars on this land because the blood of these people was cheaper to spill. For a moment, one could forget that upon this land walk thousands of men, women and children with missing legs, hands, eyes – parting gifts of a bloody war they had no part in. But I could not forget for a single moment that upon this land walk my brothers and sisters, my neighbors in faith, my fellow humans who have been subjected to the worst possible fate by other humans who tread upon this world like gods.
As the lightning outside my window carried on, the clouds changed shapes and shadows played hide and seek to form bizarre looking creatures out of the dark. We were leaving Afghan skies and entering Pakistan. Slowly, Kabul disappeared and darkness ensued…until the twinkling night time lights of Peshawar started to welcome us into the land of green and white.