New routes

Tbilisi, Georgia.

Baku, Azerbaijan. Then, right across the Caspian Sea.

Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan. A carpet of city lights spread out below us in the intense darkness of night.

These are the cities we flew over as our British Airways flight carefully negotiated the skies, avoiding all areas of known conflict. Following the route map on the computer screen on the back of the seat in front of me was both fascinating and saddening. Fascinating because of the frisson of excitement I feel while flying over lands that are mysterious to me, and whose names taste like new flavours on my tongue when I say them to myself. Saddening because of the Malaysian Airlines plane that got shot down just four days before, taking 298 innocent people with it. Editorials and articles by experts have stopped making sense. Politics and Religion – of the sort that hurt or kill people – make even less sense.

I looked out the porthole at the night sky. There was a sliver of a moon, and the stars were much brighter from 12,250 meters higher than where I usually see them from.

The Big Dipper was in the distance, sort of behind the plane. Auriga, the Charioteer, was just above the horizon with its big star Capella shining like a diamond. The bow of Perseus was just outside the porthole, and the Andromeda galaxy ‘near’ it was so clearly visible that the light years between us seemed diminished.

We met the rising sun as we flew east over Afghanistan, towards Islamabad. It was a fiery sunrise, all crimson and gold.

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As we hovered over the outskirts of Bangalore it felt good to see the red soil and green fields again. Home!

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