"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan

I read an interview of peace activist cum lawyer from - Shirin Ebadi. Nobel Laureates (and some of theirs unrecognized peers) are the apostles of their era. They are the milestones that define the turning points in every epoch – the twists that redefine the course of mankind’s destiny. One of her responses caught my eye, "... There is a verse in Quran - God swears by time. Anything you gain in life, you pay for with your time. Time is the most important thing that has been given to man. This inspires me because it reminds me how short our time here is..."

“Don’t squander time. It is the stuff that life is made of”

Time is really one single entity – there is nothing like an instance of it that runs for everyone. This is precisely the reason an equipment like a Time Machine is logically impossible. Neither is the possibility of someone having a remote that can ‘freeze’ the world. Though each of us calls it ‘my time’, it still is the same instant of existence that is shared by one and all. Every particle of this universe partakes in it. Nonetheless, I do get (highly) irritated when someone/something keeps me waiting. I can never accept the fact (easily, of course) that I have to waste my time so that someone else can use his.
Most of us take time for granted. There have been some instances in my life when I had to ‘kill’ time. And there have been instances when it did not matter “how much time it took”. I thought it was a good deal when I bought a Television with something free with it. I totally ignored the time it took for me to travel back to the dealer to claim the free stuff on another day. The time that I could have spent gardening or cooking or reading or just talking to my family. Though it may seem too frivolous, I am trying to get back to what Koran is stressing through Shirin – Whether you get a good deal or not, whether you win or lose in the end, whether you are rich or poor, you still pay for all your actions with your time.

Time stops at nothing… for nothing. In the equation of life, time plays a weirdo because it is a known factor in the sense that it is always there but it is also an unknown because no one can predict how much. Time is both abstract and palpable. It’s a force that knows no boundaries, no limits, no direction and its a responsibility that weights so heavily on our lives that our actions better be causal and never casual.
It ends when the plane hits the ground. Very aptly, they did not show anything further. Neither reactions nor repercussions. Like its tagline says, "four planes were hijacked on the morning of September 11th. Three of them reached their intended target. This is the story of the fourth.."
It is a real challenge to depict the events of Sept.11 without scratching a wound or two. The topic is so sensitive in the American context that folks could very easily take offense to it. In this respect, United 93 was a very well crafted movie.

Most of the people, unable to bear the recall of horror, had walked out on the movie much before it ended... But while the rest moved out at the end, I found myself losing to a strange (hitherto unfelt) vicious subconscious. Something that was maiming and dragging me.. as I went spiraling into this bottomless abyss. Plunging into the depths of the mind at the speed of thought. What could have provoked such drastic measures? What drives men to such lengths of fanaticism? What creates monsters of this size?

While I drove back, I opted to remain silent - in tribute to all those innocent lives.

While in silence... some scenes from the movie flashed back. The morning when each of them reads their prayers and prepares unemotionally for the ultimate sacrifice. The waiting at the airport when they see people around them casually going about their business.. unaware of the gory fate that awaited them. The smile on the airhostess faces wishing everyone a pleasant journey. The effort put in by air traffic control to ensure smooth operation and safety of passengers they never knew or met all their life. The dilemma that Ziad Jarrah went through. The hijack and storming of the cockpit. Discussions between the passengers. The revolt to wrest control of the cockpit. The final plummet towards ground zero. I saw it like it actually happened in front of my eyes...

I can clearly recall the tremors in my gut when passengers boarded the plane. The biting of my nails as the plane took off. My silent agitation when the hijackers strike. My sympathy towards the passengers' haplessness. My small cry of victory when passengers revolt back. And those invisible tears I shed while walking back to my car.

Then I started recalling the various stories that we read in everyday newspapers. Of the developed economies misusing the third world populations. Of the living hell that war has reduced Afghanistan to. Of the ashes that Iraq is covered with. Of the blood that soaks the streets of Palestine. Of the children in Sudan and Rwanda that wield guns when they should be holding pens. Of the ethnic cleansing that used to burn Vietnam.

Then I felt... Probably the events that led up to Sept 11 justified the events that happened on Sept 11. Whether it was right or not is extremely subjective but if an eye is what you take, then an eye is what you gonna lose...

That night I dreamt I was on United 93. I was seated in the first row right next to Ziad. I could see him making gestures to his men. I could feel the vibes, the palpitations of his heart as he prepared for the final act. I saw his partners prepare to get up from their seats... I saw Ziad remove his seat belt... and somehow I did not want to stop him.
".. I would have died of sickness or injury. I knew time would consume me otherwise. I tried to take my own life sometimes. Vainfully though. Then a thought dawned on me.. like a warm blanket. I knew I had to live - for no reason or hope. I just had to continue breathing..."while Chuck Noland (played by Tom Hanks in Castaway) spilled the above beans I could not help but contemplate. Life takes us all on a nice big ride. And we like herding sheep, flow to where the tide of life takes us.

When Chuck gets ship-wrecked on a deserted island, we all sympathize with him. We rise as he shines in the eternally triumphant human spirit and fights his way to survival. It sure is inspiring to learn that Castaway was a true story.

One apt depiction of human emotion was the scene when Chuck manages to dislodge himself from the shore and strays afloat towards life.. towards meaningful existence... towards fellow habitation. But he turns around once.. to catch one fleeting glimpse of the island that was his home for the few days that he would remember all his life. To bid a final farewell to all those grains of sand which will bear his footprints for a long time to come.

Isn't something similar happening to us everyday? Don't we get into newer frontiers of life.. first hesitating.. then taking it in our stride.. and finally whimpering as we move on?When I first flew onsite, I carried a lot of homesickness with me along with butterflies in my stomach. I wondered why I should accept change when things were going so fine. But then time ran me over and I started strolling along... along with numerous others that had arrived before me. I learnt the ways of life here, invented some for my own comfort. Now I am enjoying it.. and I am at the position again when I have to accept a change. I have to fly back to my roots. My home country. And I can imagine the day when my flight flies out of US airspace and I would throw a final glimpse at everything that I had taken for granted. Everything that I so easily blended into. Everything that accepted me as a part of it.

On same lines, something similar happens with life itself. When we come into this world, we are all cries and tears. Like we have been pushed into this being... against our wishes. Then we start living. We take changes in our stride. We accept everything that comes along our way. We change some that we do not want to accept. Finally, a day comes when we have to leave this all. And then we get back to crying and shouting again... They say when a man is dying, his entire life flashes in front of his eyes. He catches one quick glimpse of all that he did.. of everyone that influenced his life... of all the footprints that he left in the sands of time...