When a stranger rekindles hope
I placed my legs on the designated footprint markings and threw my hands up. The full-body scanner at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport revolved around me lickety-split, letting the lady operator know the blush I conceal and how well I do my body topiary. As soon as I passed the security test, the baggage X-ray operator beckoned me.
"Open the bag." I presumed from his gesture that's what he ordered in Russian.
"Camera and lenses inside," I replied in sign language.
"Open," he gestured, pulling the zip of my black pilot's bag, which revealed two bottles of Kremlin Award besides the declared photography equipment. He took the bottles out and placed them on top of the scanner and said something to the effect that we say in Dubai, mamnu.
While I continued to counter him, a euphonious voice interrupted.
"May I help you?" I looked up at the tall lady who towered over me while I tried to close the bag.
"My bad. Liquid is banned in hand baggage. It skipped my mind," I said, my gaze locked on her graceful face.
"Let's find a way out," she said, leaning to help as I fumbled with the zip. She had a brief chat with the scanner operator, who shook his head several times in the negative.
"There are a couple of options," she tried to reassure. "We can call back your luggage and put the bottles in."
"It's too late. I had checked in more than hour ago. It's about time to board."
"One shouldn't give up without a try," she insisted, taking permission from the scanner operators to retrace the long winding way back to the check-in desk on level one.
"Did you make any purchase from these guys?" she asked while darting past the duty-free shops.
"Yes, I did. A wallet," I said, pointing to the outlet. The tension that had crept onto her face seemed to ease a little bit.
"He had bought something a while ago. Can you please help by vacuum-packing these bottles?" she pleaded in Russian.
"You need to purchase vacuum bag. That's 1,300 rubles."
"Any rubles left," the lady glanced at me. I checked my wallet. "I have 600."
"Shucks. Let's go," she said.
"Let's forget it. It's only two bottles." I said, struggling to keep pace with the lady who walked a couple of yards ahead of me. I felt vacuum-packed in a thick layer of sweat.
"No, it's your property. Why lose it?"
As the crew at the check-in desk said it's too late to call back the baggage, she asked, "Can we check in this piece of baggage, too?"
The hand baggage was weighed after which the two women exchanged a few words.
"The aggregate weight exceeds 25kg. Open the bag, take out some stuff." My Kremlin saviour knelt with me on the floor, removing and transferring things to a shopping bag to cut weight. The pilot bag was weighed again, and again, and again until frustration weighed us down. The check-in crew wouldn't budge.
"Let's forget it. Keep the bottles with you." I told my lady.
"What do I do with them?"
We finally bid farewell to the Kremlin Award at the airline desk and scampered towards the security on level two, when the final calls for boarding blared through the terminal.
"Hi, I am a writer from Dubai," I introduced myself.
"Hi, I am Dr Dinara, flying back from Brisbane via Dubai and Moscow to my hometown in Kazan."
"What do you do in Brisbane?"
"I went there to attempt the Australian Medical Council exam."
"My daughter plans to write the same. Both my children are doctors."
"Great father," she said, stretching her hand. "I am boarding at Gate 31. You need to walk further ahead."
"Great doctor, great human," I said, shaking her hand mildly.
"Always plan ahead when you travel," she whispered a piece of advice.
There was no exchange of telephone numbers or email addresses. There was no selfie taken. I remembered the apophthegm, never meet your heroes. I have met one but am letting go the best human being I have met in my life. We glanced at each other one last time to ingrain our visages in memory.
"Wait a minute, I'm Suresh," I shouted, which she failed to hear as she disappeared behind the gate.
Dr Dinara was the enduring takeaway from my recent Moscow trip. Some people come into our lives to rekindle our faith in humanity and our belief that angels actually live on the earth.