“Do you want me to hold your hand?”
“Oh, you don’t have to, I mean… alright, I mean, no. Actually yes, please. That would be lovely”.
A stranger offered to hold my hand in public last week and I said yes.
Spontaneous stranger hand-holding is a random act of kindness I’d normally be rushing to write a column about; praising the generous individual for looking after the person who happened to have been allocated the seat next to them.
But given I was heavy breathing like a teenager at a One Direction concert when the hand-holding offer came, I wasn’t particularly inclined to tell the world about it.
That was actually the second time it’s happened this month. The hand-holding.
And then yesterday, it happened again.
This time it was a colleague rather than a stranger. She didn’t have to ask. She just saw my expression and silently reached over, taking my trembling palm in hers. When I am scared, my poker face is even more disastrous than usual. My features contort, my lips twitch, tears well in my eyes and to add to the frantic picture, my limbs start to shake involuntarily.
Really, it’s hard to ignore. Which explains why it now takes two hands to count the number of instances someone has asked me if I am alright or if I need assistance, in the past few weeks.
My name is Jamila Rizvi and I hold hands with fellow passengers when I’m on a plane.
It’s been 63 days since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 lost contact with air traffic control.
A 247,000 kg plane, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members gone, disappeared, vanished, seemingly into nothing.
And while the world’s media has devoured every new conspiracy theory and piece of unconfirmed information, the truth is we know only marginally more today than we did on 8 March.
And for those of us who don’t like to fly, it’s been nothing short of agony.
Now of course it’s a kind of agony that pales in comparison to those who are intimately connected with this tragedy. Those who are anxious and unknowing of what happened to their family and friends.
But when you’re terrified, this sort of empathetic logic becomes meaningless; the scale of relative pain and fear of the unknown disappeared. Instead of putting your anxiety in perspective, you become utterly consumed by thoughts of impending doom.
I’ve written before about my fear of flying. It has come and gone over the years. Sometimes, I will go as long as six months without being bothered by an air pocket, an unusual engine noise or a bumpy ascent through the clouds. But there are also times – like during the past 63 days – where an all-encompassing and paralysing fear takes over.
I’m someone who likes to be in control of myself and my surroundings at all times. In my personal and professional life, I like to set goals and achieve them. I like to have a strategy, I like to have a plan, I like to make lists and I like ticking things off those lists.
So being high up in the air, flying in a tubular metal box with hundreds of people I have never met and having no autonomy over when I get to come down? Really not my thing.