It is amazing how a single positive suggestion from someone can register in the back of your mind, and alter a lifelong habit. This one came from Laura (our teacher) who suggested to take it easy the last day before travel, which meant prepare ahead and have some set up and set down time according to the famous physicist who wrote a terrific book on TIME.

I was packed yester night except for toiletries and lunch. I felt the bag was too heavy eventhough it only weighed 36 lbs. whereas the US airlines allowed 50. In the am I toyed with the idea of ditching my skinny blue jeans, the heaviest item in my suitcase.

Ping came an email from Robyn who is arranging the Scotland end of the program. It said that Flybe which is a small airline flying me from London to Inverness was going to charge me more for my checked luggage if I showed up with it versus if I did it online. Travel I realize is no longer for those who are not Internet savvy. I immediately went on line and realized that Flybe’s allowance for weight of the checked in luggage was 16 lbs. less than the US allowance.

Sometimes when running a small business we either do not see the ripple effect our shortsighted decisions may make over a large number of people, or choose to ignore it for short term profit. When Flybe a Scottish Irish airline decides to limit my luggage weight below that of the US airlines, which may be due to gas prices, it makes a statement against the Scottish towns it serves.

Since I cannot carry it back with me, I do not buy in Scotland; however in London I can carry it back to the US, so the traders in London get the advantage over Scotland, and it will eventually affect traffic to Scotland at least the tourist traffic.

The temptation to ditch my blue jeans came again but I decided against it as I felt the cool days of Scotland might be conducive to the snuggly texture of these particular jeans.  Instead I got rid of a wad of socks and a heavy book. I printed the boarding pass from London to Inverness. It gave me no option to pay for my one piece of luggage so that still remains a mystery.

Having done everything to prepare for the journey, I pause. I look out on to my deck garden. After three months of nurturing, it is in full bloom. Happiness emanates from every leaf and flower as they raise their faces to the sun and gather the raindrops on their limbs and roots.

Knowing that nothing lasts forever and nothing remains the same, I savor the sunshine on the beautiful plants each in its place as the Divine has ordained, living and breathing its existence to praise their Creator and thank him. They die every winter and resurrect every spring, reminding us of the cycle of Life, Death and Resurrection in the Hereafter that Allah has reminded us so many times in the Quran.

I return to the to do list before I leave. I am blessed that Shireen, my dear responsible daughter will take on some of the responsibilities when I am gone, and I have the comfort of knowing that when she says she will do it, she will inshallah.

Shireen very graciously drives me to the airport and what Ramanie (my practical travel agent) said comes true. After checking in and going through security, they announce that a bird has injured the aircraft and they have no idea when it would be ready. A bird! A single minute bird has felled the large mass of steel we call an airplane.

How often in life are we reminded of the Almighty and his ability to pit the weak and inconsequential against the strong and arrogant and win? Surah Feil, it is all related in it with the simplicity of a children’s tale, where the birds came and decimated an army of elephants and their arrogant masters who were inexorably advancing to destroy the Kaaba. …….The year of the elephant as it is called is also marked by  a milestone when a baby who was destined to become the Mercy for Mankind was born.

I pause…Allah in His infinite wisdom, was not going to put me on this plane and I bowed to His will and decision with equanimity. The flight attendant said that I should take a cab to the Charlotte airport, which is three hours away. They would arrange it and pay for it. I looked at the clock; I had four hours before my flight to London would take off.

I acquiesced and thanked her. She looked up in surprise: “ You are taking this very nicely,” she said……… I paused and thought, “this is my Qadaa wal Qadar, I can acquiesce gracefully or I can rant and rave, it is not going to change as it is the Divine hand that is redirecting my transportation.

The flight attendant gave me a new boarding pass, redid my flight to board from Charlotte, and handed my luggage to a helper who walked me to the taxi stand all the while reassuring me that I will get there on time to catch my flight to London.

Robert Lee (E was missing in his name) a quiet man with serious blue eyes was going to be my cab driver to Charlotte NC. He stowed my one piece of luggage, looked at the voucher, as did I. I refrained from gasping; it read $375 almost the amount that would fly me round trip to St. Louis MO. Subhanallah!

I was in the yellow cab, gliding with ease towards North Carolina, Robert Lee, the namesake of the commander of the Confederate army was my rescuer in a cab rather than a horse. He was whisking me off to another part of the South, with the silent promise in his cool blue eyes that “ the south will rise again!”

Being chauffeur driven to Charlotte was the perfect time for Tasbeehaat. Robert Lee did not turn the radio on, nor was there the irritating static of the home office checking on him like it is in bigger cities. As the beads fell in Praise, in salawaat, and in Istighfaar, the distance folded and shortened while time lengthened. As the last bead of Ammi’s black tasbeeh rolled out of my fingers, he turned into the Airport exit.

“ I got you in a bit earlier than what the GPS predicted” he said without cracking a smile,  the serious expression never leaving his blue eyes. He looked upon me as one does at a relative whom he is trusting to the unknown shenanigans of air travel in a strange town.

I thanked him profusely and gave him the Lords blessing as he lifted my suitcase on to the curbside check in. He paused for a second as if sending me a silent prayer his serious expression reflecting a job well accomplished and turned silently to his cab, leaving me with a distinct sense of peace and comfort.

Thus begins my journey to Inverness from the hot South of the US to the cool mists of Scotland. A part of Scotland, which stands as a gateway to the mysterious and magical part of the earth where the sky meets the earth and the union, is blurred by mist and clouds making them one and the same. The Isle of Skye where someplace where this happens has been named “ the bridge to heaven”, where within the green depths of the Ness, the Loch Ness monster waits patiently for the day it will show itself in full majesty; where I as a young girl in Pakistan had been avidly reading stories set in the cools mists of the Isle of Skye…Where the magical bridge to Heaven seemed like a dream to someone bathed in 100 degree heat and 100% humidity.

Never in my wildest imagination while reading about Scotland did I ever think that one day Allah would call me there………….


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