The message could not arrive at more suitable time. I have just closed the door of my rented house, ready to leave for the airport when the message came in: it was from my mother, living some 4 hours direct flight away, asking me to call her. As I was running late, I decided to call her as soon as I was in taxi.
“I just want to know whether you are okay.” It was all she said when I called her back.
Don’t get me wrong: I know that it is perfectly normal for a mother to ask a question like this. In fact, a mother’s love should be questioned if she had never worried about her children’s well being. But consider that being so long, in fact, for most of my life, I have been living independently, her question, indeed started to worry than surprise me. It is not my mother’s style of expressing her concern. And to think that she contacted me just right I was about to leave for a trip should indeed make me pause for a moment. I had thoughts about a mother’s instinct, her premonition about me, although I did not know exactly what they were; but it forced me, nonetheless, to chronicle my hours prior to that moment.
I was on my way to Batam, a town bordering Singapore. The schedule should be two days before, which including work itinerary to Singapore for two days. But for the reason I failed to understand, I didn’t get the ticket and my flight had been reschedule to that day.
Several hours leading to this, a friend and I visited another friend living some 45 minutes away by motorbike. While waiting for this friend to finish his shower, I made international calls to friends in Adelaide and Kuala Lumpur. Although we kept staying in contact through other means of communication, it took sometime to be able to call them this way again.
On our way back home, we took a different route, which then I recognised that another friend’s house was nearby. So we paid a visit to this friend too.
I did not realise the extent to which I had done that day until my mother told me the reason she called me.
“I’m on my way to the airport.” I told her while looking at the darkened sky from the taxi window. It always get me worried me, when I am about to fly, to see dark clouds like that. Even more worried when I know that, several weeks ago, an airplane went missing because of bad weather condititions and the search for the tragic plane still made the headlines. Seriously, it is not a good time to fly during this wet season but what can you do when your job does not allow you for a negotiation and compromise?
It is contradictory to think that, for my case, the more I travel, the more fear flying I get. The fact that I am a frequent flyer does not make my flights more enjoyable. I found out that I am now more sensitive to turbulence and plane’s vibrations than when I was a beginning flyer. This fear, I know, can not be justified. Flying, statistically, I am completely aware, is safer between four and five times than driving a car. But still I can not fully come to term with this fear yet.
Immediately, I tried to link and make sense all the things that had happened that day: my going away, my visiting and calling friends, my mother’s sudden question and the weather conditions. It had me reconsider about premonition and a mother’s instinct. Wasn’t it the sign that she tried to warn me to cancel my trip? After all, she did not know that I was about to fly that time, did she? And why suddenly I have to visit and call my friends?
I don’t know exactly about the premonition and how it works. I have never experienced it myself and somehow reluctant to believe in that. What I know until this time is that some superstitions believed here were unproven.
For instance, in my childhood, I was told that pointing to the rainbow could make your fingers crooked. It did not happen. It is believed that when you see a snake crossing the street in front you, an accident is waiting to happen. I experienced something like this, at least once, but no, nothing happened to me after that. It is also believed that when you dream about your teeth falling out, a member of your family will die. No, my grandmother died years after I dreamt like that. Furthermore, once, I had a nightmare about my brother but he is still perfectly fine until now.
But these facts did not appease me either. I kept thinking about this premonition thing until I got to the airport. And when I was inside the plane that was ready to take off while outside the weather was getting worse, I almost stood up, got ready to escape from the plane and immediately cancelled my flight. I have passed, however, the point of no return. Whatever happens let it happen. A mere mortal man, like me or mother, can not predict his future. There is something beyond one’s control: I have no control over the plane, the flight, let alone the weather. It is beyond my realm.
“Pray before you leave.” I remember what mother told me before we ended the call. I smiled at her admonition. And always do whenever she said something religious nowadays because this is not the mother I knew of my childhood.
A few second after the plane took off, I waited for the destiny to unveil my journey itself and whether mother’s message after my calling and visiting friends and amid the bad weather were indeed linked, an interrelated course of actions, and were signs that could be rightly called a premonition and a mother’s instinct. I was anxiously waiting if the premonition would become a fulfilled prophecy, although at the end it could mean disaster.
Yes, the flight was turbulent and bumpy and I have to admit that my adrenalin level somewhat increased. But at the end of it all, against all odds, finally I arrived safely in Batam and back to Jakarta again.
True, it might happen that the plane could end up the other way. But if it were the case, it was not because of my mother’s premonition. It happened because it happened, with or without her premonition. That some premonitions did come true can not justify that we should listen and believe to every premonition said. Humans are known not to have the accuracy, sense, to predict unknown disasters. It is a completely different thing with animals -elephants, snakes and birds- which can detect impending disasters thanks to their hyper-sensitive sensory abilities.
It turned out that mother was watching television when she asked me to call her. The news all bad, all about disasters and she, with her true mother’s instinct, naturally remembered her own son who is living far away from her. I would have regretted to her having bought the television if it caused her to worry more at the time when she should enjoy more out of her life.
And what are the reasons for my calling overseas friends? My friend had a new 3G mobile phone and because currently [a certain] mobile operator still does not charge for 3G calls so I borrowed his mobile to see whether this offer was also applied to international calls.
Above all thing, I am glad that I have arrived safely back to Jakarta and continue my work and am happy to know that I have a mother who still remembers me, people that I can visit and call, people that I can call friends. These are the true rewards and joy for being back safely.
(Jakarta, January 30, 2007)