Encounter with death

Death – Misinterpreted by poets and artists
Death is often misinterpreted as a poetic illusory expression. We have no reliable sources on the experience of death. Anything which has not been experienced becomes mysterious and secret. At a very early age, I have seen a man dying in front of me. Death remained a subject that fascinated me. What happens after death? How a man feels while encountering death?

My fascination with death had changed forever when I encountered death in reality. It happened three times in my life when I felt the presence of ‘death.’  The fact that I am writing about it, is a bit of an anticlimax. But what happened is nothing less than a fascinating story, an experience that changed the way I perceived ‘Life’. I experienced it thrice. And here goes the first experience.

The rainy morning in Surabaya
It was raining early morning in Surabaya. I was at the airport to catch a flight to Singapore. It was raining heavily. Even after spending half of my life confined in flights or in airports, I always felt nervous on a flight. The dark sky and heavy rainfall made me extremely jittery. I was wishing that the flight would get cancelled. Like most of my prayers, this also remained unheard. The flight GA 854 took off two hours after the scheduled departure time.

I had taken difficult flights in the past. I had experienced heavy turbulence several times. But that day, it was entirely different. The sky was stormy. Thick dark grey clouds enveloped the whole sky. It took almost 30 minutes for that Garuda flight to take off. Peering into the front screen I found that the flight had reached 30,000 ft. above sea level. What was worrying was the overcast sky outside. It was completely overshadowed with thick layers of turbulent clouds. Even though we reached a high altitude, the turbulence continued. The pilot kept on announcing not to open the seat belt. Even though I kept reminding of my previous experiences of heavy turbulence, my nerves felt jangled.

The worst half-an-hour of my life
The next 30 minutes would remain as one of the worst half-an-hour of my life. It all started when the flight had a free fall all of a sudden. It was like those huge rollercoasters. Within the next 3 minutes, the whole flight rocked and fell again. The whole flight grabbed with panic and helpless scream. Not that I was any better. It’s just that I was too rattled to express my panic.

After several free falls, I found the altitude of the plane had dropped to 10000 feet. I was sitting at the window seat from where I could see the deep sea below.  People were screaming around me, the air hostesses were running around and asking us to wear the life jacket. It was pandemonium.

My encounter with Death

Complete chaos in the flight

I have seen hundreds of movies where a plane was about to crash. One common thing I had seen was that there all the air hostesses tackled the situation with smiling faces. But that day, I couldn’t recollect seeing anyone smiling. The shadow of death was on everyone’s face. The death was just 10000 feet below us. The man beside me was screaming his lungs out. He and everyone around were making things more difficult for all of us. It was chaos at its worse.

The constant announcement of how to wear the life jacket, how to float was not helping me to fathom with the situation. I was clearly seeing the impending death. In all that chaos a quiet realization became clear to me— that I was about to die and it is inevitable and it is coming to me.

Letter from a father to his son
If I close my eyes, even after so many years, I remember every frame of those nerve-shattering moments vividly. I remember that I took out my phone and wrote a long message to Simba, my son. I wrote to him about how I had coped with the world when I lost my father at 19, hoping that my 9-year-old son would somehow find some direction to cope with his loss from my life learnings. So, I thought, for him, it would probably be easier to forget his father. The fear of death was so dramatically different that I never realised how this message would reach Simba. But I kept writing to him. Perhaps I kept what I wrote that morning. It could have been the funniest letter from a father to his son.

My encounter with death 02

Death was visible from my window

I may have had millions of problems crowding my mind or thousands of incidents that had pained me in the past. But, significantly, at that stage, in that very moment of losing it all, I was remembering only the good things that happened to me. I was feeling pain inside me as I was unable to say goodbye to certain people. Waves of emotions played on my mind. But the strongest of all the emotion was missing LIFE. I was missing this life. My problem-ridden, stressful, semi-chaotic, yet so beautiful Life. I desperately wanted to live.

The survival
I don’t think anyone of the passengers thought of surviving that day. I couldn’t really recollect how it happened. And I realized at that moment, it was completely up to the pilots. The flight finally gained altitude around 20000 ft but it was extremely bumpy. We finally landed at Adisucipto International Airport–a small airport in the Yogyakarta area on the

My encounter to Death 01

Adisucipto International Airport

the island of Java. I remember while coming out I gave a tight hug to the pilot. I also realised that crying is another expression of joy. Everyone around me was either clapping or crying. It was relief—indescribable, precious, and overwhelming!

The unfortunate QZ8501
Thankfully, I was unaware of an incident that took place on 28 December 2014. The AirAsia flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320 flying the same route had crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 162 people on board. I was not among those unfortunate 162 people. But I could have been one of them.

I encountered death that day. But I had that unique feeling of being alive for the first time. What a miracle it is to be alive. Life remains uncertain for us all. But once you survive from such an incident, you start believing that someone is writing your fate somewhere.  And you are born to live, to enjoy every pinch of sorrow, every drop of happiness that comes your way. That is the beauty of LIFE!

The flight QZ8501 which crashed in the same route.
Read about another experience with Death and War 

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  • Durand

    July 30, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    While reading your experience i felt that i am also one of the co passenger who had gone though that death call. Next […] Read MoreWhile reading your experience i felt that i am also one of the co passenger who had gone though that death call. Next time when i will be on air definitely this experience will come to my mind. Read Less

    • Sunando
      to Durand

      July 31, 2019 at 4:27 am

      Durand, my intention is not to frighten anyone. Better you think of the last few minutes than the beginning :)

  • Anonymous

    July 27, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    From a reader’s perspective and not from the lived experience that you had,I believe incidents such as these tend to be humbling and cherishing at […] Read MoreFrom a reader’s perspective and not from the lived experience that you had,I believe incidents such as these tend to be humbling and cherishing at the same time. While it leads one to deliberate on how thin the thread of life seems, it also leads us on to cherish what we have and stop complaining...kyunki pata nahin kal ho na ho...well done! Read Less

    • Sunando

      July 31, 2019 at 4:30 am

      Kindly leave your name next time. Yes, truly! This makes you realise how important life is. And yes, there is someone somewhere writing our fate.

  • Anonymous

    July 27, 2019 at 10:04 am


    • Sunando

      July 31, 2019 at 4:30 am

      Thanks! It would be great to know your name!

  • Sumi

    July 27, 2019 at 7:43 am

    Beautifully written, engrossing and well captured in gift of words..

  • Anonymous

    July 27, 2019 at 6:33 am

    Engaging indeed!

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