I was four when I visited my first museum. I was a timid child who was scared of everything. I was scared of the dark, fireworks, and huge machinery. Huge machinery frightened me the most. I feared those very large machines, with their rattling metal pipes and engine. For instance, I was frightened to walk through our school ground where all the buses were parked in the afternoon. I used to cling to my conductor.

My phobia was very much alive when these machines were idle too. And this spoiled my first visit to an aviation museum. The museum was located in the middle of Sharjah, at the site of the Old Sharjah Airport. It no longer had runways but had the control tower which was about seven stories high. All the aircraft in it were parked inside a huge warehouse.

I was interested in aircrafts and was really happy when my parents said that we were going to visit an aviation museum. Both my uncle and aunt came along with us. We parked our vehicle in the parking lot and walked towards the ticket booth. Since I was a minor they didn’t charge me for my ticket. I bolted towards the museum door, which was too small for a warehouse, and opened it. As soon as I entered I saw a huge piston engine aircraft exhibit to the left with its right side facing the door. I froze for about five seconds and bolted back to the exit.

My parents were confused. They didn’t know what was happening. All they saw was a kid who ran happily towards a door and returned screaming and frightened. I thought those machines were large demons with broken tooth. The windshield in front of the aircraft’s fuselage reminded me of broken teeth. Besides, they were much bigger than buses. The engines weren’t running, but the sheer thought of that made me rattle with fear. We didn’t visit the museum that day. Luckily the ticket had cost only 5 dirham each.

On my second visit, I was much more prepared. I was still scared, but I had an idea of what was inside. I tried to recollect the five seconds I had spent there the last time, tried to recollect the exact spots where the aircraft were parked. Unlike the last time, I didn’t bolt towards the door. I walked along with my parents.

Appa was the one who opened the door. I stood right behind him. I didn’t enter until my parents, my uncle, and my aunt had. As soon as I entered, I focused on a small aircraft parked at the corner and walked briskly towards it. And then I turned back. I was inside the museum; I had gone past all the other mammoth aircraft. I felt victorious. I considered the exhibits to be dumb, inanimate objects and understood that they couldn’t do anything to us. I was relaxed.

I went back to the first exhibit. I was interested in it now. It was a medium sized aircraft. We were allowed to enter it. My uncle and I sat in the cockpit. Both of us started pushing buttons and turning dials. It was amazing.

Next, we went to another exhibit. It was a relatively larger aircraft. All of us got into it. My parents sat in the passenger seat looking out of the window while I went for the cockpit. It wasn’t as interesting as the previous aircraft as it was placed in the darker part of the museum. The feeling of a bright a sky in front of us was absent. It felt more like an evening sortie. 

I felt relieved after the visit. I had conquered my fear of machines. The next time that I would be visiting the same museum would be eight years later. The museum was still the same, with its orange lights and the same aircraft. The ticket fare was more this time. Also visitors weren’t allowed to enter the aircraft.

Every other exhibit was the same and hadn’t been moved an inch. I wasn’t scared at all. I was a real aircraft enthusiast by then and wanted to touch and feel those metal fuselages that had once traversed the skies of the gulf in the fifties and the sixties. It was a strange feeling. Something that had fulfilled man’s dream of flying is sitting there, idle. But they were properly maintained and seemed like they came right from an assembly line. 

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Akhil Varghese

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