It was the first time Tony and I were going to Japan. It was special for both of us, for different reasons. Tony was a Japanophile, and my father always wanted to spend a few years of his life there.

We worked for Virgin Interactive, so naturally, we flew Virgin. One of the perks of using a partner company was that your ticket got marked with “SAU” for “Space Available Upgrade”. This meant that whatever the class of travel, if space was available, we’d get upgraded automatically. 

While we were waiting to find out if there was any space, Tony and I discussed the Islamic concept of reward. which he was quite interested in, so I explained further.

“For every good action, you get rewarded in the next life seven times over”

“That sounds cool” Tony said, intrigued. “What about this life?”

“Yeah, sometimes this life too, though not always. We’re not meant to do good deeds just to get payback in this life. We do good deeds because it’s right to do good deeds. God offers us up to 700x return on our good deeds in the next life”

We carried on in this vein when a Virgin representative came over, looking rather apologetic.

“I’m sorry guys, but there’s only a single seat in Premium Economy available.”

I didn’t hesitate.

“Tony, I want you to have it”

“No it’s alright, it really should be you Shahid”

“It’s fine Tony. I’ve been upgraded before. This is your first time and we’re going to Japan. You’re taller. I’ll be fine in Economy, it’s actually really good on Virgin”

So Tony got the upgrade and I sat down in the Economy seat. I put my headphones on and was happy. I was comfortable and I felt good that I’d done something for my friend.

As we were about to take off, a stewardess approached me, smiling broadly.

“Mr. Ahmad, we’ve managed to find a space for you with your companion. Would you like to come with me?”

I returned the smile, but not just because I was getting the unexpected upgrade. As I approached Tony, he looked at me quizzically, expecting a question. As I went to sit down next to the newly empty seat next to him, he looked shaken, and I knew why.

“Sometimes Tony, God pays you back pretty quickly”

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