I can well appreciate how Shri Brahmanyan could have felt! Let me also relate an episode from my life experience which shows miracles do happen.
It was August 1978. I had been selected to work as a teacher by the Teachers Service Commission of Kenya. My flight was to leave Bombay (not Mumbai those days!) around 0230 hours on the 30th and reach Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, via Karachi, early in the morning, Kenya time. I was married barely two years earlier and I was taking my wife and our 10-month old daughter along with me. Just a week or so before my departure the (life-time) President and the Father of the Nation, Jomo Kenyatta had died (in a ripe old age). I even remember seeing a small and obscure news item about that in The Hindu about it, but I gave no further thought to it, in all my innocence - or, shall we say ignorance?
Well, I boarded the flight as per plan. The flight time was going to be some 7 hours or so - I think it was a Boeing 737 Kenya Airways Carrier. The aircraft landed in Karachi to pick up a few passengers and took off again around 4.30 a.m. Meanwhile, the flight from Madras (not Chennai those days!) to Bombay in the evening, hours of waiting in Santa Cruz Airport (there was no Sagar those days and Santa Cruz of those days was very very different from what it looks like today, as some of you can certainly vouch) and the claustrophobic experience inside that aircraft - all these started telling on my baby's health and my wife's temperament. The baby started having some loose motion and my wife was finding it difficult to manage the baby, especially so because it is not all that easy to move about unobtrusively,freely inside an aircraft on a long flight in the wee hours of the day! Naturally, she was on the verge of tears, cursing herself for consenting to accompany me to an unfamiliar destination, that too with a baby to manage.
Being first time flyers, not counting our flight from Madras to Bombay in a Dakota (I think) carrier earlier in the evening, we were already feeling very uncomfortable, nay, outright miserable. A youngster in his twenties, I think Salim was his name, was one of the passengers who got in at Karachi, and he was sitting in the aisle seat of our row, next to me (in the middle seat) and my wife and baby (in the window seat). He, obviously, could not understand a word of what we - my wife and I - were exchanging, but he could easily see that she was acutely unhappy and was quarrelling with me and I was cutting a sorry figure. Gently, he started asking me where I was going and other details. When I nonchalantly replied that I had been selected to work in Kenya as a teacher and I was to be received in the destination Airport by some official from the Education Department, he looked at me strangely up and down and asked, somewhat curiously, " Don't you know that Kenya's President has died?" I replied, "Of course, I know. I saw it in the newspaper. But what has it got to do with me?" Then he told me, with obvious concern in his voice, "You seem not to understand how unwise you have been to decide to go to Kenya at this time. What do you think about African countries? The President of Kenya is dead. A successor is yet to be found out. Tribal clashes are going on all over the country. All Govt. offices are closed. The very future of the country is uncertain. And here you are telling me that you are expecting some one to come and receive you in the airport. No one will be waiting for you. You wont even be able to take a taxi, not knowing where to go. You wont be able to go to any hotel because all hotels in Nairobi would be completely full, with so many world leaders gathering in the City for the funeral of the departed President, which is to take place tomorrow". (Incidentally our PM Morarji Desai attended the funeral.) I felt as if the ground, or rather the floor of the aeroplane, had just caved in and I was falling down into an abyss. What a great fool had I been to treat the news of the Kenyan President's death as some thing of no consequence to me! As an Indian I had been aware of Indian Presidents and Prime Ministers dying earlier. Some mournings and meetings, news paper reports and AIR playing mournful shenai music for days together till the Funeral - that is all! Otherwise, nothing really touches the 'aam aadmi' here in India and life goes on as usual. So, in my typical middle class TaBra naivite, I had not thought of the news any more! Realization about what an idiot I had been struck me squarely. I just could not say any thing. What could I do at the moment, even as we were hurtling past westwards over the Arabian Sea, at a height of 20000 feet! Future looked grim, bleak and completely blank.
The only little consolation to me then was that my wife had not actually heard our conversation carried out at in a hush-hush tone! For her part, she was already pre-occupied with her own woes of managing her frayed nerves and the suffering baby. Witnessing my pathetic plight, but feeling helpless himself, Mr. Salim gave a brief account of himself. He was a Pakistani engaged in some kind of small- time business in Nairobi and being a bachelor, he was put up in some room somewhere in the city with some other youngsters like him. He had gone to Pakistan, his native country, only a few days back to be with his family, for Id-ul-Fitr, but he was cutting short his stay and rushing back to Nairobi only because he had to be back to protect his business assets at the time of the political turmoil that was brewing in Kenya every where right at that moment. He even apologized to me saying that he was sorry that he could not help me more because neither he could take me and my family with him nor he could suggest me what else to do.
The next few hours of the flight was a veritable ordeal for me. Tormented on one side, not knowing what I should do after getting out of the flight and my wife's nagging and cursing on the other side due to the baby's problem - mercifully she still not knowing the greater problem that was to hit us after landing - those few hours were some of the worst in my life.
At last, the flight landed at Nairobi. Mr. Salim threw a pitiful but still sympathetic glance at us and went away. We managed to reach the conveyor area to collect our baggage. Our woes were yet to come. As my contract was for two years we had packed as many things as we could manage to pack within the permitted baggage weight for 2 adults and a baby ticket in four small and medium suitcases, I think. The conveyor started moving; I could collect all my suitcases but one. We waited and waited. The crowd started thinning down as people moved out and soon the whole corridor was practically deserted but for us and a few skeleton staff. The conveyor came to a halt but there was still no sign of the suitcase. My wife started lamenting openly, "ippadi santhila kondu ennai vittuttele" or strains similar to it. An attendant who was watching us curiously from a distance approached us to inquire what the problem was. When I told him, he directed me to the 'Last Luggage Conter' to report the matter. I went there, but there was absolutely no one in sight! Not knowing what to do, I was running from one conveyor to another in the large corridor area. After some hectic moments I found in a dark corner by the side of another conveyor - supposed to have conveyed the baggages from a London flight, if I recall right, some thing lying there. And lo! there it was, my orphaned suitcase! To this day, I cannot imagine how a piece of luggage, supposed to have arrived in a Bombay - Nairobi flight could have gone some how near another conveyor quite some yards away and which transported the baggage of from London to Nairobi!
The 'Mystery of the Missing Suitcase' had been resolved at last, but what next? Honest to God, I just did NOT know what I was going to do after crossing the EXIT! But, as Providence will have it, it was time for a miracle to happen. Some Indians (rather Asians as they usually call in Africa, clubbing all asiatics together) - four guys and three women, all in their thirties / twenties - were standing in a group just outside the EXIT, in serious conversation, with worried looks. As my wife was roasting me alive in typical TaBra tamil even as we were coming out of the EXIT, their attention was drawn to us and they all rushed towards us. One of the guys was a North Indian, by name Anil, if I am not mistaken. His wife who had gone to India for delivery was to have arrived by the same flight as ours, but had not come out yet. As she was a typical North indian village girl, not knowing English, they were very much worried about what could have happened to her. They gave us a description of her and asked us whether we had seen her. As we were the very last passengers to come out of the EXIT lounge, delayed inordinately by the missing luggage episode, we were positive that no such person answering to their description was seen by us. Then one of the ladies (all the other three guys and the three ladies being Tamils) asked us who we were and all that. When I told them my mission, I realized that Mr. Salim, the Pakistani had been dead right! One of the guys, Ganesh I guess, simply started blasting me like any thing! Luckily, another of them, Jayaraman I believe, stepped in and said, "Let us not talk about anything else. They just cannot go any where. Let us take them along with us now". That decided it. They were NRI's working in Wavin Group. They were accountant, engineer, doctor etc. They had all come in separate cars and within moments, they whisked us away to safety!
What I did afterwards, how I managed to contact my employers etc. is matter for another long story, which I will spare you all from! Suffices to say, that I stayed with my saviours for three more days, waiting for the Government to limp back to normalcy, to be able for me to find out where I had to go.
Had not the Jayaraman-Lalitha couple shown pity on us and took us along with us, God knows where my wife, my baby daughter and myself would have been today!
MIRACLES CERTAINLY HAPPEN! DON'T THEY?