Thursday, February 11, 2010

From Chacha's keyboard!

My father's family has always been fond of language- we always have lots to tell each other, and like to express ourselves as well as possible in which ever language we are using. From my grandfather's times, English is our preferred medium of written communication. My grandfather (Dadaji) wrote a great many letters, sometimes on postcards, in a beautiful copperplate script.
My Dad's Nanaji (maternal grandfather) also wrote beautiful letters. I have photocopied some of the letters he had written to my father over the years, some of which are truly poignant.

Having Chacha around in this difficult time is wonderful, not just because he is great fun to be with and also loves my kind of music, but because we enjoy showing each other what we have written. He does publish his articles in his city's newspapers. Here is something of his, which I'm copying with his permission- it's as good as hearing him narrate the episode. (Yes, I will get him to revive his defunct blog).

My Ordeal at the Airport

I was waiting to pick up my briefcase at the exit side of the X-Ray screening machine at the Security Check of the Mumbai domestic airport, prior to taking my homeward flight.The briefcase had just disappeared.At this juncture somebody tapped gently at my shoulder. “Will you please come to the side?” I followed him meekly.He pointed out to my small briefcase kept on the sidetable. “Does this luggage belong to you?”, he said.I had a mixed feeling of relief on finding the briefcase, and a little trepidation on this unexpected development. I said, “Yes, this is mine. Is there anything amiss?”The man whom I later on came to know was a policeman in mufti, manning the X-Ray machine, assumed something like a menacing attitude, and said in an undertone, “I am afraid we will have to book you. You are carrying long bladed knives in your briefcase.” I was aghast and just could not believe him. There surely must have been a mistake somewhere. I told him so.He said, “OK, you want to see for yourself?” With this, he passed my briefcase once again through the machine. Sure enough, four knives each of different shape , but all of about six inch length could be clearly seen.I was now feeling thoroughly concerned. A cold sweat broke out over my whole body.Picture of what could now happen to me started emerging in my mind with sharp focus. A trip to jail, clips appearing in the newspapers, may be a shot or two in the TV channels who are forever hungry for sensational news, my hard earned reputation getting blown to smithereens for no fault of mine. I was sure somebody has framed me good and proper, and was restlessly figuring out how do I come out of this jam.I visualized in painful details a newsline screaming in bold letters, “ Retired government official caught with lethal weapons in his hand bag, trying to board an Indian Airlines flight at Mumbai.Detained.”with my mug shot thrown in for further emphasis.
Meanwhile the policeman, a Mr. Gupta as the name tag at his lapel proclaimed, opened my briefcase and extracted the offending packet from the box. I peered over his shoulder.and saw the printed label on the manila envelope, reading, “Oceanview Emporium –Souvenirs & Artifacts, Durban”. Suddenly the coin dropped in the slot with a loud clang. This is the packet which my colleague working with me at the project site at South Africa had given me the previous morning for passing on to his wife back home, without telling me the contents. I too, like an idiot did not ask him what the packet contained and slipped it into my briefcase, as the opening of the suitcase would have cost extra efforts.It never crossed my mind that a set of sharp deadly knives can be categorised as a souvenir for a docile vegetarian Hindu wife. “You unmitigated fool”, I muttered to myself, “what happened to your long flying experience which told time and again not to accept any article without ascertaining that it is not one of those evil things which airlines loathe to carry aboard?.”
But aloud I told my story to Mr.Gupta, and offered to ring up long distance to my friend, who must be sleeping at this time of the day ( late night at South Africa), to corroborate what I had said. As a proof of my journey from Johannesburg to Mumbai I showed him the stub of the boarding pass of South African Airways dated the previous day.
Mr Gupta now appeared to have mellowed down a little. He said ,”Mr Seth, do you realize what would have happened to you had the Johannesburg security staff been more efficient?” This sent a shudder up my spine. “OK, take this packet and run down to the check-in counter. I am asking the duty staff to allow you to put it into your check-in baggage, as I certainly cannot permit this in the aircraft cabin”, Mr. Gupta said and picked up a telephone to speak to the concerned people.I quickly intervened, “Please Sir, don’t bother. I have gone through the wringer long enough and do not want any more running around to the check-in guys. Please accept this packet as an humble gift from me. You have been extremely helpful to me and I whole heartedly thank you for leaving me as a free man.”
With this, I picked up my briefcase and ran to join the queue at Gate No.3 of the departure lounge, as the boarding had already been announced for my flight.

Written by : S.S.Seth


starry eyed said...

OMG! That was really scary! A good lesson to check what you're carrying even if from a trusted friend!

megha said...

an old friend (my mom) is excited to have traced you and i bet you would be happy to get in touch with her and talk of and remember the years spent at lady irwin and beyong...

Aneela Z said...

neki ka zamana hi nahee raha...your uncle should have given the guy's details to the south african customs!!

Sue said...

So careless of the colleague to have sent knives without even warning your uncle. I'm glad he left them behind at customs!

Usha said...

Happened to me too - only the offending objects were envelope openers and nothing deadly although they looked like daggers on the x-ray screen. And thankfully it was long before the current paranoia at airport security.
Interesting read. You must put a link to his blog when he revives it.

Ron said...

I once absentmindedly packed a large pair of scissors in my purse just before I left for the airport. I so empathise with your uncle :(

Phoenixritu said...

Oh wow! Methinks I can spot a novel-plot there