Thursday, August 7, 2008

Good Samaritan? (Part II)

“Yes!” I replied looking at him but still proceeding towards the check-in counter.
“Is this your only baggage?” ask the man, looking at my strolley.
That was an outright intrusion! “Yes! But why?” I replied, somehow hiding my annoyance.
“If you could kindly spare me a minute? I have a problem.” answered the man anxiously.
By that time I had stopped by his side since I was a little eager to know about his problem. Whether I could be of any help, I thought, could be decided later.
“See, my daughter is going to Kolkata alone and she is having a little excess luggage (An understatement, I thought looking at her luggage!). Since you are not having any checked in luggage, probably she could check in with you, if you would allow. Could you please help?” Pleaded the man.
Though the request was reasonable, it was really not advisable due to security consideration. At first I was inclined to refuse. But considering that those two pieces of luggage were after all properly screened as “checked in luggage” and my inborn weakness for damsels in distress persuaded me to change my stand. My boyhood involvement with the Boys Scout movement and their practice of “a good turn a day” also played a trick. I could hear myself saying “Yes” and shrugged my shoulder. I took the airline ticket from the gentleman and instructed the porter from Jet Airways, who was already eager to take my strolley, to take the trolley from the young lady instead.
“Good morning, Sir” said the girl sitting at the Jet Premier counter with a general issue smile, while collecting the tickets.
“Good Morning, Janet” I replied with a smile, looking at her name tag.
“Could you please help my companion to get a window seat towards the front?” I added, knowing full well that Janet must have already seen my bio-data in the computer monitor and I need not say anything about my personal preference.
“Let me search” said Janet, briefly looking at me, smiling.
“I can manage a window seat, but a little further down the aisle, 19F will it be OK, Mr. Sengupta?” asked Janet expectantly.
“That’s OK. Please go-ahead” I replied, much relieved.
“May I book the luggage in your name only, Mr. Sengupta?” asked Janet looking at the weighing machine.
“OK” I replied after being hesitant for a moment.
“Here you are. Your boarding card 3C with two luggage tags. Boarding card 19F for Farzana. Happy Journey, Mr. Sengupta” said Janet smilingly while handing me over all the boarding cards, counterfoils for tickets and cabin baggage tags. Janet also instructed the porter to put “Priority Tags” to our checked in luggage.
“Thank you Janet for all the help” I replied with a smile while leaving the check-in counter.
I walked to the gentleman and his daughter who were standing a little away and handed over the boarding card, counterfoil of airline ticket, cabin baggage tags and my business card saying ”Luggage tags are in my name because of excess weight. Since we will be seating separately, we could meet only at Kolkata airport. Please tell your daughter to contact me at my cell number, in case of any difficulty”. I did not ask for her cell number, out of courtesy.
The gentleman looked at my business card briefly, extended his arm and said with a smiling face, with all the worries gone “ Thank you very much Mr. Sengupta. It was very kind of you. By the way, my name is Rahim Khan. We are from Kashmir”.

I shook his hand with a worried face with lots conflicting thoughts passing through my mind. Mere mention of Kashmir made me little uneasy.

There was a time when Kashmir was synonymous to anything beautiful. The natural beauty of Kashmir, with snow capped mountain peaks, valleys with Chinar trees, flowing springs, river Jhelum, floating house boats and Shikaras laden with roses and tulips on Dal lake, even excelled the much adored Switzerland! It was epitomized in a famous Bollyood motion picture “Kashmir – ki – kali” (Flower (girl) from Kashmir). Anybody having the experience can not forget “Wazwan” fest with fine gourmet cuisine like rogan-josh, rista-gushtava, kahwah (saffron tea), and shawls made of cashmere wool, silk carpets and wood carvings. Kashmir is immortalized in the Urdu couplets of Ghulam Ahmed Ashai “Agar firdous bar rul-e-zameen ast, hamin ast – o – hamin ast – o- hamin ast “(If there is a paradise in the world, it is here, it is here, it is here!).

Everything is still very much the same, except it is now overshadowed by the advent of a dreaded disease called “Terrorism”. I really do not know who was at fault but the end result was the death of thousands of innocent people. A couple of years back it was still localized but it had now engulfed the entire Indian sub-continent. The actions which were perfectly normal and humane only a couple of years back would now be viewed with suspicion. I also could not help but thinking “Was it a ploy? Was I too gullible and have put myself and my fellow passengers at risk?” I started doubting ….. Whether the security screening for the checked in luggage was proper? did I check the security tags properly?.... did the girl in the check in counter check the security tags properly?...... whether the security tags were genuine? Literally I was totally confused and did not know what to do.

The airport was very crowded and while I was in the state of confusion, I saw Farzana and her father melting away in the crowd. Then I realized that the luggage was booked in my name and they would not be unloaded even if Farzana did not board the plane! I felt like kicking myself and did not feel like going to business lounge for a cup of tea even though there was plenty of time till the boarding announcement.

As soon as the boarding was announced, I went for boarding but could not locate Farzana. Even in the aircraft though I was in the front section, I somehow missed her. Meanwhile the aircraft doors were closed and our fates were sealed!

While flying also I could not get away from the uneasiness. I was really not very much bothered about myself but about my fellow passengers who were all relaxing without knowing their fate. I was too reluctant to go down the aisle to locate Farzana since that may not solve the problem. Suicide bombings were quite rampant!

Breakfast was served but due to my uneasiness I could not enjoy my “last supper”. I was much relived when I heard the announcement from the flight deck that we were about to land at Kolkata.

Jet Airways really take care of their business class guests and their priority luggage. By the time I reached the arrival lounge with Jet Airways’ special bus, I could locate Farzana’s two pieces of luggage on the conveyor belt. It was a relief then to locate Farzana slowly coming towards me, pushing an empty trolley in front. I had difficulty loading those two pieces of luggage on the trolley since they were quite heavy. Anyway, my duty done I casually asked Farzana “Will there be anybody to receive you? Or shall I drop you somewhere?”
“No! I will be waiting in the airport only. I have to take a flight to Bangladesh” said Farzana with a half smile.
“What time is the flight to Bangladesh?” I enquired without sounding too inquisitive.
“At 8:20 PM” said Farzana, matter of fact.
“8:20 PM?” I was puzzled looking at my watch which was showing only 9 AM. “How could you wait in the airport for almost 11 hours that too with so much of luggage?” I asked in bewilderment knowing the scanty facilities available in Kolkata airport.
“I have to manage. I really do not have much of an alternative. My friends will join me at the airport only, just before the departure” said Farzana.
“May I drop you to any of your relatives or friends” I said out of courtesy.
“I do not have any relative in Kolkata. My friends also stay outside Kolkata and I really do not have their proper addresses” said Farzana looking little nervous.
“Look, I will be visiting my Mother who stays in Kolkata in a big flat with her maids. My daughter is in USA. You may use her room; freshen up; have some food and relax; then my car will drop you to airport at a suitable time. I am too reluctant to leave you at airport all by yourself. Please rely on me” I insisted. [To be continued……]


PeeGee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PeeGee said...

another suspense... :) and great build up...

biplab said...

peegee, thanks that you liked it. balance parts are still more interesting. some time real life experience could be stranger than fiction.

jdrhere said...


biplab said...

jdrhere, sabure mewa fawle!just wait for seven more days.


You don't really have to think too hard about an alternative profession. Keep up the great work!

biplab said...

dev, thanks for reminding me. i was too lazy to like my earlier profession for last 41 years!

This comment has been removed by the author.

Dear Biplab,

When I clicked on the part II link. I thought I have beaten your 'dharabahik' technique.

But, NO !


Questions are : do you write in phases or post in phase ????

Secondly, there are going to be 'balane parts' ?hmmm....

biplab said...

shyamal, part II should always mean continuation and it can not be otherwise.
i am too lazy to complete the story and post it phases. rather they are really a "hot post" i.e. they are posted as soon as they are written and most of the time i edit them after i receive feed back from two of my mentors. as i have explained earlier they are real life experience and normally i do not change them except what you may call poetic freedom or indulgence. sometime i write the last paragraph fast.

i could not understand the meaning of "balane parts". could you please elaborate?

Anonymous said...

one must admire the minute details meticulously taken care of.

biplab said...

contact, thanks for your appreciation.


Thanks for the tip......I went back and checked : in your case, the last part carries the tag:(concluding part).

'balance parts' is a quote from yr reply to peegee.Sorry for the typing error.

So, I expect 'part....S' !


biplab said...

shyamal, i really do not know where is the confusion? If i consider your comment is synchronised with the blog you are reading then you have commented on "Good Samaritan? (Part II)" where the ending is ..[to be continued]. The earlier blog is "Good Samaritan?" which is naturally the 1st part and is having the ending as ...[to be continued]. Where is the confusion? to peegee i have commented "balance parts" i.e. there will be more parts for "Good Samaritan?" am i clear?

jdrhere said...

another s-e-v-e-n more days??
and not this weekend? ooofff!

prat said...

oofff... Mama...ami amar chele-meyeder tomar kachei pathabo...golpo sonar jonno..

biplab said...

dear prat, though i am unable to locate you (all escape routes blocked!), i assure you that i will definitely take care of my grand children. Even when i was young all my nephews and nieces were very fond of me for my story telling ability.