ATC…ATC… Stop The Flight

images (7)ATC…ATC… Stop The Flight
by Mohinder Pal Singh

The Air India flight Mumbai-Delhi–Amsterdam landed on the Indira Gandhi International Airport at 5.10 AM, two hours behind schedule. It was an international flight from Mumbai which used to take some domestic passengers till Delhi. As all other flights were fully booked hence due to a sudden emergency at home I had very little choice but to board this midnight flight. The journey not so comfortable, firstly because of the bad weather and secondly my mind was continuously immersed in turbulent thoughts because of which I could not get an iota of sleep whole night. As I alighted at Delhi Airport and rushed out of the terminal, I saw my watch and realised I had only 40 minutes for my connecting flight to Bagdogra which was scheduled at 6.05 AM from the National Departures. I ran to the pre-paid taxi booth and got myself the first cab available. I told the driver to move as fast as possible. It was going to be tough to cover almost 10 kilometers. But I still had full hope.
Once the cab began to move, I closed my eyes and my mind again got wrapped into the fast sequence of events which had swirled my life in the last two days. It was day before yesterday i.e 11 Mar 1988, that I had got the news through a long distance call from my brother who was studying at Trivandrum that our father had met with an accident. My brother told me that he was leaving for Bagdogra immediately but he told me that I should stay put in Mumbai as my final exams were very near and that he would reach home and tell me about the situation.
I was in my final year of graduation and staying in the college hostel. In 1988 we had no mobile phones , the hostel had only one local call booth from which we could make only local calls. When it was empty one could get a incoming call also . And if any student was around he would pick the phone and call the person for whom the call was meant for . I told my brother to call me the next day at 11 AM and inform me about father’s health. By 10.30 AM I came down to the corridor and sat on the bench next to the local-call booth and waited for it to ring. After about an hour’s wait the phone rang and I picked up the phone , I could hear a very faint voice from the other end.
“This is Military Exchange Bengdubi, Can I speak to Mr Mohinder” The voice said.
“I am Mohinder speaking”I shouted back
“ Can I speak to Mohinder” The voice said again. Probably he had not heard me .
“I am Mohinder Speaking, Can you hear me now?” I shouted slightly louder this time.
“ Yes Sir, please speak to the residence of Col Amrik Singh.” He said. I then heard a faint music and then a faint voice of my elder brother.
“ Dad’s condition is not good, please start immediately. I have told Khurana Uncle at Mumbai , go to him he will lend you some money. Take the earliest flight possible.”
“Hello, How did it happen, Bhaiya” I shouted at top of my voice now.
There was a drop and the line snapped. I immediately went to my room , locked it and rushed out to Khurana Uncle’s house. Khurana uncle was a distant relative of my father. When I reached their house, I saw that all family members were very serious. Aunty told me to sit down and have something to eat. I declined. They started saying that they felt very sad about the accident. I said “God will save him , I have prayed for him Aunty”
“We will also pray for his recovery” she said.
“Here is the money and my elder son Bunny will take you to the Airline Booking office. Take the earliest flight available”.
Saying this Aunty looked at Bunny and nodded as if not to tell anything to me. I picked up the cue but at this stage I didn’t want to believe what I had not been told. We both went out quietly to the Booking office and got the seats for the earliest flight which was the Air India midnight flight till Delhi . And also the connecting flight to Bagdogra was Indian Airlines flight at 6.05 AM. Luckily for both I got ‘OK’ status tickets, which I was told meant a confirmed seat. By the time I came back to the Hostel it was 7 PM and quickly started to pack my bags to leave for the Airport which was about two hours travelling time in the evening rush hours. Then suddenly one friend came and told me that the hostel warden had called me to his office. Father Simon , our Hostel Warden was a very nice and a kind person. I had left a message for him in the afternoon that I would be leaving for home due to an emergency. When I went to his room there were some more people there. My two Professors from the department , Prof Vaman Rao and Ms Coutinho . Everybody was quiet and Fr Simon indicated me to sit on a chair. I don’t remember exact words, but he said few words to console me about my father’s accident while the other two kept looking at me.
“I said Father Simon please pray that my Dad comes out of this by the time I reach there tomorrow.” I said.
“ Look Mohinder You have to be brave , We know you have always been brave in life. We understand that you loved your father. But now you have to take care of your mother, she is sick and needs you. You are a grown up boy.” Saying this Ms Coutinho wiped her eyes and broke down. With over 15 years of teaching experience she was our most favourite teacher in the department and I was her most loved pupil.
“Look I have to inform you that we got a call from your home at 4 PM that your father has passed away.” She was sobbing now.
Mr Vaman Rao came close and held me tightly. For a moment tears rolled down my cheeks. There was silence for sometime.
Then Fr Simon said , “ I have prayed to god to give you strength, Mohinder, get up and pack your bags. Two of your friends are ready and will go with you to the Airport”.
“Mohinder , have a safe journey, I will pray to god for you to reach safely and attend your fathers last rights.” Saying this Fr Simon kept his hand on my head and blessed me.
I got up and moved out to my room. Some friends came along. They said warm words to console me. Somehow I managed to keep myself composed and moved out to the Airport with them. And then boarded the flight which was delayed by two hours and now left Mumbai at 3 am.The flight landed at 5.10 am and by 5.20am i was rushing out of the international terminal. The national departures that time was almost ten kilometers away and a cab had to be taken. I immediately took a pre-paid cab and dozed of for a while.
Suddenly the cab braked and my eyes opened and I a saw lot of lights , “have we reached? I asked the driver.
“We are about to reach in a minute.” He said.
On reaching the Domestic Departures I rushed inside . It was 5.50 AM. I rushed to the Indian Airlines Counter and found it to be closed. The person on the adjacent counter said that all boarding passes have been given and so the person has left. I took out my ticket and showed him “Look I have a “OK” ticket.”(in those days ‘OK’ ticket meant a confirmed seat)
He said “its only ten minutes left for departure of that flight, you go to the Duty Manager”. He pointed to the direction of the Managers office.
I literally ran towards that office with my bag lugged on my shoulder. I can’t afford to miss this flight. I have to see my father . Only once. Please God help me. Dodging the passengers and the trolleys I reached the office and barged inside to find a middle aged person sitting there.
“Yes”He said.
“Sir , I have a ‘OK’ticket for the Bagdogra flight but the counter is closed” I said.
“ He looked at the wall clock, the flight should be on the runway my son, You are very late”. He said.
“Sir, I came on the Air India flight from Mumbai, that flight was two hours late , I am rushing here from the International terminal. Sir , please do something”.I said.
“I am sorry”. He said.
“Sir, I will miss my father’s funeral at Bagdogra today. Please let me have a last look at my father.” My head was down and eyes moist. I looked at the watch and saw 5.59AM.
“Where is the funeral?” He demanded to confirm. Probably they were warned against hoax people and callers.
I reacted with immediate presence of mind and took out my Army Officers Dependent card and showed him . He checked my photograph to confirm and then saw my ticket .
“ Sir, my father has died in an accident at Bengdubi yesterday, today they are cremating him. Sir, the flight would not have taken off yet” . I said.
He looked into my eyes and something happened inside him. He sprung up from his seat. Picked up his walkie-talkie and mumbled some thing on it . I could only understand my flight number and word ‘emergency’.
“ I will just try. follow me” He commanded . He was running now. He was continuously trying to call somebody but was not getting any response.
I was running too,two steps behind him dodging the passengers again. I wiped my eyes. There was hope. I suddenly felt the hand of my warden over my head , blessing me. I will get the flight I thought. People at the terminal were looking in awe at both of us.
The Manager was frantically calling ATC. Suddenly there was an affirmative answer from the other end.
“ ATC , Please stop the take Off of flight No IC______, there is an emergency” The manager shouted on the walkie talkie .
I was made to cross the security check with a quick check. At the gate there was a bus waiting. The Manager came with me in the bus . The aircraft had been stopped just short of the take-off runway. A ladder vehicle was moving in . I saw the air-hostess re-opening the door and the ladder was fixed again. The Manager came close to me patted my shoulder and our eyes exchanged brief glances of ‘gratitude’ from my side and ‘it was my duty’ from his side. As soon as I reached the top, the door was closed . And as I entered the plane I saw my elder sister and brother-in-law sitting on the front row. Seeing me she hugged me and burst out crying.
The plane took off. And I reached home to say final adieu to my father.

PS. Till today, friends whenever I see people lament about inefficiency of our national carrier Indian Airlines I never join the discussion for what gift they gave me – to be able to see my fathers last face, I owe them lifetime of gratitude. When it comes to help . They can and they do it.

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21 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ankush sharma on December 29, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    Its very Emotional moment

    Reply

  2. Posted by Shiv Kumar on December 29, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    Hats off to that man and Indian Airlines with wetted eyes.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Siddhu Paithane on December 29, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    Thanks to that cab driver who took you to national departure. And thanks to that duty manager too who helped you to take flight. Because of these both you could see the face of your father last time. It’s really very heart touching Sir.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Vkk on December 29, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Such a sad and a touching episode of your life,but yes if we stay put and be positive God always helps in disguise,the manager was a good man with a kind heart,and God was on your side, may your dad soul rest in peace.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Aman on December 29, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Attitude of gratitude. …. hats of to both….

    Reply

  6. Posted by rana on December 29, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    True …we all as Indians have it in us but independently ….lets make it a national character against individual crusade ….a heart warming naration .

    Reply

  7. Posted by Gurtegh Singh on December 29, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    Wonderful article. Thank you for sharing this piece of your life. There are kind people everywhere in this world.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Navjot on December 30, 2016 at 2:01 am

    So beautifully you have pen down ur emotions veerji. I have few foggy memories about this incident in my mind. But what you had gone through at that time was painful and really brave at your part.

    Reply

  9. Posted by harpreetsinghkh on December 30, 2016 at 2:26 am

    I am sorry for your loss sir, its very emotional and very well expressed. You have written with enough details to help us understand your state of mind at that time and its very beautifuly crafted.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Soneryl on December 30, 2016 at 3:34 am

    Had tears in my eyes…. knowing you. Keep writing .

    Reply

  11. Posted by Ravindra Shukla on December 30, 2016 at 3:58 am

    Very emotional. Really …salute to the duty manager.

    Reply

  12. Sad but very well expressed sir I will try to express my feelings in this manner

    Reply

  13. Wow, very impressive. Sometimes in life, people do surprise you by their goodness. And often when the near ones turn their face away, strangers step forward to lend a helping hand.

    Reply

  14. Posted by Sakshi Jaiswal on December 30, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    touching nd very emotional story sir…. thankyou for sharing it with us

    Reply

  15. Wonderful article!! Had tears in my eyes after reading….. Keep writing!

    Reply

  16. Posted by Sumeet Kumar chauhan on December 31, 2016 at 4:51 am

    your positive attitude, helps you to reach home in time and this is a nice story and I request you to keep writing like this and definately we will learn many important things from you. Jai hind sir

    Reply

  17. Posted by AJ GEORGE on December 31, 2016 at 7:51 am

    Well written.This incident reinforces my belief that, keep helping people and don’t expect anything back from them. You will always get it back from some one else, mostly a stranger..I have experienced it many a time..

    Reply

  18. Posted by Harkamal on January 11, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Very emotional moments.. nicely written Veerji.

    Reply

  19. Posted by Sapna on January 25, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Beautifully written sir! Felt like o was the watching the scene unfold …

    Reply

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