Angels among us : Angels in human form appear most unexpectedly.

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Angels in human form appear most unexpectedly.

        In 1984, while posted in the College of Combat Mhow, I had gone to Nashik to get the pending bills cleared from the government printing press. Not knowing how long it would take, I did not have a firm date of return. When the work was done, I took a flight to Bombay for onward journey to Indore.  The flight from Nashik took off late, leaving just 15 minutes for the changeover at Bombay. I sensed a problem. 

          I asked the flight attendant, a chubby girl with long thick hair, if I could meet the pilot. She declined citing security instructions, even though I was in uniform. But she took my request and returned with the answer. The flight to Indore was on schedule. However, the pilot had no contact with commercial side and could not get my booking confirmed.

           "Have you ever got stuck in a big city without money?" I lamented.

           "You have no money?"  

           "Not enough to spend a night in a city like Bombay", I said.

          "We will see." 

        It raised a faint hope.

          While de-boarding, I purposely stayed at the tail.  

        "Come with me" She said.  Walking the tarmac, she told me she would take me to the highest Airlines authority as only he could help.  Luckily, we found the boss, Mr Lobo, just outside the building. Tall and lean, he wore a decisive look.

           "Sir, he has to go to Indore by the 1:00 pm flight" Lobo looked at his watch; it was 12:54.

        "Hey?" he called his walkie-talkie wielding assistant, "Put the Colonel on the Indore flight."

        I started to say that I was only a wait-listed passenger, but she side-glanced disapprovingly.

        I actually didn't need to.

"You may have to go standing if there is no seat" Mr Lobo said. I had a sudden urge to salute him.  

           The assistant commandeered a bus and the three of us headed for the Indore flight. "But I have baggage on the Nashik flight", I said. She gently touched my arm reassuringly and said, "just relax".  

          The pilot was already in the cockpit with the engine revving. Our man halted the bus in front of the plane and told him, "Don't take off; this Colonel has to board." Then we drove to the Nashik flight. He climbed  the baggage hold and retrieved my valise. 

        In the bus, I thanked my benefactor for going out of her way to help. "It is normal" she said nonchalantly. I knew it wasn't. I noted down her address.  

          "If you had missed the flight", she said, "I was planning to take you home; I am staying with my sister and her husband".

        I was overwhelmed. I had been one of the many critics that called the Indian Airlines service trashy. My opinion did a 180 that day. 

          I wrote and thanked her. That started our correspondence. Her letters were brief and irregular indicating her busy schedule. In almost every letter she wrote how she had helped someone.   

          In 1985, I was posted in Delhi. One day she phoned me unexpectedly.   "Come with your wife to Kanishka hotel for tea at 5:30 pm." I protested saying, "but you are in my city and I should..."  She cut me short with, "I want to meet her to see that she is as good as your letters say. Don't be late" and she cut the line.

           At tea the wife made polite talk including showing appreciation for the Airlines regulation saree she was wearing."

          Two days later I received a call from another girl. "Miss S… has sent a saree for your wife. Please collect from the hotel."   

          As years passed, our communication dried up.  

        In 2002 we were flying from Chennai to Mumbai. A short haired trim flight attendant looked at me warmly". I returned a confused smile. "Do you remember me?" she asked in a loud voice. I furtively tried to see her name tab. Putting her hand on the name, she demanded teasingly, "Try to remember where we met." By now the amused vicinity passengers were looking our way. Making light, I shielded my mouth from the wife and said, "If we met, let us not admit in front of her."  She gave a hearty   laugh and uncovered her name plate.  It was indeed S.

          "But you look much younger" the wife remarked expressing surprise.

        "What to do? I had become fat and the Airlines put me on notice." she said.

          Many years later, while on a visit to Mumbai, I dialled her old landline number, wondering if it was still valid.

          A young girl responded and I asked her if it was the number of S.

          "Yes, but Mama has gone for her charity work."

          Some people have altruism in their genes.

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