Sunday, 11 November 2012

Flight to Nowhere

An Incident took place when I was nine years old while flying from Addis Abeba to Mumbai.

This is an incident that took place when I was eight years old. We travelled to Addis Abeba from Arbaminch to take the flight to Mumbai for the once in three years visit to India. The flight from Addis Abeba took off smoothly from the Addis Abeba airport. We re-fuelled at Aden the capital of the Yemen Arab Republic. It was after we had refuelled and took off for the on going journey to Mumbai that things took an ugly turn.

One Indian passenger, who had been working as an engineer in Dare Salam , had drunk a whole bottle of Johnnie Walker Whiskey and he had become rather violent. He had been suspended from his job and  had started behaving in a rather violent manner. When the food was served, he threw the tray into the air, splattering fellow passengers with the curry, olives and whatever was in the tray. My brother and I were surprised! All through the journey we both, my brother and I had made friends with a Brazilian Couple who were medical doctors. They kept on asking us whether we applied hair oil before bathing because they felt that our hair was rather jet black and healthy!

This gentleman seemed to be rather bent on creating trouble. He threatened to blow the plane, a venerable Boeing 707 to smithereens by smashing the empty whiskey bottle against one of the windows! In the meantime, after consuming the first bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label, he went on to consume a second one and had drunk almost half of it. The Airhostess arrived by his side to make him come to his senses, but then this didn’t work. He demanded that the Captain should talk to him. The Captain did arrive, but then even  he couldn’t talk sense to him! After what seemed ages, the Captain got up and left and two men approached the drunk passenger and frog marched him to the rear of the aircraft. He didn’t return. After about an hour, the Captain asked on the P.A. system if there was a doctor on board the aircraft. The Brazilian Doctor Couple got up and were taken to the rear of the plane. When they returned, they were shaking their heads. I didn’t know what had happened. All this while we felt as if we were all the time getting closer to Mumbai. While the aircrew were preventing all the passengers from using the toilet at the rear of the plane, I however slipped past to use the toilet and saw lying prone  on the floor the same passenger who had been creating all that disturbance. I thought that perhaps he had collapsed and was resting.

Just when we thought we were about to land in Mumbai, the Captain made another announcement, “ Ladies and Gentlemen, because of the mishap that took place earlier, we will be landing back at the Addis Abeba airport. The inconvenience is regretted!” We were all astounded! When we landed, the airlines officials told the passengers to, “go back home and return the next day.” We had checked out from our hotel earlier, so my Dad insisted that the airlines should lodge us in a Hotel, and the airlines officials acquiesced and we were lodged in the Wabe Shabele Hotel. The next day officials from the Indian Embassy in Addis Abeba visited the passengers before the special flight to Mumbai and it was from them that we came to know that the Indian passenger had died on the flight. Apparently, landing in Mumbai with a dead body would have raised questions about the manner of the passenger’s death, so the Captain was advised to return to Addis Abeba Airport with the dead body on board.
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