And they were 38

It was a rule the counter closed thirty minutes before the departure. The man was all sweat as he rushed, his wife, a portly lady straining for breath and her sari in disarray behind him. The hassled girl fixed him in a stare and after a moment’s indecision decided to take them in as the last passengers on the flight. Now this was it and no more. It was their lucky day, he thought to himself.

The airhostess standing at the head of the isle behind the pilot’s cabin launched herself into the routine of demo’ing safety procedures. Exhausted some had already slipped into a sound nap while she gamely went about her chore and there were others sharing their jokes when she was on the part about emergency landing on water.

In a couple of minutes the aircraft climbed to its cruising altitude and the seat-belt signs were switched off. It was a cue for a few to stand up and stretch their limbs. Shortly after the hostess was all business sporting a plastic smile and handing out tea, coffee and light refreshment. That done the passengers, 35 of them, caged in the aluminum shell for the next fifty minutes, quietly settled down to reading books and magazines, listening to the in-flight audio channels or to resume their interrupted nap. A few busied themselves on their laptops and tablets. The mothers pulled out toys and gaming kits to engage the restless children.

All was well until thirty third minute when the plane smashed through a large bank of thick clouds. The turbulence brought prayers to the lips of the believing. The seasoned travelers were nonchalant.

About twenty seconds later

The channels were quick to push aside economic crises, epidemic breakout and ethnic violence to announce with profound grief the loss of thirty eight lives – that included a promising TV actor, a group of business men returning from an offsite event, a few other professionals, senior citizens and families with children and a honey-mooning couple. The flight from the island resort had crashed into the sea. There were the usual stories of how some narrowly escaped the grim fate quite fortuitously and others despite hurdles kept to their appointment. The search was mounted for rescuing survivors, the prospects appearing dim. There were clips of wailing relatives, some quietly in tears. One of them pitifully cried to the camera: ‘If there was a God, and a benevolent one, how could He mercilessly and indiscriminately cut out so many lives in a single swathe?’

On the same day late evening one of the channels trailing in ratings put out a hastily pieced-together program on places of interest on the island. A partial transcript of what was said:

“…Weeds, reptiles and rodents had taken over the old mansion and its lands. No one dared to go anywhere near. Whoever went in to lay hands on the rumored treasures from the mansion’s cavernous rooms was said to turn up dead foaming at the mouth. Screams could be heard in the nightsThere were no records of any descendants; no one so far had come up to claim ownership of the propertyWhatever could be gleaned about the last occupants of the mansion was by talking to a puttering oldie – she had heard it from her grandma: The Pannaiyar (the big landlord) owned much of the lands in and around the village. He and his hands had mercilessly lynched a young lad accused of outraging the modesty of a woman from the mansion. That the boy was mentally a little unstable did not count. His parents, restrained, watched helplessly as life seeped out of the dying lad. They cursed the entire assembly of perpetrators to doom then and forever. That was the beginning of the end for the Pannaiyar, his family and others and the mansion…”

An innocuous factoid strangely preserved in the oldie’s account was regarded as an insignificant detail and edited out by the channel: they were thirty eight in the assembly.

.
End
.
Credits to openclipart.com (laobc) for the image.

Advertisements

4 Responses to And they were 38

  1. Sanjay says:

    Wow ! Good story !

    Like

  2. Sharmishtha says:

    divine justice?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: