The passengers were turning the air-conditioner knob of flight SW 2552 from Ahmedabad to Delhi when the announcement came. “We regret to inform you that the air-conditioning of this flight will not function properly for a while due to a technical hitch which is being rectified. We solicit your cooperation and regret the inconvenience caused to you in the meanwhile.”
“The air-conditioning will not work till we reach Delhi,” Shiv Kumar heard the passenger sitting next to him say.
“Why?” asked Shiv Kumar.
“Didn’t you see the VVIP passenger for whom the flight was delayed by two hours?”
“Yup. That’s Khushi Ram Baba, isn’t it?”
Who did not know Khushi Ram Baba? He was a godman who was in jail for some time for raping one of his devotees. The news had become a notorious controversy discussed in great detail by all the news channels in the country. The godman reportedly fell ill while in jail and needed specialised treatment. So he was being taken to a multinational hospital in Delhi. Shiv Kumar knew all these details though he, like the other passengers, was ignorant about the cause of the flight delay until the godman was brought to the boarding gate by a huge retinue of cops all around him. Surrounding the cops were the bhakts of the godman who kept chanting “Jai Sri Ram, Jai Khushi Ram, Jai Jai.” It is only after the godman and his bhakts were escorted to their seats in the front part of the plane by the airhostesses that the passengers were allowed to board through the rear entry.
“Khushi Ram cannot endure air-conditioning,” explained the fellow passenger to Shiv Ram.
“Thank God, he is not allergic to body odours; otherwise we would have been asked to deboard,” said Shiv Kumar. The plane had begun to smell of sweat mixed with deodorants and body sprays because of the temperature.
“The bugger should have chartered a flight,” mumbled the fellow passenger.
“This is a kind of publicity,” responded Shiv Kumar. “See the way his devotees are behaving.”
The bhakts were chanting the praises of the godman. They had even refused to put on their seat belts saying, “Why do we need seat belts when God himself is travelling with us?”
A little child started crying somewhere in the seat behind Shiv Kumar. “It’s so bloody hot in here,” shouted a man who must have been the father of the child. The flight was already at the level height in the sky. Sitting in his aisle seat Shiv Kumar looked at some of the passengers. An old man got up from his seat on the other side of the aisle.
“Help me, please,” shouted the old man. He had pressed the call light but no one bothered to attend to him since all attendants were apparently busy with Khushi Ram Baba and his bhakts.
One of the cabin crew came to the old man as fast as she could walk in her tight miniskirt.
“I find it difficult to breathe,” complained the old man through his wheezing. “Can you raise the air-conditioning, please?”
“I’m afraid it’s not possible, sir. There’s a technical snag. Shall I find a doctor for you?”
The old man nodded. The airhostess went to call a doctor from among the passengers.
“It’s only another half an hour to our destination,” came the announcement. “We thank you for your cooperation. The inconvenience is regretted.”
Children and old people lay in their seats looking like withered stems of uprooted plants. Babies woke up occasionally and wailed.
Shiv Kumar retched. He rose quickly and rushed to the washroom.
“Nausea,” said the feelow passenger when Shiv Kumar returned and occupied his seat having relieved himself in the heavens. So to say. “Nausea is the prerogative of the sane.”
The bhakts resumed their chanting as the announcement about the imminent landing wafted through the plane like a consoling breeze.
There was another retinue of cops waiting at the Delhi airport when the flight landed. Only Khushi Ram Baba and his bhakts were allowed to deboard through the front exit which opened first.
“Jai Sri Ram, Jai Khushi Ram, Jai Jai.” The chant drowned the mumbling and grumbling of the passengers.
PS. This story may sound impossible and most improbable. But it is inspired by the following report:
‘Asaram Bapu and his devotees create ruckus aboard Jet Airways flight’
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