The Boeing-737 evening flight on the Srinagar-Chandigarh-Delhi route in the 1980s was very popular. One came across film stars, politicians and corporate honchos on board. It was a convenient connection to catch the late evening flights from Delhi to the other metros. I was flying to Delhi to catch the flight to Kolkata to visit our factory in Behala and then on to Dhaka.
After check-in, I was sitting in the airport’s departure lounge. The expected arrival of the flight from Srinagar was announced. It was a half-an-hour flight to Delhi and I was well in time for my onward destination. A familiar-looking, smart Sikh gentleman came and sat beside. We exchanged pleasantries. He was to catch the flight to Mumbai from Delhi. Soon, an announcement was made: “The flight from Srinagar has a VIP passenger on board who needs to be ferried to Delhi urgently due to a medical emergency. It will over fly Chandigarh.”
The Indian Airlines staff then made arrangements to put us on a Vayudoot flight coming to Delhi and going back. Unfortunately, the flight had to return to Delhi due to a storm en route. All my plans to catch the flights from Delhi had to be abandoned. The next best option was to catch the Shatabdi Express to Delhi and book the onward flight the next morning.
It was foggy in Delhi when I boarded the Indian Airlines Airbus-300 for Kolkata the next day. Now, who do I find sitting next to me; the same Sikh gentleman I had met at the Chandigarh airport. He enquired, “I thought you were going to Kolkata.” I replied, “Yes, I am.” To my surprise he said, “But this flight is going to Mumbai.” I called for the airhostess who confirmed that the flight was indeed going to Mumbai. There had been some mix-up by the bus drivers who brought the passengers from the terminal building. I was not the only one who had boarded the wrong flight. We were finally put on the designated flights.
On my return from Kolkata, I took the flight from Delhi to Chandigarh. And who do I meet yet again, the same Sikh gentleman. The short flight was uneventful till we were about to land. An Indian Air Force MiG-21 had skidded on the runway. After circling over the airport a few times, the captain announced it would take an hour for the runway to be cleared. The pilot decided to fly over the Shivalik hills to while away time. It was after two hours since take-off from Delhi that we landed at Chandigarh. The next time I met Dr Parvinder Singh, CMD of Ranbaxy, at the airport he remarked with a smile, “Either you get onto the flight or I do. We cannot be travelling together.” It was surely a case of jinxed encounters.