Meet two heroes who proved the term ‘Athiti Devo Bhava’!!!

Posted: November 14, 2015 in Personal, Social
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

This Diwali was special. It had to be for many reasons. First, it was my initial attempt to celebrate the biggest festival of my country as a married woman (Phewww that sounds like lot of pressure and hype!!) Second, it was my hubby’s much anticipated birthday. And most importantly I was on a vacation that screamed adventure from Day 1. It was the Diwali day– the festival of lights; our vacation was over and we were giving rest to our acutely worn-out legs at the Delhi airport, waiting uncomplainingly for our next flight. What I didn’t know that this festival would become doubly memorable in the next few hours.

The entire airport was given a larger-than-life appearance; from mammoth lanterns and diyas, LED lightings, idols of Peacock (national bird of India), staff dressed in traditional attires, to usage of national and international languages on Diwali greetings. From the look of it, it was a delight for every passenger regardless of their nationality.

All with one sole reason- reminding passengers of our rich culture! Appreciated!!!

Everything was going well until Ratul, my husband, saw a woman of foreign origin weeping profusely at the other end. He immediately sprang up from his seat.

“Something is wrong with her. We need to check.”

“She must have come to drop someone at the airport and feeling emotional. It would look stupid if we probe. Sit down.” I smirked.

“Yes, but if you go and ask it won’t invite much trouble. My going would seem like a desperate man trying to friends with a firang.” He had a point.

I tried to amuse him with talks so that the rest time for my legs get extended to few minutes more.

“Fine. Go ahead. I want to see how good you are at flirting.”

“Please don’t joke. Look she is crying more now.”

“Okay. What do I get in return if I go?” We both started laughing letting our imagination run wild.

“Don’t ask me such questions or I will start my cheesy talks again.”

Undoubtedly going to the crying woman seemed more suitable at that time. I brushed the indolent expression aside and donned a more considerate expression.

“Hey is everything alright? I mean, you seem little distressed. Can I help you with something?”

She looked away and started crying again. I didn’t know how to react. Before I could think of calling any policeman there, a girl in her early 20s walked in with a club sandwich in her hand and offered that to the woman.

“Excuse me…do you know her? Actually my husband and I saw her crying so got little worried. You know her?” I asked.

“No didi. I just saw her this morning, just like you guys. Her name is Chlo. I don’t know the full name but she is here since last night. She had a direct flight from Goa to Delhi, but at the last moment Air India changed that into a connecting flight via Mumbai and because of some delay she missed her Air Canada flight and now she is stuck here. The worst part is that her Visa is going to expire tomorrow. She has not eaten anything so I got this for her.” She pointed at the sandwich.

“Okay. But talking to Air India will solve the problem. That’s not an issue I guess.” I was brimming with self-confidence and pride that when you are at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) nothing can go wrong. After all, we are taught since childhood that Athiti Devo Bhava (guests are god). Even Aamir Khan says so!

I was getting wide-eyed with my confidence when she intervened. “You think so didi? I have been trying that since morning; ran from one official to another. She even spoke to Air India officials but no one is willing to extend a helping hand.”

“How is that possible? That sounds little weird. I mean…..”

“What happened?” I was interrupted with Ratul’s query. He couldn’t control and finally jumped in the conversation. In the next 10 minutes he was told the entire story. In a fraction of second he passed the trolley luggage to me and went straight to the police official at the entry of visitor’s gate. This was followed by few other security officials. While the three of us followed him in a baffled state.


“By the way, I am Dyutima Sharma. I am an Mphil student at Calcutta University. Originally from Bhopal.”

And an impromptu chit chat followed to lighten the tense situation.

“Nice to meet you Dyutima. I am Indrani Majumdar. I am a writer by profession.”

“Oh woow. Writer. Sounds good. Have you written any book till now?

“Ummm…yes…will tell you more about it.”

Meanwhile, there were many pseudo-humans who came, listened to the complete anecdote, sympathized and walked out saying “dekh lo beta tum log”?(You guys manage). A fellow passenger, probably to gather some fun, arrived at the scene and started spilling suggestions. “Book a ticket and go. As simple as that.” He said.

“She obviously doesn’t have money. She is a nurse and came here for some social service. Moreover, it happened because of the chaos of the connecting flight, why would she pay?” Dyutima retorted. In return, he rendered a vicious assault in the form of his next comment. “Then get stuck here poor woman.” He chuckled, made fun with hand gestures and walked away.

And there we were again!!!! All the big talks of Athiti Devo Bhava lay bare in front of Chlo. No matter how much you clean the city and endorse respecting humanity in front of the whole world, truth has a way to come to the surface. We felt naked in front of a person who came India for work and probably now will have a bad experience to narrate to people of her country. Situations like this can gnaw at your heart for a considerably long time. It was shameful. “If you can’t give hope then at least shut up.” Dyutima shouted at the top of her voice. While the man gave offensive looks as if he was abused.

Ratul kept moving from one place to another but everywhere he was shown the door with a remark “Ab kya kar sakte hai!” (What can be done now!) This remark was a cue that nothing can be done–you go now–do your own work– let us do ours– this woman will find her own way. In another 20 minutes we were caught in this whirlpool of flawed management. But, when a person is determined all cues go for a miss. I saw a remarkable comprehension of humanity in Ratul and Dyutima. Both of them refused to believe that there was no way out.

Ratul went to the customer support desk of Air India and argued for some time. “Please don’t repeat saying that nothing can be done. Of course something could be done. I want the phone number of airport manager.” I sensed restlessness in him. At last some ray of hope was seen when we got the number of Air Canada office. Alas, even that hope was being trampled upon mercilessly when the officials said that there is no facility of ISD calling from there. We kept inquiring that how do we call then. One of the staff said rudely, “Apne number se kar lo na call agar itna hi hai to.” (Call from your own number if you are so concerned). It was not the time to get into further loud bearish arguments so Ratul requested politely to guide regarding the phone call. Finally, we were asked to go downstairs.

Ratul asked Dyutima and me to wait as it was getting problematic to roam around with luggage. Chlo handed over her luggage to me and went with Ratul. Dyutima and I found a place to sit and waited in bated breath.

“Your boarding will start in another 1 hour. Aren’t you worried that you may miss your flight” I asked Dyutima looking at my watch.

“Yes I am worried, but you know didi I just don’t want Chlo to leave with a feeling that all Indians are uncooperative and awkward. I know eventually she will go, but I just want to stay for as long as I can. Change will come if we all at an individual level begin to change. Even my father says the same thing.”

I was amazed at the level of thoughtfulness she had at such a relatively young age.

“So didi what is your book about?” She asked with gleaming eyes.

“Ummm…it’s about eunuchs…transgender you can say…Its called The Paradox of Vantage Point. I am just rooting for a society in which all of us can peacefully co-exist without any kind of prejudice, and basically my story is about that.”

“Eunuch? Great I learnt a new word today. Someday I can even do my project on this topic because my subject is clinical psychology.”

“Of course you can. This is a good topic to explore.”

We plunged into an hour-long meaningful dialogue during which we spoke only about the solemn hope of making the world a better place in our own way, which was highly unlikely, considering two girls in their 20s were involved. On a normal day, you don’t see young people ditching their Facebook and latest shopping talks. Time was running fast. Dyutima was getting late for her boarding and so were we. I called up Ratul.

“Indrani I don’t know what is happening. She has called Air Canada and they have kept her for hold and she has discussed her problem already with 3 representatives, repeating the same story again and again. Now she is crying.”

“Ratul, Dyutima has to leave and so does we…I am worried.”

“I know..I know…But we can’t leave her midway crying like this…At least somebody has to take her responsibility. Her visa would expire tomorrow. Wait….somebody has responded to her..let me call you back.” He disconnected the phone. I kept urging Dyutima to leave, but she insisted to stay for 10 more minutes.

Finally the jigsaw puzzle started falling in place when I saw Ratul and Chlo coming out. A picture of happiness slowly started revealing itself.

He said smiling ear-to-ear .“Air Canada agreed to book her a ticket for midnight but she has to pay a certain amount, at least slightly lesser than the original amount.” It was the first time in those two hours when Chlo was smiling and we had emotions speaking through our moist eyes.

“I hope you have a safe journey and take care about connecting flights next time.” I advised.

We had a group hug. She folded her hands said “Namaste” and walked out.

I didn’t waste time in capturing the moment in my phone.


Ever heard that when there is a will, there is a way? Well, someone just did that in front of my eyes.

I whispered in Ratul’s ears, “From where do you draw strength for all this?”

“Just one thing—always place yourself in the shoes of the sufferer. What if we go to Canada someday and are mocked the same way in time of crisis. I don’t know whether Chlo had any fault in this, but at least a basic level of kindness and guidance could have helped that girl a lot.” He smiled.

We keep ranting about humanity and compassion all day on Facebook and Twitter. But, when it comes to practicing it in real life, very few Ratul and Dyutima come out in open. Very few show the grit to overcome the limitations of an ordinary conscience. The epidemic of apathy is slowly engulfing each one of us, and thus sadly we don’t have ‘time’ for anyone else. For me, I had seen two real people today who didn’t believe in diluting goodness. Thankfully I am living with one of them.

As we started walking towards our respective boarding gates Dyutima said, “I know why you clicked the picture. You are going to write about this. Right?”

“I am a writer. I am always in hunt of stories. But you two gave something more than story to me today.” I winked and signed off.

  1. praveen sharma says:

    अतिथि देबो भवा का मतलब आप लोगो ने सिद्ध किया हे।
    यह सब आप के ही कारण हुआ हे की बह अपनी मंजिल
    तक पहुँच सकी.. and now she is happy just because of you guys… 🙂

  2. Akshit Choudhary says:

    You guys are awesome. So many stories like these go unknown. This needs to be shown that people of India still believes and lives “Athiti Devo Bhav”. We will always have onlookers, by-passers and those who just want to pose like a hero but to get in the scene and to solve it takes real guts and empathy. Big claps for you guys!!

  3. Somya Mishra says:

    People like these are real gems…they showed the real meaning of ‘atithi devo bhav’….and hence proved that these are not just mere words rather should be proved by each and every Indian by there deeds. I m so blessed to have Dyutima Di as my you rock…proud of you and admire you even more..!!

  4. Ishtpreet says:

    I only have two comments: I love the way you capture emotions. Every line you write feels so real and I can relate to every bit of it! And bravo to Ratul and Dyutima..I am so proud..

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