Free Champagne

I was on the first leg of a homeward journey, New York to Lost Angeles, when this misadventure started.

We had just reached cruising altitude and I was looking down at a patchwork quilt of brown summer fields and green forests far below, when suddenly our plane banked sharply and we were descending with great rapidity. An air hostess announced that we had encountered a problem which would necessitate our landing at a nearby airfield – her terse voice was a clear indication that something was very wrong! Ominously the pilot had dispensed with any attempts at reassuring pleasantries – from the cockpit only a foreboding silence!

Concern and speculation ran high and our fear grew when the pilots banked the plane steeply around and down – like a wounded moth fluttering to earth – in an obviously hurried attempt to reach terra firma – fast! We banged down hard and now, in the middle of a deserted runway, we were bundled out of the plane by an urgent crew and by soldiers who swarmed on board and whisked us to a nearby terminal. There we learned that someone had phoned in and announced that there was a 'device' on board – yes, a nasty one. Hour's later, after teams of high-tech security people and excited dogs had combed the aircraft and our luggage had been minutely searched, we were free to resume our journey.

ChampagneThe airline chivalrously offered to accommodate everyone overnight and organise a new flight the next day – of 200 original passengers, only seven or eight declined and opted to fly on. I phoned a friend from the terminal and asked them to try and speak with Sri Chinmoy in regard to my ongoing journey but the minutes ticked away and I was unable to learn of Guru's response in time. So I joined seven other brave souls and we resumed our journey, now in an almost empty plane and with apprehension in our heart. Outnumbered by airline crew we were deluged with consoling food and drinks – and cartloads of free champagne were endlessly wheeled up and down the aisle to assuage our fears.

Resolutely abstinent, this grim teetotaler was only chanting the Supreme's name and invoking his Guru's protection as the slow and fearful journey unfolded. And I never did find out what Sri Chinmoy's response had been or whether he had ever learned of my unpleasant predicament.

    – Jogyata.