Airline Lunches –
I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight to Delhi.
‘I’m glad I have a good book to read Perhaps I will get a short sleep,’ I thought.
Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation.
‘Where are you guys headed?’ I asked the Young man seated nearest to me. “Agra. We’ll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we’re being deployed for operations.”
After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that lunches were available on payment. It would be several hours before we reached Delhi , and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time..
As I reached for my wallet, I overheard a soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. ‘No, that cost a lot of money, probably wouldn’t be worth it. I’ll wait till we get to Delhi ….”
His buddy agreed.
I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant enough money to cover for 10 lunches and told her ‘Take a lunch to all those soldiers..’
She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. ‘My young brother was a soldier in Kargil , it’s almost like you are doing it for him..’
Picking up ten lunchboxes, she headed up the aisle to where the boys were seated.
She stopped at my seat and asked, ‘Which do you like best – Veg or chicken?’
‘Chicken,’ I replied, wondering why she asked..
She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class. “This is your thanks”.
After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room. An old man stopped me. ‘I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.’ He handed me a Rs 500/- note.
Soon after I returned to my seat,
I saw the Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he wasn’t looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand, and said, ‘I want to shake your hand.’
Quickly unfastening my seat-belt I stood and took the Captain’s hand. With a booming voice he said, ‘I was an Air Force pilot a long time back. Once someone bought me lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.’ I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers.
Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A kid who looked about 18 was sitting about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. I felt him stick a currency note in my palm.
When we landed I gathered my belongings and started to depart. Waiting just inside the aeroplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word.
Another currency note !
Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their Trip up to their training area.. I walked over to them and handed them all the currency notes that was given to me on the flight and said. ‘It will take you some time to reach your training area. It will be about time for a sandwich. May God Bless You.’ and thank you for doing whatever you do.
Ten young men of honour left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow countrymen. As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of meals.
It seemed so little…
A Serviceman is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank cheque made payable to ‘ India ‘ for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.’
That is Honour, and there are way too many people in this country who don’t understand it………….