AI purser brings back diplomatic bag lost in crash that killed father


It was by pure chance that an Indian diplomatic bag that went down with an Air India aircraft that crashed in January 1966 was discovered in the French Alps last month. Now, in a remarkable coincidence, the bag has returned home in the custody of an Air India flight purser whose father died in that crash.

Chandan R Barooah said it was out of curiosity that he inquired about the bag handed over to him last week by an Indian embassy official in Paris, with the instruction that it was of "historic value". It was when he pressed for details, Barooah said, that the official told him that the bag was a remnant of the AI crash in which eminent nuclear scientist Homi J Bhabha had died.

Barooah said his eyes welled up; his father Ramesh Chandra Barooah had been an AI flight engineer on the plane, dying along with 116 others.

"It was all a matter of destiny... the remnants of that crash in my flight, that too in my custody," he told The Indian Express. Barooah's wife Dhiraj, a senior airhostess, was also on the flight. "We both kept talking about destiny," he said.

Barooah was 18 months old when his father, who was in his early thirties, passed away. He lived in Mumbai at the time, along with his mother and elder brother.

"After I joined AI, I tried several times to go to the spot where the crash is supposed to have taken place. Once, in the early eighties, I reached Italy and was on my way to that spot, but the weather turned hostile," he said, adding that he always wanted to join the national carrier emulating his father.

The faintly green diplomatic bag, with markings saying "diplomatic mail" and "Ministry of External Affairs", was recovered from Mont Blanc by a mountain rescue worker and his neighbour after some tourists spotted it on a glacier in August last week. Later, the Indian Embassy in Paris sent an official to retrieve the bag. It reached India a couple of days ago and was displayed by the MEA on Tuesday.

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