Guardian Angel in the form of a co-passenger


 Guardian Angel in the form of a co-passenger 

 I was offered a medical officer’s job by Mr.Mbadiwe, the chief of the Community Hospital, near Orlu, Imo State, Nigeria, contract exchanged, visa to Nigeria and ticket advice sent to Air India Ernakulum, Kerala, India. Mr.Mbadiwe had promised to send a representative to receive me at Lagos airport. Those days communication to Nigeria, through phone was impossible and the postal correspondence used to take two to four weeks. I posted a letter showing my arrival details to Mr.Mbadiwe, at least two weeks prior to my departure date. My parents bid farewell at Cochin Airport and I boarded my first flight on 29/07/1976. That was a small 50 seater Fokker Friendship aircraft bound to Bombay(then). My cousin, Kochu Devassy met me in Santa Cruz airport, and I got accommodation in nearby Centaur Hotel. The Nairobi bound flight was early morning of 30/07/1976. Then I was a stranger to all the departure formalities like immigration, customs and security. I boarded the wide bodied Boeing 707 aircraft of Air India and got a window seat. I introduced myself to the the passenger who sat next to me.His name was Kannan from Trichy, Tamil Nadu, who was working in a cotton mill in Lagos. Through out the journey he gave me good company.In Nairobi, we stayed together in the same luxury hotel. I was told that it is worth seeing Nairobi National Park, a wild life sanctuary. I did not have enough money to buy the ticket, as in those days Reserve Bank of India only allowed $8.00 per overseas passenger. To my delight, Kannan advanced me the ticket fare to visit the park. That was an adventurous trip in a reinforced four wheel drive vehicle, where predator animals came close by. I witnessed the life of wild animals in their natural habitat. I felt Nairobi was much cooler than India, and the hotel authorities warned us about the robbers snatching anything precious and running away. I left Nairobi by Pan American  Airlines flight and the the flight was very pleasant. As the plane started descending for Lagos airport, I was a little perturbed about meeting the representative of the community hospital.  I arrived in the Lagos airport on 31/07/1976, cleared immigration and customs and collected my baggage. I went out and waited for a while,but I could not see the representative as promised. I did not know what to do next, as in those days there was no credit card facility, and I did not have enough Naira for a taxi journey. Kannan noticed my uneasiness,and I explained to him my predicament. He invited me to stay in their bachelors accommodation at Apapa, part of Lagos. That was really a god send and I felt very relieved. Kannan flagged a taxi and we both reached the accommodation shared by eight people. There was a Keralite among the eight, a  Nair, with whom I kept good friendly relationship throughout my five year Nigerian life. These occupants in the company accommodation, work in the cotton mill in shifts, and all of them were not there when I arrived there. Next day, Nair took me to the Lagos office of my employer. There I met Oguchukwu,the secretary to Mr.Mbadiwe, who apologised to me for the inconvenience and mentioned that he has not received my letter.He arranged for my accommodation in an international hotel, called Mainland Hotel, at Surulere. I borrowed some Naira from Oguchukwu,and bought a present for Kannan. I went with Oguchukwu to the accommodation, Ogochukwu thanked Kannan and others for giving me abode the previous night. I also expressed my sincere gratitude, gave back the money Kannan had lent and gave him the present. After a few days, I hosted a dinner for Kannan and Nair at Mainland Hotel. I realised, that in Nigeria, things did not move fast and the people are laid back. I still remember vividly, the generosity and compassion of a stranger in my hour of need,and my guardian angel came in guise of Kannan.

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