I went to Kolkata with an upset tummy and returned with an upset husband. He had been very cheerful while we boarded the flight and the plane began to taxi. The air hostess started her routine, giving seat belt instructions and survival tips if the plane decided to take a dip into the ocean. My husband took a dip into his book when I asked him, “Where’s your briefcase?” I just remembered it wasn’t part of the hand luggage we had shoved into the overhead compartment.
He answered airily, “We checked it in,” and returned to his reading when what I said next made him forget his book for a long time. And that was some achievement. “We didn’t,” I persisted. “It was your carry-on baggage. Remember you left it unlocked because it would be with you?”
He turned ashen, clapped a hand to his mouth and jerked forward, straining his fastened seat belt and crashing back into his seat. “Oh no! I’ve left it behind! Where?” As he tried to figure that out, the plane accelerated and took off leaving his briefcase behind in Kolkata. “At the security check!” My husband exclaimed, looking aghast as he recalled his memory lapse.
He had forgotten to take it after the security check, having been pleased to collect his sling bag into which he had deposited his wallet, phone, pens and a notebook with a spiral spine, all guaranteed to beep if on his person. In fact, at the security check on our way to Kolkata, his pocket had behaved so much like an impromptu orchestra that on the return he had hit upon the idea of emptying his pockets into his shoulder bag before it was screened and, cock-a-hoop with its success, had completely forgotten his briefcase.
“What next?,” I asked. “No point informing the crew; no plane is going back for a briefcase unless it contained state secrets. And what’s in it?”
We racked our brains to recall the contents. Luckily my husband had emptied the case to accommodate the last minute shopping of the previous evening. So it didn’t have any important documents or cards. But it contained new silk saris, dress material, T shirts and a few knick knacks.
“So if we don’t recover it, we only lose these,” said my husband, looking relieved. “The saris!,” I cried in anguish.
During the flight we discussed the next course of action. I believed we would recover the case since my husband had chosen the best place in the airport to leave something behind – at the security check. Then I recalled that any abandoned piece of baggage is viewed with suspicion. “What if they immerse the case in water? Or something else?,” I was alarmed. “The saris!,” I cried out again. “They’ll be ruined.”
“Can you think only of saris?,” my husband snapped. The tension was getting to him. “One of them is your gift to me, that’s why,” I said and that mollified him.
We had more than five hours in Chennai before boarding the flight to Thiruvananthapuram. Earlier we had wondered how we would spend the time, but my husband’s ingenious briefcase plot took care of that. We explored the length and breadth of the airport putting in a few kilometres of brisk walking-cum hops, skips and jumps before learning what to do.
The airport manager, seeing my husband’s anxious face, reassured him, “Don’t look so worried, sir, you’ll get it back. Such things happen all the time.”
“‘Really?” Now my husband beamed, grateful he didn’t hold exclusive copyright for losing baggage.
The Lost and Found Department at Kolkata airport whom we called were close-lipped about the whereabouts of the briefcase but gave instructions on the procedure to follow in Thiruvananthapuram.
Once home, we revived our letter-writing skills what with the never-ending letters and e-mails we had to send to various addresses, describing the briefcase and its contents, all with scanned copies of the boarding pass and ID proof attached.
We also had endless calls to make and everyone wanted details. I was most relieved we had decent items inside the case and lauded my husband’s uncanny foresight that had made him remove his innerwear from it.
Lost and found
After many twists and turns in the plot in the next few days that would have done Jeffrey Archer proud, the briefcase, decorated all over with the Lost Property number, returned home. Bringing it in, my husband declared he wouldn’t leave the corporation limits again. Ignoring his loaded statement, I asked anxiously, “Are the saris intact?”
A fortnightly column by the city-based writer, academic and author of the Butterfingers series. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org