24th December 1999 felt like any other ordinary winter day. I was still a student of medicine then in my final year. Late in the evening I saw the news flash on T.V. – An Indian airplane IC 814 headed for New Delhi from Kathmandu ,had been hijacked after take-off. It was carrying 176 passengers and a crew of fifteen on board .There were families coming back home with young children ,newly wed honeymooners , old people –the fate of all hung by a slender thread of hope.
For the next three days , we set glued to our TVs , meanwhile the passengers were starved , beaten and harassed by the hijackers .The pilot tried to seek help from various ATCs in Amritsar, Lahore and Dubai where the airbus was forced to land by the hijackers .Finally in Dubai ,after continuous negotiations by the Indian government a few critically ill passengers and women were allowed to un-board. But the other passengers were not shown any mercy.
A young couple along with their baby daughter , who also happened to be our neighbors ,were a part of that unfortunate flight .They had gone to Kathmandu for a family vacation and were now stuck in mid –air with their tormentors .Our whole neighborhood was restless for their release and safety, we kept tuned in to our radios and TVS to get any news of the whole drama. Every evening when back from college I would enquire about the happenings of the day and we would pray to God for their safe release. I hardly knew them by face , yet I could feel a connection .They were innocent citizens of this country .Their lives were at stake , they were in living hell for no fault of theirs.
Our whole colony had a tradition of celebrating Christmas and New year on a grand scale .The children would collect money from all households for organizing the function . We would practice for days for the New year celebrations , preparing small skits , songs, choreographing dance sequences and so on .Every household would get a list of menu to choose from , and each one would contribute one food item for the New year eve’s dinner party .That year too ,preparations had been in full swing for our Christmas party , but the news of the stranded family had left no desire for celebrations .That was a black Christmas for the whole neighborhood .We could only imagine the plight of the baby girl , who thankfully had her family by her side on that black Christmas to give her hope .May be being there for each other amidst utter chaos was the only silver lining in that dark cloud that was keeping them alive.
Later ,we heard horror stories of the stench, the cold and the utter darkness they had tolerated for days.
So Christmas also went by and everybody was losing any hope of their safe return .Their old grandmother Ija ( a form of address for the Grandmother) was distressed and besides herself with worry. She had not eaten a proper meal for days now and her health too was deteriorating.
Finally on the New year eve ,as my family sat down to dinner in glum silence, news of the release of the hostages was aired .I was literally jumping up and down , shouting all over the place .We all hugged each other and rushed to congratulate Ija on the safe release of her family.
My joy knew no bounds and I thanked God for his grace , for being the shining light in our hearts ,even in the darkest of times when we thought we were alone and helpless .That day reaffirmed my faith in all things positive .You are a winner if you think like one , and a loser if you lose the battle in your thoughts. Being positive and never losing your optimism is the key to living a life of fulfilment.
“Optimism is the Faith that leads to Achievement, Nothing can be done without Hope and Confidence”- Hellen Keller .
This post is my contribution to BlogChatter’s initiative #CauseAChatter to spread awareness about #MentalHealth