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Adventure of the lost suitcase (based on a true story)


I looked at myself with great pride as I saw a glimpse of myself on the reflection of the showcase in which I stood. I was in a swanky store in the heart of London along with my fellow mates who were all products of the same batch. However, I knew that I stood out. Firstly, I was tall and big, and I knew that in my profession, size mattered. Secondly, I was sturdy and strong, made of a special poly fiber material with four wheels and a strolley handle which looked really very stylish. Thirdly, I had a beautiful color and an artistic pattern on me. I was a mix of purple, lilac, mauve and pink which made me look outstanding. I kept waiting, like a little puppy, wondering who would come and pick me up and give me a “home”. But I knew I would have a very important job at hand. Though I was beautiful, I was not supposed to be an ornamental piece to be kept in the corner of a house. I would be travelling with my Keeper and would have a major responsibility of carrying all their essentials within me, very safely, wherever they would travel. Gosh, that sounded fun. It meant that I too would get to see the world! I just couldn’t wait to get out of the showcase.

That’s me!

And finally, I found my “Big Sister”! She looked at me delightfully and it was “love at first sight”. Big Sis was a globe trotter and she wanted a confident travel partner. She stroked me and was mesmerized by the pattern and the colors on my body which reminded her of the Cosmic Universe. I felt equally proud to be chosen by her. I said my good byes to all my fellow mates who wished me good luck for my future. I was awestruck by the sights and sounds of the streets of London as I gallantly walked out of the showroom.

Very soon, Big Sis packed me up with all her precious belongings and it was time to fly with her to India. I also eavesdropped on conversations about going to somewhere in Africa soon. This sounded exciting though I didn’t have the least idea of where in Africa we would be going. But it was clear that I would be travelling a lot. Soon I found myself in the airport where there were thousands of people, all holding on to their own suitcases tightly. Big Sis was holding me too, and hence I had no worries at all. But little did I realize that very soon, I would be separated from my Keeper, and would be huddled with all the other hundreds of suitcases, thrown to a moving belt which was like a roller coaster ride, and this made me so giddy that I almost felt nauseated. This was followed by another ride on a little trolley train and then I got to see this huge majestic aircraft where we would be flying to India. We were dumped into the cargo section of the aircraft and it was dark and dingy. I wish I could have peeped out of a window.

I realized that I would be in this section for another couple of hours, so I should make friends with my new fellow mates and make ourselves comfortable. After all, we were all separated from our Keepers temporarily and we needed to boost up each other’s spirits. After a long eight hours, we all happily landed in Delhi. It was so good to get a breath of fresh air as the cargo section opened and we were hurriedly put on the trolley train which took us to another conveyer belt and “lo and behold”! There was Big Sis waiting to receive me with open arms. What a moment of reunion!! Delhi was an interesting city with lots and lots of people. The atmosphere was however grey and dull and I saw many people with masks on their faces. We stayed in Delhi for three days and very soon it was time for our next flight which would take us to Guwahati, Assam. I initially did have some pangs of separation anxiety because I knew that once again, I would be separated from Big Sis during the flight. But I decided that I should get used to this soon and this was going to be a part of my travel diaries. This time, to my utter delight, the flight was of a much shorter duration and in less than three hours we were at Guwahati.

I learnt that Guwahati was the native place of Big Sis and oh what a beautiful land this was! Lush green hills and valleys, this was a land of beautiful people. Very soon, we were home and I was so delighted to meet the entire Family. The highlight was meeting Rusty Fusty, the pet dog, and it was so touching to see their reunion. Rusty Fusty jumped upon me too, and was sniffing me all over, trying to get familiar with my smell. Apparently, I got to learn that dogs generally have an unusual fascination for suitcases.

Guwahati, Assam, India… The land of lush green hills and valleys on the banks of the Mighty River Brahmaputra

I spent the next one month at home and was nicely positioned in a corner of the dining hall which gave me a good view of the entire family. Very soon, Big Sis started getting busy buying and gathering stuff and packing me up. Little things and big things got inside me. There were clothes, shoes, an induction stove, a pressure pan, strings and ropes, tool kits, medicines and toiletries and a whole lot of interesting food stuff from spices to noodles to dry fruits. There was a mosquito net, bedsheet and a comforter too. This looked like a long interesting trip. I was so excited. I would once again be seeing a new destination and may be a faraway land.

It was soon time to bid goodbye to the family and very soon we were off. I realized that I also had company this time and I felt happy. There was another smaller green colored suitcase who was travelling with me. Big Sis also had a Ukulele with her. This meant that there would be sing-song times.

At Guwahati Airport, I was lovingly handed over to the ground staff of the Airlines and they put several stickers upon me. My chest swelled with pride. I felt really important to have so many badges and stickers upon me. My partner also had similar stickers stuck upon her and soon we found ourselves on a roller coaster ride on a conveyer belt. We were then loaded to a very fancy aircraft called Vistara, which was purple, gold and white. I have a personal love for purple, which is my color too. This time I wasn’t scared. I had company and I was kind of getting used to this. I knew that very soon I would be united with Big Sis.

We soon flew up to the skies and sailed on for about three hours. I only wished there was a window to peep out and watch the Earth from up above. But never mind, I thought. Maybe this was a good chance to catch up on my sleep.

As we landed, I realized that we were in a familiar place. It was Delhi again. I would soon meet Big Sis. But things didn’t turn out the way I had expected. Me and the little green suitcase were suddenly off loaded from the trolley train and kept in a separate corner, instead of going to the conveyer belt. It was a rude shock. I wondered why this happened. It was cold and the night was foggy. I could hardly see a thing. Did they forget us? Soon, someone came and picked us up and put us on a different conveyer belt. We were once again on another bumpy ride and then were dumped to another trolley-train and were sent racing across to a very large aeroplane on which was written Ethiopian Airlines. Thank God that little green suitcase was with me and we had each other for company.

Finally, the big aircraft took off and we were up in the air. So finally, Africa… we come! We gradually settled down and this went on to be a very long flight through the night. After several hours of flying, we eventually landed on earth. It was morning or afternoon and a bright and sunny day outside. I just loved the breeze as we were being off loaded. It felt like a tropical country and yes, I realized that we were somewhere in Africa. It turned out to be Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

The big Aircraft which brought us to Africa

Finally, I was waiting to be united with Big Sis. But it seemed that fate had other plans. Addis Ababa was only meant to be a transit halt, which meant that we were now supposed to be loaded on another connecting flight. While me and the little green suitcase were parked in the middle of the runway, amidst huge aircrafts and massive commotions, someone came towards us, picked up the little green suitcase and went off. I thought they would soon come and take me too. But I waited and waited and waited and nobody came. After several hours, someone came, looked at my labels and badges, shouted some instructions and pushed off. I felt so lost and lonely. I was absolutely traumatized. Finally, late in the evening, someone came and picked me up and took me to a very large hall where I saw hundreds of other suitcases of all shapes and sizes. It almost looked like a detention camp. I was dumped into the hall and squeezed between some other suitcases. The door of the hall was shut and we were left to ourselves. I was left with so many strange suitcases. I was sad. I was lonely. Where was Lil Green Suitcase? Where was Big Sis? Why was I locked up here?

In the corner of the room I saw a security guard. He was sitting on a chair, pouring over a register and a computer screen. He was probably our guard. I felt extremely miserable. Something was not right. I later came to know that I was in the “Lost Luggage Section” of Addis Ababa Airport. The next morning, the door opened and my heart skipped a beat. I saw that many suitcases were identified, picked up, relabeled and taken out. They were probably going to be reunited with their respective Keepers. I was hoping that they would pick me up too, but it didn’t happen. Some new suitcases came in. This process continued for days together, but nobody came to pick me up. I was lost, lonely and forgotten. I was on the verge of giving up hope. But I kept chanting my prayers. I was not going to give up on my hope. In difficult times, hope can be the only thing that can keep you going. After 4-5 days, I was picked up and taken out. I was thrilled to bits. They ultimately found my Big Sis, I thought. But my joy was short-lived. I was taken near an aircraft, but again rejected and sent back to the big hall. I realized that I no longer had any labels on me now. How would they even identify me? These were the saddest days of my life. I wondered what Big Sis was doing. How was she managing without me and without her essentials? I was literally carrying all her survival tools. Was she missing me? Was she even looking for me?

By this time, I realized that my position in the hall had changed and I was pushed to a dark corner of the hall. Many more new suitcases came in and they were placed in the forefront. They hardly stayed for a day or two and were moved out of the hall very soon. With each passing day, my chances of reuniting with Big Sis became slimmer and slimmer. I didn’t have many friends because the new ones came and went out very fast. Though I was extremely sad, I tried to adjust in the circumstances, prayed constantly, never lost Faith and believed in the power of the Universe.

And then one fine day, a miracle happened. It was exactly eighteen days since I was lost. The door of the hall opened and in walked five or six uniformed officials of Ethiopian Airlines who looked like very, very senior people. The security guard at the door was almost trembling with fear as he was being questioned.

I heard a few random words being spoken by them like “Purple Suitcase”, “ Big”, “Juba”, “Delhi”, “Mahanta”, “UN” and I leaped with joy. There were sentences like “The CEO of Ethiopian Airlines wants an immediate and urgent explanation on this matter”. As I controlled my excitement, the security person immediately started walking down the hall through all the baggages, picking and rejecting some on the way. I almost wished I could jump or squeal to make my presence felt. What if he does not notice me? I stood with confidence and pride and soon he saw me and had his hands on me. Oh, what a relief! I almost wept with joy. The team of officials ordered opening of the suitcase and verifying its contents to their satisfaction. Once they were satisfied, I heard that I was to board the next flight to Juba, the capital of South Sudan. I presumed that was where Big Sis was, and she was probably waiting desperately for me. Did this matter really reach the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines? Big Sis must have moved mountains to make this happen.

I was never more excited to board a flight, than I was now. This time it was a three-hour flight and I waited with anticipation. We soon landed in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

Flying over somewhere in Africa

As I was off loaded from the flight on a warm December morning and placed on a conveyer belt, I saw the first glimpse of Big Sis waiting for me with a huge smile on her face, and squealed and literally jumped with joy when she saw me, until her colleagues had to calm her down. As she got me off the conveyer belt, we hugged for the longest time that I could remember. She embraced me, patted me, caressed me and checked to see if I was hurt in any way, while her colleagues and other bystanders even applauded at the reunion.

We were now heading for the UN Compound in Tomping, Juba, and how happy I was! In fact, I was told that the entire camp was gearing up for celebrations and jubilations in honor of my arrival. I felt so privileged.

The Happy Reunion after 18 days!

And yes, we celebrated, we danced, we sang and it was the happiest day of my life. Big Sis played the Ukulele and sang songs under a starry night and I was finally at peace. I was overjoyed to meet Lil Green Suitcase who stood strongly by Big Sis in this hour of crisis. Tonight, while the UN camp members rejoiced with Big Sis, I peacefully slept dreaming of big aircrafts, conveyer belts, officials of Ethiopian Airlines and ultimately, a delightful reunion with my Keeper.

Note: This article is based on a true story of a lost luggage and its retrieval by the staff and members of Ethiopian Airlines at the end of two weeks. We are grateful to Mr. Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, whose personal attention and intervention into the matter, made it possible for recovery of the luggage of Ms. Rhea Mahanta, Civil Affairs Officer, UNMISS in December 2019. Although the story is based on facts, the narrative is entirely based on assumptions. There is no intention to hurt any personal feelings to any staff or Airlines personnel. We are grateful to each and every staff whose endevour helped in retrieving the lost suitcase.The endless email correspondences and frantic telephonic calls to and from Ethiopian Airlines, Vistara Airlines, Delhi Airport, Juba Airport and Addis Ababa Airport, though might have seemed frustrating at some point, eventually contributed to a Happy Ending.

All that happened behind the scene to find me

Motto : Never give up Hope. If you want something, you may have to move mountains, but the Universe answers your prayers in a way, which is nothing short of a miracle.

Published by neelakshimahanta

I believe in celebrating life as it comes and living in the moment. Times are neither good nor bad. It is what we make out of it. If we are blissful, we will make the best out of it.

11 thoughts on “Adventure of the lost suitcase (based on a true story)

  1. What a truly delightful tale! Filled with joy, fear and hope. It was hilarious to read that she came out of the aircraft in Delhi and breathed in “fresh air”.:)) Hats off to your endless persistence!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So lively narrated Baidew with beautiful photographs. Your beautiful description makes the event able to visualize moments of joy, hope and sorrow.


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