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They Couldn’t Celebrate Their 20th Anniversary

Woman recalls how she had pestered her husband to come home a day earlier. But he could not reschedule his ticket and had to board the ill-fated flight

Deepthi Sridhar

Bangalore: For Shaheen (37), the text message her husband Rafiq Ahmed (47), an employee of a Dubai-based firm, sent her on April 25 last year is still haunting her. The message said, ‘Meri Jaan, mera flight 21 May night 12.50 ko hai. 22 May morning ko 6 baje, Mangalore Bajpe airport me miloonga Insha Allah flight number IX-812’. (Dear, my flight is on May 21 night and I will meet you at Bajpe airport on May 22 morning).

File photo of Shaheen and Rafeeque

The meeting, however, never happened as the plane Rafiq was flying in crashed on landing at the airport, killing 158 people. Her husband was one of the ill-fated passengers.

 

Recalling the text message she received, Shaheen said she was pestering Rafiq to advance the journey by a day as May 20 was their 20th wedding anniversary and she wanted her husband to be with her on that day. She said, “Since the company had given the ticket, he was not willing to advance the journey because he felt that would mean a blackmark in his career. What will happen in one day? he had asked me.”

Shaheen, who stays in an apartment at Highland near Falnir in Bangalore, along with her children Rahil Ahmed (17), Rafat Nasheen (15) and Noorain (10), said Rafiq used to come home every year. On the ill-fated day, she, along with her children, left for the airport at around 5.30 am to receive her husband. She had prepared his favourite dishes – idli and chicken chilli.

On the way to the airport, near Kenjar where the plane had crashlanded – they saw clouds of smoke, but did not pay much attention as the family was excited about Rafiqs arrival. It was only on reaching the airport did they realise the plane that Rafiq was in had crashed.

Shaheen last spoke to her husband after he cleared the immigration procedure at Dubai airport. Rafiq told her had purchased a lot of gifts such as digital camera, mobile phones and chocolates and he would gift them to his children during their journey back home from the airport.

Even now, Shaheen fasts for her husband’s well-being every Thursday the way she used to before the tragedy. She has given up idli and chicken chilli after his death. “Since morning, I have been thinking of him. If he were alive, we would be celebrating our 21st anniversary on May 20,” she said.

Shaheen has still preserved all the greeting cards Rafiq had presented her on their wedding anniversary. “Every year on Valentine’s Day, I used to send him a shirt. On his return to Bangalore every year, he would wear it.”

On learning that the aircraft had crashed, people from her apartment rushed to the airport to meet Shaheen. On realising that most passengers had died, they wanted to know the colour of the clothes that Rafiq was wearing so they could identify the body. She told them he had worn a blue-coloured shirt (the one she gifted him on Valentines Day). They called up her relatives who saw him off at Dubai and confirmed he was indeed wearing the same shirt.

The family had planned a holiday in Ooty in the last week of May and a trip to Dubai the next year.

Shaheen said she was the first person whose compensation was cleared by Air India. Air India officials were touched when they saw the greeting cards and the SMS that Rafiq had sent her. “Though I am not every happy with the compensation amount received, I decided not to join families who have moved the international court demanding rightful compensation,” she said.

Source: Bangalore Mirror

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