Life lessons from 1966 Mont Blanc crash : The Tribune India

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Life lessons from 1966 Mont Blanc crash

Life lessons from 1966 Mont Blanc crash

Photo for representational purpose only. iStock file photo

RK Saboo

EVERY year, I recall a tragic incident that happened in 1966 when Air India Flight 101 crashed into Mont Blanc in France on January 24. All 117 people on board were killed, including Homi Bhabha, an eminent nuclear physicist from India.

The young son of our friends, Gen Kulwant Singh and Teji, was among those who died in that mishap. A few days before the incident, Gen Kulwant passed away due to a severe heart attack. Their only son, who was studying in London, came to India for the funeral. He was returning to the UK when tragedy struck.

I am fortunate to be alive because I was supposed to be on that flight. I was scheduled to attend a meeting at the Groz-Beckert headquarters in Germany. Mahendra Jhawar, a friend of mine, and I decided to spend two days in Beirut before boarding the Air India flight from there.

The day before the flight, on a whim, I called Mahendra and we decided to visit Beirut later. Every member of my family was aware that on the fateful day, I would be travelling on an Air India plane.

Those days, only landline phones and telex facilities were available. Early in the morning on January 24, I received a call from the Groz-Beckert managing director, who told me about the mishap.

My parents and brother in Calcutta heard of the crash on the radio. They were distraught, having no information that I had changed my itinerary. My wife Usha quickly informed them that I was safe. Among my family, friends and business associates, there was an overwhelming sense of relief, joy and thankfulness to God. There were celebrations and prayers. Prasad and donations were handed out to the needy.

Boeing 707 was scheduled to land in Geneva, Switzerland, but it crashed moments before that. According to the investigation, the pilot, believing that he had crossed the ridge leading to the summit and that the plane was at a height that provided adequate clearance over Mont Blanc, continued his descent. There was suspicion of sabotage as Bhabha was aboard the flight, but it was dispelled.

I often ponder whether my life was saved by my good fortune, my parents’ blessings, my friends’ best wishes, my wife’s prayers or just my instinct that made me miss that flight. My two sons, who were three and eight years old at the time, were unaware of what was going on. However, the thought of what might have happened to them in my absence made me tremble.

I realised the fleeting nature of life. I learned a very important lesson from that crash — every day is a gift. Make the most of the ‘here and now’ because that’s all you have.

#Air India #France

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