Luck by Chance: Inspired by True Incidents

January 12, 2024


Dr Pritham handed Subhash, his new receptionist his employment visa. He took out his wallet and gave him 200 dirhams. and said “You get awesome ‘gaaz’ in Iran. Get me a kilo of Gaaz from Kish”. “Yes sir” he said gratefully and placed the visa and the money in his bag. He had to exit and enter UAE with the employment visa.

“I will pick you from the airport tomorrow”. Said Dr Preetham. Subhash wondered why his employer wanted gas from Iran. Probably it was cheaper there. Subhash was excited. He put the money in his wallet and thanked Dr Pritham for the employment that would change his fortune forever. He could finally pay back all the loans made in attempts to reach Dubai. Unscrupulous agents had duped him in his attempts to realise the Middle Eastern dream. Subhash had mortgaged his house and managed to get a visit visa to Dubai. With his father dead and gone long ago, as the eldest brother it was his mission to get his two younger sisters married off. Though a graduate, he could not find a job that could keep his body and soul together let alone the rest of his dependent family. This job was a godsend. He packed a pair of clothes and a few essentials for a day’s stay in Kish.

He settled into his small room allotted to him by the travel agent in a decrepit hotel in Kish. He looked out. It was getting dark. His return flight was at next morning. He had to be at the airport by at least 6.30 a.m.

Subhash set out to buy that one thing his employer had asked for. He could not disappoint Dr Preetham. He had seen the twinkle in the doctor’s eyes when he had shown his extraordinary interest in the ‘Gaaz’. “Iranian ‘gaaz’ is exceptionally good. Just a kilo or maximum two kilos. Easily fits into your bag.” He had said pointing to his bag. Subhash hurried out of the hotel with his air India bag hanging on his shoulder. He held the bag securely to make sure no one flicked it from him in a foreign land. He ventured out in search of ‘gas’. He went from shop to shop in search of ‘gas’. He walked for two hours searching for ‘gas’ that would fit into his bag. Everyone directed him to shops of huge gas cylinders. He wondered how he could carry a gas cylinder back to Dubai. That was impossible. It was quite dark, and the streets were poorly lit. Finally, an old man directed him to a shop where gas cylinders of all sizes were displayed.

Subhash picked a small cylinder that fit into his Air India bag. He thought it strange that his employer wanted a gas cylinder from Iran. Subhash did not want to displease his employer. Probably it was the rotund small cylinder. His employer was a travel freak. Probably he wanted it for camping out. The good doctor knew what he wanted. He smiled in his sound sleep till daybreak with the satisfaction of securing a decent job and for succeeding in his first assignment!

Dr Preetham waited for Subhash at the arrival terminus. His mouth watered at the sweet ‘gaaz’ Subhash would bring. Dr Preetham’s gastronomical juices were activated, and he swallowed a mouthful of drool the moment he thought of the sweet made of the sap from Persian manna, egg whites, mixed with pistachios, aromatic rose water, garnished with roasted crisp pieces of almonds. No wonder it was called ‘manna o Salwa’—the heavenly gift. Dr. Preetham wondered why Subhash had not yet reached the arrival exit. Everyone in that flight would have walked out of the terminal. Where was Subhash?

He waited impatiently for Subhash to appear at the arrival. On other occasions he would have sent his driver to fetch is new employees. But having his express wish to savour the authentic ‘gaaz’ he drove all the way from his clinic in Al Karama to fetch Subhash at the airport. No, no to fetch his ‘gaaz’.

Finally, there he was. Subhash, held the air India bag with the courteous smiling Maharaja tucked tightly under his arm. He held it with the other hand carefully as if he held a secret only to be revealed to Dr, Preetham. As soon as he reached the car, Dr. Preetham could no longer hold his desire to taste the ‘gaaz’.

As the Prado picked speed out of the terminal and towards Deira City Centre Dr Preetham asked “Subhash. Did you get the ‘gaaz’?

“Yes sir, yes sir, in my bag!”

“Thank you, Subhash,” he said, “ever since I have tasted ‘Gaaz’ it has remained my favourite sweet.”,

“Here it is sir” Subhash opened the bag and held out the little gas cylinder!!

Dr. Sunil almost fainted. He choked on his drool as he held his hand to his heartl!

Next moment he pressed the emergency stop signal and jammed the brakes by the hard shoulder. The car stopped with a screech.

“How the hell did you manage to get past the security in Kish and in Dubai. How did come out in one piece?” Dr. Preetham screamed as he wiped the sweat from his pale face… he imagined a convoy of armoured vehicles following him.

The next moment he stepped on the accelerator……………….



William called out to his wife “Asha, have you kept my handbag ready?”. His wife Asha came running to him with the heavy bag. “Yes yes” she said.

“What is in your hand? Why have you not put it in the bag?” he asked. Asha said. “This is for the doctor’s wife. This wouldn’t go in the bag. I will put it in your cabin luggage.” she said and pushed the packet deep into the hand bag.

Dr. Preetham’s wife had called him and ordered him to bring dry chillies, tamarind, and a few other things. He could not refuse.

“Everything is available in Dubai. I don’t understand why these Mangalorean employers carry chillies, tamarind, and pickles from here. They even take dry fish as if it is not available. If they could eat dry fish and rice, why go to the gulf? When they come here, they carry things from there as if the food in our town gets stuck in their throat. When they are abroad, they want Indian things. We are the mules to carry things according to their wishes” he kept grumbling.

Asha smiled at him and said “yes. They are your masters. Do as they say. Don’t forget to unpack as soon as you reach. I have also packed some frozen ‘Kane’ (lady fish).”

“All this is the outcome of my illiteracy” he cursed himself as he smacked his head. He thought of that fateful day when his village schoolteacher beat him up black and blue barely three years into school. William hid in the cashew grove for a year absent from the school. He would eat berries and other available fruits. Though he missed his free midday meal, he would sit on the cashew tree branches till it was time for him to return home in the evening. After his mother discovered her son being truant, she beat him up to her heart’s content. With a worthless drunkard for a husband and five more mouths to feed, seeing no hope in William she pulled him by his hand and took him to a local hotel to wash dishes. She left him there to fend for himself. Moving from hotel to hotel he washed dishes for food and lodging. Finally, he landed up in Mumbai. Though he lost a lot of money on unscrupulous agents, he finally managed to go to Dubai. After a few years, he married Asha. He decided to stay on in Bantwal. His father-in-law sent him right back to Dubai. The only reason he had agreed to marry off his college educated daughter to William was because he was in the gulf. His visits once in two years produced three children over a few years, two boys and a girl.

His visits produced a lot of anxiety to Asha and the children. Asha had managed to maintain a loving home to her children, carefully spending the money he would send her. Her dream was to give enough education their children. Yet his simple mind worked out reems and reels of his wife enjoying in town while her husband toiled away on foreign shores. He would send her just enough for them to make ends meet.

William was a terror in the house and would make life hell for all of them when he was on vacation. Chocolates left a bitter taste in the children’s mouth within a day or two of his arrival. Compensating for all the lost time at home, he would spew venom on her and punish the children for imaginary offences they might commit in future. He would taunt her “I work there in that heat and feed you and your brood. God knows who they are born to”.

His children had never seen a loving father in him. His kids would see two months of fights, beating. Once in two years, they waited patiently for the day he left for work. Asha wishes they should never be like their father. Illiterate and insensible.

After working abroad for over 20 years he said to himself “When will I live my life here in my own town? I have wandered enough”. He was tired of working in the extreme climates. He decided to hang up his shoes. A house was already built not far from where his mother and brothers lived. A little money was put away in the bank too.

Within a day or two of his arrival everyone kept asking the customary question “When are you going back”?

When his elderly neighbour Norbert asked him, as usual “William, when is the ticket back to Dubai”?

William said in a rather vexed tone defiantly, “I’m not going back anymore”.

“haaa” Norbert’s interest turned into a long loathing groan. He was also tired of all the domestic squabbles as at times he had to stop things from getting out of hand in his neighbour’s house.

News of him planning to settle down in town quickly reached the local priest. Fr. Thomas convinced him to go back to the gulf. “Your children have grown up, there is education and their future to take care of. What will you do here after you return, you are still young” William was convinced. He could see expenses were mounting. Moreover, William could sense a general feeling all over the town that everyone including his wife and children wanted him away.

“They want my money. They don’t want me” he said to himself in a sad resigned tone.

He called Dr Preetham and asked if he could return to work for him. Dr. Preetham was more than happy to take him back.

He said “call the driver, he will come to pick you at the airport”

The driver picked him from the airport and dropped him at his residence in Al Ghusias.

The doctor’s wife Smitha was having her lunch. William unpacked the things she had asked him to bring from Mangalore. Chillies, tamarind, dry baby shrimps, dried mangoes, pickle… William remembered something. He ran and fetched his bag to the dining room and opened it. He brought out a packet of ‘KhusKhus (poppy seeds). About half a kilo.

Smitha let out a loud croak! It took her a while to swallow the piece of carrot stuck in her throat the moment, she saw the transparent plastic packet in William’s hand.

She asked him “Who gave this to you, you fool?” she asked bewildered.

“Madam, My wife”

Smitha said “Poor Asha. She wouldn’t know. But didn’t you know even after working in the gulf for so long? Had the customs caught you, you would have died in the jail. Didn’t you know that?” she was vexed.

Smitha explained to him why the favoured condiment that made mutton dishes delicious was considered and banned as a drug in the Middle East. She explained to him the consequences too.

William listening with an open mouth. How could he not know?

A nagging thought crossed his mind and he shivered when he wondered. “Did Asha know?”

With the packet still in his hand, he was not sure whether he was relieved that he was not caught at the airport.



At Dubai airport, after checking in, Dr. Preetham picked his boarding pass, completed his immigration check and walked straight into the VIP lounge. He placed his backpack and his laptop on the table. There was an intercontinental breakfast spread in an adjacent hall. Dr. Preetham got up and returned with a croissant, a set of sandwiches and a cup of coffee.

He had a good two hours before he could board the Emirates flight in terminal 1 at Dubai airport. He opened his laptop and started to work on it. He was giving some finishing touches to his paper presentation at the international conference on Cardiology next day. Oblivious to his surrounding he was immersed in his laptop.

“Excuse me is this chair taken?”. He heard a mellow voice. An assortment of perfumes filled his nose. It was difficult to decide whether it was Bvlgari, Chanel or Versace. Well, it could be all. People generously helped themselves to the displayed perfumes at the Duty-free mall.

A lady in a soft yellow silk salwar suit, in her mid-thirties stood with a roll-on suitcase and a purse. Her straightened hair was pulled up in a bun with spikes of hair jutting in all directions. Her beautiful face seemed to have been done leisurely. Her bright orange lipstick caught his attention after the thick perfume.

He said, “oh no, please”, as he gestured towards the chair. She had already kept her purse on the table.

“Do you mind watching my purse while I get myself some coffee?” She asked sweetly

Dr. Preetham smiled. He said “Please go-ahead madam. I will be here” and went back to his work.

Sensing she had not returned for some time; he looked up for her. He was amused when he saw her at a distance. Watching him. He smiled at her, and she waved from the buffet counter. Within a few seconds she was by his side with her cup of coffee.

“Hi, I’m Priya Balani” she offered her hand.

“I’m Dr Preetham. Nice to meet you” he shook hands.

“Where are you headed?” she asked.

Dr Preetham smiled and said “Mumbai”

“Oh, I’m going to Mumbai as well”



After the preliminary exchange of pleasantries, Dr. Preetham understood from her she had a fashion shop of some sorts, and she shopped in Dubai. She was talking animatedly. Good company they say makes time fly. So, two hours flew like two minutes. He soon forgot about his last touches to his paper and folded his computer.

She seemed highly impressed with the handsome cardiologist. Priya said “Preetham and heart speciality go together”. She laughed. Her white teeth outlined by her full lips. Dr Preetham said, “Your name also goes well with cardiology”. Dr. Preetham said flirtatiously. Dr Preetham turned his charm full on.

“ooh, ha ha” she said as she poked her finger at his biceps through his shirt. They had gone down to poking fun at each other as if they were long lost classmates.

Priya said “doctor I have a request, if you don’t mind, can you carry two bottles of Johnny Walker bottles for me? My husband has asked for them. But my luggage is full. I will buy them in Mumba. Only if you don’t mind.”

“O.K. Sure. Hukum karo” He said. He was ready to fly that plane if she had ordered him to.

Priya smiled demurely and said “thank you Doctor”

Soon it was time to board the flight. He had come close to Priya within a short while. Dr Preetham missed her chitter chatter. His receptionist cum Secretary Subhash had booked his ticket in the front row. Her seat was four rows behind him. He looked behind him and saw her busy chatting with the airhostess, pointing towards him. He waved at her and sat down. Within a few minutes the person next to him got up and went behind.

Priya sat next to him. He had a great company. Every now and then she would lean towards him and talk to him. Dr Preetham felt the warmth of this beautiful lady’s friendship. He too leaned more and more towards her throughout the journey. He promised to keep in touch even after they parted.

The flight touched down at Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj international Airport. After the immigration and security check, Priya excused herself and disappeared. Dr Preetham assumed she might have gone to the washroom. After waiting for some time, he looked around and searched for her. She was at another carousel. He was puzzled. Priya walked towards him with a full handbag. “Dr I’ll come in a minute”. She walked towards the restrooms. He waited for her to return. Priya returned within a few minutes. She handed over the handbag to Dr Preetham. “I have put my bottles in the bag. After all, you only have a backpack and a laptop bag. You need to carry it only up to the exit”. Dr. Preetham had neither the time nor the nerve to deny this order. They walked towards the exit.

To his surprise, Priya managed to break the queue and stood ahead of five people before Dr Preetham. Once she reached the gate she looked back. Priya walked to the furthest end outside the security area and waited.

At once realisation dawned on him. For the first time he sensed she was nervous. She was watching him from a safe distance. He had a vision of hell in the heavenly company of Priya. He remembered Smitha and his little daughters. Dr. Preetham broke into a cold sweat. He looked at the bag he was carrying. All throughout he was being an Ass. The bag got heavier with every step he took towards the exit. He felt disgusted with himself even as he shivered with a terrifying realisation. He knew that if ever he was apprehended by the security, she only had to step out without turning back leaving the bag with him. He had no idea of its contents. It was too late. “Ganapathi bappa , save me” he said as he wiped his sweat.

After what seemed to look like ages, Dr. Preetham reached the exit finally to where Priya stood smiling expectantly.

He dumped the bag on the ground and stomped out of the airport without turning back!





By Prof Dr Zita Lobo
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Comment on this article

  • Merlyn Brito, Orlando

    Mon, Jan 15 2024

    Interesting facts that teach a valuable lesson! Thanks Zita!

  • Joe Britto, Nakre/Bangalore

    Mon, Jan 15 2024

    Great informative and practical article on the Importance of Perfect Communication by Dr Zita Lobo !

  • Stany Jovin Meneze, Muscat

    Sat, Jan 13 2024

    Nice Article ! The key lesson from these stories is to communicate clearly, understand different cultures, be cautious about trusting others blindly, and stay vigilant in various situations.

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Title: Luck by Chance: Inspired by True Incidents

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