Supan Biswas in the nursing home. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Supan Biswas, the face of bandh-induced suffering on Wednesday, went through more trouble on Thursday morning when a private airline refused to allow him to get on its plane to Bangalore without a “fit-to-fly certificate”.
It was evening by the time 12-year-old Supan, who had 65 small brain tumours removed in May and needs to see his doctors in Bangalore again, took off on another flight of the same airline. In between, he spent time in a Lake Town nursing home and underwent a check-up by an intensive care specialist, who certified that he could fly.
“We sincerely regret any inconvenience caused to this passenger. However, neither IndiGo, nor any other airline, is equipped to deal with severe medical conditions on board an aircraft. As we were unable to determine the medical status of the passenger, we were not able to accept the customer on board,” Bruce Ashby, the president and CEO of IndiGo, told Metro later.
Supan’s plane journey was sponsored by senior Exide executive A.K. Bhaumik, who had seen the boy on television on Wednesday and decided to arrange for air tickets. He was then lying on a Howrah platform, the Yeshwantpur Express having been cancelled because of the Left bandh.
When Supan, his father Panchanan and aunt Jharna — all first-time fliers — reached the airport from Howrah District Hospital early in the morning to take IndiGo’s 7.30am flight (6E 275) to Bangalore, they hadn’t expected it to be such a hassle. Airport authorities and airline staff were jittery about allowing them to check in when they saw Supan on a wheelchair, a tube dangling from his nose.
“We had no idea of such a formality. Moreover, after all the trouble we have been through, we did not have the time to make sure all the paperwork was in place. I am sure they could have considered allowing us to board the plane. But they were adamant,” said Supan’s father, a farmer who feeds a family of seven with his earnings from a five-bigha plot at Murshidpara, in Birbhum.
Like on Wednesday, Supan was lying on the ground outside the domestic terminal when help came his way.
Around 8am, some airport officials spotted him and arranged for his admission to Daffodil Nursing Home, 5.5km away. IndiGo then rescheduled the tickets for the 5.05pm flight (6E 352), which reaches Bangalore at 8.50pm after a stopover in Hyderabad.
“We had offered them a refund, but they wished to take a later flight after obtaining the required medical certification,” Ashby said.
Supan was discharged from the nursing home at 3.45pm, after a complimentary check-up by Dr Arpan Chowdhury. “We put him through a battery of tests and made sure his condition was stable enough for him to fly for three-four hours. He has a minor chest infection because of unhygienic handling of the tracheotomy tube attached to his windpipe. His pulse is a little higher than normal, but that is because of the anxiety he’s been through since Wednesday morning,” Chowdhury said.
The Biswas family reached the airport for the second time at 4.25pm. As Supan was taken inside on a stretcher, there were hundreds of people crowding the entrance for a glimpse. The 12-year-old was emotionless; he would have surely preferred a quieter journey to the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Bangalore.