Perhaps this was the first time he was boarding an aeroplane. Perhaps this was the first time he was in an airport. Mr Murthy worked in the airport but had never boarded a plane himself. He had promised himself that before retirement, he and his wife would travel to Tirupati on a plane.
“Well?” said Mr Jayaramakrishnan Murthy waiting for the handsome young man to show his ticket and his identity card.
The youth presented a printout of the ticket. It was a flight from Mumbai to Guwahati via Kolkata, a long, very long flight from the west of India to the east. Mr Murthy searched for the man’s name. It was… Mr Murthy could not believe his eyes. “Krishna Bhagavan?”
“Yes,” said the young man with a disarming smile. Mr Murthy smiled back. He could not resist asking, “Which is the name and which is the surname?”
“How does it matter?” replied the young man, his voice soft, almost musical.
“It does not,” said Mr Murthy, starting to like the young man. “But still I would like to know. But it is okay if you do not want to tell me. May I see your identity card?”
The young man blinked. “Sorry, why do I need an identity card?” Mr Murthy said, “To prove who you are. Are you really Krishna Bhagavan?”
“Yes, I am. Don’t you recognise me? You see my photo every day in the morning.”
“I do not!” Mr Jayaramakrishnan Murthy shouted, then added, “What do you mean?”
“I am the one whose photo hangs on the extreme left of your puja room. I am the one with the cows and the flute.”
Mr Murthy could not believe what the young man was saying. Was this a joke? The number of passengers standing in queue behind the young man wanting to get into the airport terminal had increased. Everyone was starting to get impatient. A young woman at the end of the line shouted, “If there is a problem with that man’s identity card, can you at least let us pass please.”
Mr Murthy instructed his junior to take over his duties while he dealt with ‘Krishna Bhagavan’. “Are you making fun of me?” he asked. “No,” said Krishna Bhagavan, looking very serious. “Don’t you recognise me? I am the one who you serve butter every morning. You have been serving me butter for 23 years.” That was true. Mr Murthy wondered how the young man knew this. Was he who he claimed to be? “I am so glad I met you. I am on my way to Guwahati to see another devotee, Lata- kumari. She has been serving me butter every morning for 62 years. Now she is old and ill and calling for me. Thought I should pay her a visit.”
The man sounded totally sincere. Mr Murthy wanted to believe him. But this is the real world. Gods do not come to airports in the real world.
Excerpted with permission from Penguin Books India from Fun in Devlok: An Identity Card for Krishna by Devdutt Pattanaik; Publisher: Puffin; Price: Rs 99
Illustrations: Vishal Tondon