Amjad Ali Khan
New Delhi, June 30: Amjad Ali Khan’s voice nearly cracked over the phone. British Airways had done the unthinkable — changed the course of “Ganga”.
“The sarod has been with me for more than four decades,” the maestro told The Telegraph today. “It’s like losing a member of my family.”
Khan had gone to London with his wife Subhalaxmi for a performance on June 21 and returned on June 28 night, minus the sarod. Two days on, he is still waiting for news from the airline about his stringed companion.
“After damaging my Sarod in 1997, British Airways now misplaces my Sarod. 48 hours and I still wait anxiously for some news. Still not traced!!!,” the musician tweeted today.
While Khan mourns his missing instrument, hundreds of passengers flying BA since June 7 have been left stranded — some without a change of clothes — because of what the airline described as “intermittent problems with Heathrow Airport’s baggage system in Terminal 5”.
It prompted a sarcastic tweet from one traveller. “Thanks for ruining our trip of a life time @British_Airways. 3 days in and still no signs of our baggage,” tweeted This Guy on June 28.
The passenger had travelled from London to Mexico with his companion, Kate. While his luggage turned up a day later, his companion’s bags are still missing.
According to the BA website, the airline has been dealing with a huge backlog of passengers with lost baggage from around the world. “We are doing all we can to minimise disruption caused by an IT failure which is affecting the performance of baggage systems at numerous airports. We are very sorry if customers have not received their baggage and we will reunite them as quickly as possible. We are processing them by hand,” a BA spokesperson said.
It means the airline’s ground staff have been sorting thousands of bags queued up on the conveyor belt that usually moves around 12,000 a day. But the maestro and his sarod haven’t been reunited yet.
“We waited at Delhi airport for four hours and then filed reels of documents to ensure that the sarod is returned. For a musician, his instrument is the most important thing in his life,” said Khan.
For tourist Ted King, the problem was more basic. “Well done British Airways for leaving all our luggage in England, now in Uganda without any clothes,” he tweeted.
The airline has apologised to the passengers through Twitter, responding to their queries and even asking them to keep the receipts of all the essential items they have had to buy, promising to reimburse them later. But it declined to comment on how many bags were missing.
While some of the passengers have sought compensation, Khan said BA had not only damaged the sarod a few years ago, it had also misplaced four suitcases during a previous trip. “I haven’t asked them ever to compensate me for my loss. This time too I don’t want any compensation. I only want them to return the sarod to me. This sarod, made by (the late) Hemendra Chandra Sen, is priceless. Next time I travel, I am going to buy an extra ticket for it and place it in a seat beside me.”
Sen’s shop in Calcutta was the chosen destination for musicians like Ustad Alauddin Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar and even George Harrison.
If Khan lost four suitcases while travelling by British Airways, Deepika Padukone lost her luggage four times, the last time while returning from an Italian holiday on June 15. “Seems like British Airways’ hobby is losing bags!4th time & pretty sure not the last! #appalling,” the actress tweeted.
But it was singer-songwriter Kelly Osborne’s note of outrage that summed up the feeling of disharmony, especially when people — her mother, in this case — are forced to slip into borrowed clothes.
British television host Sharon Osbourne, who was on a family reunion in Los Angeles, had to borrow her daughter’s clothes for a night out because of a lost suitcase. “@Britsh_airways its (sic) not ok that you lost my mums (sic) bags w/ (with) all her clothes! Last night she had to borrow my dress & she looked ridiculous!” Kelly tweeted.