An Encounter in Mid-Air

Is it Sai Baba?”  A bold voice questioned me over my shoulder aboard the Cathay Pacific flight from Sydney to Hong Kong. I lifted my head from the book I was reading and turned towards the speaker a tall lady with a pleasing personality dressed in official attire. She was indicating at the ring in my second finger. Instantly I replied, “No, he is my spiritual master.” I could read her blank expressions: “Who?”

As a preacher, I often look forward to indulging in such conversations. To make things easier for her, I quoted the phrase “Hare Krishna.” That sounded familiar to her. Although she had no more clues, she seemed interested.

The book in my hand was the best thing, I thought, that could make her aware of the message I wanted to give. The book I had grabbed to read on the flight, was Your Ever Well-wisher, with Srila Prabhupada’s picture on the cover. Although I had read the book many times, it always inspires me. The lady took the book from my hand and stared at the inner cover as if reading through the gist of the novel. She introduced herself as Wendy Lease, the flight manager for Cathay Pacific. She resided in Hong Kong and often traveled far and wide to inspect Cathay flights.

I appreciated her intelligence both on the material sphere as well as the spiritual (seeing her interest in philosophy). I also introduced myself and briefed her about the tilaka on my forehead and my neck beads. This intrigued her. Wendy said that she had passed me many times during her inspection on the nine-hour flight and was attracted by my appearance, so she stopped to talk to me. To her I looked serene and calm unlike the other passengers.

She now sat on her knees in the slim passage in-between the two rows of the seats. The plane was all packed.

I gave all the credit of my calmness to the person on the cover of the book the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna consciousness. She was now fascinated with Srila Prabhupada. Her interest overtook the discomfort of sitting on her knees in the passage and frequently rising up to give way to other passengers and the moving food and drink trolleys.

She patiently listened as I spoke about the Bhagavad-gita, watched a Powerpoint presentation on my laptop, oblivious to the people from various nationalities including Australians, Irish, French and even Indians, who were wondering what was going on. We discussed for nearly two hours.

Wendy disclosed that she had no children and was glad when I gave her the darshana of Bala-gopala on my computer; it simply stole her heart. She now longed to have the picture, which I promised to e-mail her soon.

The landing announcement broke the spell as she had to bid goodbye to attend to her duties. With a promise to be in touch, we exchanged e-mail addresses and she hugged me lovingly.

The plane landed in Hong Kong and I had to rush to the exit door as the connecting flight to New Delhi, my destination, was about to leave in half an hour. At the exit door was standing my dear friend Wendy Lease with other air hostesses giving farewell smiles. As she saw me approaching, she said “Hare Krishna” with a big grin on her face. I asked to have a picture with her to which she nodded, and one of her juniors jumped ahead and took the camera from my hand and clicked that memorable picture with a friend made in mid-air.

I boarded the next plane smiling to myself with my day being made. 

Radhika Krpa Devi Dasi is a disciple of His Holiness Gopala Krishna Goswami Maharaja. She is an author of a book of devotional poetry and Vaisnavism in Sikhism.