Flying to New Delhi from Montreal is far better than the Delhi Belly flight from New Delhi to Montreal as with the latter Indian food seeks its revenge on those not used to it. Flatulence and the runs created an unholy stench that not even eggplant curry could mask.
I arrived at home in Bombay after waiting some three hours for my connecting flight in Delhi. Raj the valet picked me up at the airport and I slept for 18 hours dreaming of Minah my Iraqi sweetheart. School started and life resumed to Bombay normal. In a few days recovering from jet lag I felt normal.
Before school one morning I received a call from Sobranj Airlines in Delhi saying the jet my mother Juanita had chartered had gone down somewhere in Finland. Search and rescue was in progress. My goodness this news was difficult to digest. With some help from my librarian contact at the Indira Gandhi Library in New Delhi I discovered the DC-9 that had been chartered had been purchased from a now defunct airline called Overseas National Airways in New York. It was over 20 years old. There had been two “incidents” with the plane related to metal fatigue according to the United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). The issues had been remedied according to the FAA and the plane was cleared to return to service. I mean there comes a time when horses and airplanes need to be retired.
Being realistic I thought this just had to be the end of dear old mom Juanita Billabong. And my suspicions were realized when Sobranj Airlines notified me three days later stating their sincerest condolences but all aboard had been lost except for a half-frozen dog and a guitar case with a guitar in it. It was Juanita’s Fender! I am not sure about who owned the dog. It was a West Highland Terrier. I asked them to send the survivor terrier to me as well as the guitar. I called this dog “Welshie” in honour of Juanita’s Welsh heritage.
A huge funeral was held in Cardiff, Wales. I was astounded at how many mourners attended. John Mayall, BB King, Albert King, Eric Clapton, Big Smokin Red, Ravi Shankar, Mel Torme, Scat Man Carothers, Arlo Guthrie, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and Robbie Robertson to name a few. I had thought my mother an obscure musician singing an equally obscure genre of music called the “Bombay Blues”. Juanita had a massive influence on blues music. Many of these musicians invited me to visit them. Juanita would have been proud of the tributes pouring in. I received several calls from record companies wanting to release multiple albums containing unreleased material.
My life had to continue. I will admit I refrained from crying but felt numb. The FAA and Indian aviation authorities were investigating the crash. That gave me some comfort to uncover the truth. There were rumours of falsified maintenance records by Sobranj Airlines. Whatever the result of the investigation the stark reality was that Juanita had joined the Big Bopper and Buddy Holly in the Land Beyond. All I had beside the memories was Welshie the West Highland Terrier and a half-melted Fender guitar.