Our story starts in the Mumbai airport, a place where aeroplanes come and go. They come from various cities and they go to various cities, carrying hundreds of passengers and their luggage. There are huge television screens telling people which flights are arriving and which flights are departing, which flights are on time and which flights are delayed. There are thousands of people inside the building, and as many outside. It’s a really crowded place!
One day, a handsome young man, who looked about seventeen years old, came to this airport. His skin was very dark and his eyes were very bright. He had curly hair and a gentle smile on his lips. He wore a bright yellow T-shirt and faded blue jeans. He carried no luggage, just a tiny backpack. He looked very relaxed and seemed rather charming.
The young man noticed that everyone around was rather worried. They were carrying bags, moving trolleys, checking their tickets, bidding farewell to their family and friends, confirming flight timings and wondering if there was enough time for a snack before they had to board the plane.
‘Eh, where are you going?’ snarled the security guard at the airport gate. It was Mr Jayaramakrishnan Murthy, a giant of a man, with a big moustache and a bigger belly. Actually, Mr Jayaramakrishnan Murthy was not as tough as he looked. He was secretly afraid of lizards, but no one except his wife, Mrs Ananda Murthy, knew this. Like all guards, Mr Murthy looked at everyone suspiciously. It was his job. Everyone was a suspected troublemaker until they proved they were not. And to prove that one is not a troublemaker one had to show Mr Murthy one’s ticket and one’s identity card. Only then would Mr Murthy let you into the airport.
Just a few minutes ago, there had been a problem. A man with ten heads had arrived at the gate demanding to be let in. ‘Show me your identity card first,’ Mr Murthy had snarled.
‘Don’t you know who I am? There is only one man in this world with ten heads!’ yelled the man with ten heads. Mr Murthy, very politely but firmly, said, ‘Your identity card, please, sir.’
The man with ten heads had no choice but to do as asked. He had shown his identity cards. Not one, but ten. Each of the ten identity cards had his name written in bold letters: Ravan Lankapati.
Mr Murthy had never seen a man with ten heads or a man with ten identity cards, each card claiming he was the same person. ‘Why do you not carry one identity card?’ said Mr Murthy. ‘Because,’ explained Ravan Lankapati, rolling his eyes, ‘I have ten heads. That’s the rule. One identity card for one head. Don’t you know that?’ Mr Murthy did not know this rule, but he let the strange man with ten heads go in.
Now before him stood this handsome young man with curly hair and yellow T-shirt in the queue waiting patiently for his turn. Unlike other passengers, this man seemed in no hurry to enter the airport. He looked at everyone and everything with great curiosity.
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?’
This is an excerpt from Devdutt Pattanaik’s ‘Fun in Devlok Omnibus’.