New Delhi, Sep 18 (IANS) It's a miracle homecoming. An Indian diplomatic bag containing Indian newspapers, magazines and mails has managed to journey back home 46 years after braving ice and storms at Mont Blanc in the French Alps, following an Air India crash in January 1966.
Legendary scientist Homi Jehangir Bhabha, the pioneer of India's atomic programme, died in the 1966 crash, but the diplomatic bag, being carried on the plane, managed to survive in the treacherous mountain ice.
The canvas bag, stamped "Diplomatic mail" and "Ministry of External Affairs", was received by India's external affairs ministry last week. It was proudly displayed in the briefing hall of the ministry Tuesday evening with the curiosity-struck journalists and paparazzi frenziedly clicking the photo of this cherished relic.
The bag was recovered by mountain rescue worker Arnaud Christmann and his neighbour Jules Berger on Aug 21. They spotted something shining on the Bossons glacier, and thought it was gold ingots. Subsequently, the diplomatic bag was handed over to police in the town of Chamonix. It was handed over to India by France early this month.
Weighing 9 kg, the bag is a memorabilia of a bygone era and contained copies of newspapers like Hindustan Times, The Hindu and the Statesman which were sent as mandarory reading material for Indian missions in the pre-internet era.
The headlines of those days - 'Indira Gandhi to visit US' and 'Pakistan Commander-in-Chief arrives for talks' - conjure up nostalgia and the politics of another era.
There was an odd personal mail which was sent to India's then Consul General in New York.
On Jan 24, 1966, the Kanchenjunga, a Boeing 707 flying from Mumbai to New York, crashed on the southwest face of Mont Blanc, western Europe's highest mountain as it descended towards a stopover in Geneva. All 117 people on board died.