God was with me with passport

God was with me with passport

It isn’t every day that a stern-faced, six-foot, six-pack flaunting private eye of the Malaysian police force blushes beet red after being kissed by an adoring nine-year-old. And therein hangs a tale.

We, a group of happy holidayers, hungover from the sun, sand and surf of gorgeous Langkawi, waited at Kuala Lumpur’s LCC terminal to board our flight back home. Luggage checked in, boarding passes in hand, we looked forward to duty-free shopping when someone spotted a McDonald’s sign. And we trooped in to feast on pure vegetarian hash browns in a land of halal meats and Hunan-style noodles. The bustling self-service counters had snaking queues and super noisy folks.

Food bought and billed, we settled down, rucksacks and all deposited at our feet. Suddenly, there was a small commotion. A well-dressed, burly chap had spilled sauce on me and was apologising profusely for his thoughtless act. Apologies were accepted, smiles exchanged and peace restored when the husband noticed something amiss. His rucksack had been expertly switched!

While the burly man had been distracting us with his ketchup drama, his accomplice had neatly switched bags, replacing the real thing with an identical backpack stuffed to the gills with torn paper, pencil stubs and old tees.

Panic reigned. Our passports and boarding passes had been in the rucksack along with our nine-year-old’s Lego set and shells collected from Langkawi’s beaches. The contents of the backpack would disappoint the thugs and they were sure to dump it, passports and all, into the nearest gutter. But what about us? No passports meant no immigration check and no boarding the flight back home. For a whole minute, we were paralysed with shock. Then everyone ran in different directions, trying to find the sauce-spilling goon. Of course, he had vanished into thin air.

As we made our way despondently to the airport police station to lodge a complaint, we saw a six-foot tall man yelling “India family? India passports?” Between yelling aloud for attention, he was rattling the bones of a young, clean-shaven chap. Turned out the second Mr Burly was a detective in plain clothes. He had seen a foreign-looking fellow with a backpack bearing a very Indian name embossed on it, and his suspicion had been aroused. After a chase, the scamp was caught and the bag opened to reveal passports of an Indian family.

We had just 20 minutes to board our flight. We told the officer that. Realising the gravity of our situation, he waived all formalities, rushed with us to the check-in counter, all the while dragging the scamp — part of a gang of Peruvian thugs that operates in crowded airport terminals — who was singing like the proverbial canary by then.

To my wide-eyed nine-year-old this was even better than a Jackie Chan movie. Reunited with his Lego set and sea shells, which he feared he had lost forever, he was quite overcome and he reached up to plant a firm and grateful peck on Private Eye’s rough cheek. Private Eye waved us off gruffly, but to us he wasn’t just a super efficient cop in a strange land; he was super hero.