Chapter 5 Summary

At the very last second, the water below the plane turns to land, and Dr. Hemlatha sees “dry scrubland” below them as the plan swoops into a landing on the asphalt. The passengers are first relieved; then some are embarrassed because out of fear even the godless had prayed for divine intervention. The plane finally stops, but the pilot is conducting an argument over the phone with the control tower. In the meantime, Hema places a splint (made from a cane procured by the Armenian man) on the young boy’s leg. With a smirk on his face, the pilot finally looks around the silent plane. Almost as an afterthought he announces they are in Djibouti and will be picking up some baggage and some very important people. Because the authorities here would not let him land except in an emergency, he had created his own “engine failure”—and he is proud of it.

Hema is furious and shatters the silence with an angry diatribe about mistreating his passengers for his own gain. The repulsive French pilot is somewhat amused by her woman’s anger until she calls him a “bloody mercenary.” He raises his hand to her, incensed at her use of “bloody” rather than being called a mercenary, a label he is undoubtedly proud to claim. Later he will say he had no intention of hitting her, but his hand is in the air when Hema reacts. She has changed since the flight began and is no longer willing to be pushed around by any man. When she sees his hand move, she reaches under his shorts and locks her fingers around his testicles. The pilot is afraid; Hema’s eyes burn “like a martyr’s.” His hand lowers to settle onto her forearm as she tries to inflict on him the same level of distress and fear the pilot had caused the passengers.

Now that she has his full attention, Hema tells the Frenchman that he caused a little boy to break his leg and demands the pilot not only pay his family—in cash—for medical expenses but also reimburse them for the cost of their flight. The frightened man tries to justify his actions but Hema is relentless. Other passengers express their anger at the man until they hear noise near the cargo door. As the door opens, Hema removes her hand from under the man’s shorts. She stifles her laughter as she goes outside to wash her hands.