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Is that a bomb in your bag or are you from Mumbai?

April 9, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Of all the things to write on your airline baggage, BOMB is possibly the worst (especially in capital letters) – which is why Australian Federal Police in Brisbane went on alert last week.

The word turned out to have an innocent explanation – BOMB was short for BOMBAY, the former name of the Indian city of Mumbai.

It turned out that a 65-year-old Indian grandmother, Venkata Lakshmi, was flying from Mumbai to Brisbane via Singapore. Not being familiar with English and wanting to ensure her checked baggage didn’t go astray, she went to write BOMBAY-BRISBANE on the bag, but ran out of space. She got as far as writing BOMB. Then she remembered the city is now called Mumbai, so she wrote that in smaller letters underneath.

Mumbai until 1995 was called by its British colonial name of Bombay, and many older residents still call it that.

When the name change was being debated about 25 years ago, the rule of thumb was “Don’t mumble Mumbai or be bombastic about Bombay”.

At least Mumbai doesn’t have such an ominous first four letters.

The grandmother’s whole family, including grandchildren, were waiting anxiously for her to arrive at Brisbane airport. They were concerned when she failed to show up for more than an hour after the plane landed.

The delay was because Australian Federal Police were being understandably cautious, on being confronted with the word BOMB on a bag on the carousel. Police later confirmed that an area near a baggage carousel had been cordoned off “and the item was examined in accordance with routine protocols, and was not deemed to be suspicious”.

All ended well and Venkata Lakshmi was reunited at Brisbane Airport with her bag, and with her family.

Written by Peter Needham

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