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  • What Happened to the Hippy Man?

    by Rohin
    21st June, 2006 at 6:12 pm    

    Hi everybody! Long time no see. I trust you have all been enjoying PP over the last few weeks. Sadly that’s all going to stop, as I’m back. And I have news (at the bottom)

    I’ve recently read a fair amount of a book entitled ‘What Happened to the Hippy Man?‘ which is the story of Mike Thexton, a hostage aboard the tragic PA 073, hijacked by Palestinian terrorists in Karachi, twenty years ago. Thexton was in Pakistan mourning his brother, a doctor and mountaineer, who had died there a few years before. Aboard his Pan Am plane bound for home, four Abu Nidal Palestinian gunmen stormed in. The pilots managed to escape and the plane was stranded on the ground.

    What ensued is nothing short of thrilling - and Thexton makes it all the more interesting to read by putting a darkly humourous slant on the whole affair. For example, he recalls a flight attendant desperately trying to send a coded message to the control tower and he imagines what they must’ve thought as the officials looked through their book of codes (I’m paraphrasing I’m afraid) “Number 44…armed terrorists seize control of plane. Hmm…are you sure you don’t mean number 43, drunken passenger offends stewardess?”

    However this is not to make light of what was a serious situation. A hostage, Rajesh Kumar, was killed as soon as the request for a replacement crew was turned down. The terrorists wanted to kill another hostage and they wanted an American. Thexton tells of the forgotten heroism of the female cabin crew, who rushed to hide the American passports to protect the passengers. Hence the British Thexton was the next best thing, and he was yanked out of his seat to be executed. Once again the stewardesses saved the day, in particular a young lady called Neerja Bhanot who marched up to the hijackers as they prepared to shoot Thexton and gave them a piece of her mind for not allowing passengers to receive medicine. She would later get killed and become a posthumous recipient of the Ashoka Chakra.

    For the next twelve hours or so, Thexton gives a fascinating insight into what was a typically British reaction to such a strange situation and it makes for gripping reading. Finally the hijackers discover their hopes would not be realised and opened fire and tossed grenades at the passengers. Nineteen died, over a hundred were injured.

    The name of the book comes from a little Indian girl who asked her parents for months after the hijack, “what happened to the hippy man?” Years later, when the men were on trial, an elderly Indian couple recognised Thexton in court and told him how their daughter had been so concerned about his welfare, which seems to have significantly touched him.

    The book attempts to draw parallels to the current climate of terror, the war on terror, 9/11 etc etc. None of these seem particularly insightful but the thought processes of someone in this situation is quite amazing, especially when compared with the recent (very good) film, ‘United 93‘. Another unique aspect to the book are the accounts from the hijackers themselves. Thexton spoke to one on the plane and then many years later when he sat in a Pakistani jail. Whilst in control of the plane, the man claims he would love to go out drinking and chasing girls, but the Americans have stolen his country and he had no choice but to do what he was doing.

    The book is brought up to date by the very recent courtroom proceedings which have sought to accuse the Libyan government of financing the act of terrorism. It’s a somewhat offbeat book, and although I haven’t read it as thoroughly as I would’ve liked, I’ve found it both a deeply moving and often very funny account of an ordinary accountant in an extraordinary situation.

    And as for the news I mentioned…you can now refer to me as DOCTOR ROHIN! Good to be back, I’ve missed you all*

    * - This is a MASSIVE lie.

                  Post to

    Filed in: Culture,Middle East,Pakistan

    31 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. Manish — on 21st June, 2006 at 6:29 pm  

      Rohin, gangsta MD!

    2. leon — on 21st June, 2006 at 6:54 pm  

      Welcome back! Oh yeah, didn’t think that much of U93 myself…

    3. Don — on 21st June, 2006 at 7:05 pm  

      Already raising the tone, PP’s own renaissance man.

      Congratulations and welcome back.

    4. Don — on 21st June, 2006 at 7:07 pm  

      By the way, I’ve been having twinges in my back. Maybe if I described the symptoms at tedious length …

    5. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 21st June, 2006 at 8:03 pm  

      Start from the lower lumber and work your way up.


    6. Jai — on 21st June, 2006 at 8:44 pm  


      Welcome back Doctor saab ;) And congratulations as well.

      I’ve left you a brief message on SM too. You have no idea about the havoc I’ve been wreaking there while you’ve been away. Okay, not quite to Kismet Hardy levels of badmaashi, but I doubt I’ve done any favours for my non-existent sidha-sadha image. Manish (Vij) will explain.


    7. Tanvir — on 21st June, 2006 at 8:45 pm  

      congrats rohin ! we finished a few weeks ago, i cant begin enjoying the summer properly yet though cos of this tedious house officer shadowing malarkey

    8. Ravi4 — on 21st June, 2006 at 10:26 pm  

      brilliant news Dr Rohin

      Where did you find the time to read this really interestng sounding book? surely you should have been revising. or out celebrating.

      By the way, did the Palestinian hijacker really blame the US for stealing his country? If so, shows how deep and old anti-Americanism is. Cos I always thought it was the UK wot did it (Balfour Declaration and all that).

    9. El Cid — on 21st June, 2006 at 10:50 pm  

      Did we really steal it? I mean the British Museum is big but it ain’t that big! Or am I missing the point?

    10. El Cid — on 21st June, 2006 at 10:52 pm  

      Oh, and congrats Dr. What you specialising in? Looking forward to the 23 hr shifts?

    11. Rohin — on 22nd June, 2006 at 12:58 pm  

      Thank you all! Good to be here.

      Don - may I suggest an old dustbin? (Simpsons fans will get it). Otherwise I charge extortionate rates to do bugger all. Oh no hang on, that’s me thinking I was a chiropractor again. Umm…take 2 paracetamol (see - you have to study for six years to know that)

      Congrats to you too Tanvir. Remind me where you were? Are you already shadowing? That sucks. I have to do one day, phew.

      Ravi - I do ANYTHING to avoid revision.

      El Cid, no plans yet. Maybe cardiology - which is what I start in August. But moreover I’d like to become a specialist in evil. So many greats to follow: Doctor Octopus, Doctor Doom, Doctor Evil…

    12. NorahJones — on 22nd June, 2006 at 1:06 pm  

      What happened to your hand dude?!

      I still don’t think it’s a good excuse…

    13. Rohin — on 22nd June, 2006 at 1:33 pm  

      I’m going to put a blog post up on my much neglected site as soon as I get the pictures from my mate’s phone. I’ve already customised my cast. Truth be told, I could come tonight…but I can’t drive now and I don’t want to drink and and…well I’ll see what I can do. I’ll call kismet/yam if I can make it.

    14. Kismet Hardy — on 22nd June, 2006 at 1:45 pm  

      I can’t believe you’re back.

      For a while, the girls here loved me

      But I can no longer compete

      It’s like girls want to be with you and guys want to be you

      I hate you Rohin

    15. mirax — on 22nd June, 2006 at 1:46 pm  

      Congrats Rohin! Good to have you back.

    16. mirax — on 22nd June, 2006 at 1:49 pm  

      I still love you Kismet! As a matter of fact, I was just about to ask Rohin to give you a long, sloppy, wet kiss on my behalf when you guys meet up later.

    17. Kismet Hardy — on 22nd June, 2006 at 1:49 pm  

      See? It’s happenning already. For a while, it were as though Mirax and I could have had a future together as kindred spirits or drunken fuck buddies even


    18. Kismet Hardy — on 22nd June, 2006 at 1:50 pm  

      Re post 16: All is forgiven Mirax

      I admit it. I’m gay for you Rohin

    19. Rohin — on 22nd June, 2006 at 1:57 pm  

      Now I’m in a pickle (ha). Should I go out?

      On one hand - kismet is waiting with a big wet sloppy kiss = good. On the other hand he’ll be thinking of mirax = bad.

      On one hand - the other attendees are charming company. On the other hand, is my hand.

    20. NorahJones — on 22nd June, 2006 at 2:12 pm  

      Come out Ro, there’s a pint of coke with your name on it. Plus, I really wanna scribble on your cast.

    21. Kismet Hardy — on 22nd June, 2006 at 2:12 pm  

      Why you little wit…

    22. Ohoud — on 22nd June, 2006 at 2:20 pm  

      Hmmm, I couldnt find any reference on the incident of hijacking.

      can you provide me with any link?

    23. sonia — on 22nd June, 2006 at 2:23 pm  

      congrats rohin and sounds like a very interesting book. during the days of the iran-iraq War, Kuwait Airways was the target of two hijackings, and one of them was in ’88
      and lasted 16 days. one of the pilots’s sons was in my class so that was a pretty fraught time.

    24. Kismet Hardy — on 22nd June, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    25. NorahJones — on 22nd June, 2006 at 4:53 pm  

      They’re naked!

    26. Don — on 22nd June, 2006 at 6:10 pm  

      But tastefully so.

      Kismet, what a strange world you inhabit.

    27. Roger — on 23rd June, 2006 at 9:24 am  

      ” I always thought it was the UK wot did it (Balfour Declaration and all that).”
      You can blame Balfour’s Classical education for that, Ravi: the last mention of the jews he’d know of would have been the destruction of the Temple and their exile by Vespasian. As a result Balfour didn’t know anyone had moved into Israel since.

    28. Rakhee — on 23rd June, 2006 at 9:40 am  

      Congratulaions Dr R. Ooooh. Sounds so cool.

      As for the book, sounds like a good read. Have heard mixed reviews about United 03 though.

      Which reminds me:

    29. sonia — on 23rd June, 2006 at 11:12 am  

      Followed that link. Gosh! seems to show no-one really knows who al-qaeda are if they thought the fbi agent was one. what confuses me is ‘intelligence’ - its surprising that sometimes they have fabulous intelligence and sometimes they have completely nil. i mean aren’t they supposed to have satellites, spying on everyone’s email etc. surely they ought to have caught everyone by now - given that according to what we hear terrorists are everywhere.

    30. Rohin — on 23rd June, 2006 at 2:32 pm  

      The full story of my hand is up!

    31. Sunny — on 25th June, 2006 at 1:45 am  

      Ravi4 - I’d say until a few years before 9/11 most Pakistanis were quite well disposed towards America, primarily because it was their ally during the cold war when India was courted by Russia. Things have obviously changed since but the anti-Americanism is not so deep rooted. The educated classes still all hanker to go there and earn some serious dollars.

      good post though Rohin.

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