Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Captain Cheerful

Well in today’s era of mushrooming low cost airlines in India, there is scarce difference of one from the other. And leading the band wagon is the home grown Air Deccan which has the dubious distinction of being never on time. But I would like to pen my thoughts about an occasion when a subtle service provided by the airline really made a difference.

I was traveling with my mother from New Delhi to Bhubaneswar on 14th of April. The scheduled time of departure of the flight was 8:20a.m. But because of air traffic congestion, there were some 12 airlines waiting to fly. So our flight was tentatively delayed by an hour. As soon as this announcement was made by the captain, all the passengers started fidgeting. The cabin crew started dispensing food stuffs and beverages, which irked the passengers even more maybe because they had to pay for the same. It was then that the captain of the aircraft took control. His voice boomed through the microphone and he said, “This is your captain speaking. Now before you start cursing Air Deccan for causing this unwarranted delay, I would like to clarify that the delay has been caused by Air Traffic Control which has to give clearance to some 12 airlines before we can get air bound. But I would assure you that I will try to make the wait as pleasant as possible.” Then he said,” I know by this time most of you would have zapped on to you cell phones to tell all your kith and kin that you are stranded in Delhi airport. But this is a very common occurrence in the Delhi sector. So those of you, who are new to the same, might find this pretty irritating. But I have been flying in this sector for nearly a year and a half so I am amazed if any day we are able to be air bound on time.” This resulted in peals of laughter from the passengers. Then the captain again said,” I can see a Spicejet airline in front of me, and there is a lady in the window seat. But she is busy fanning herself. But I hope all the Air Deccan passengers are comfortable at the temperature of 28 degrees which is being maintained inside. I could entertain you all a bit more by taxing around the run way. But that would burn a lot of fuel and we are already burning fuel by keeping the ac and the lights on.” After that he went on to give a description of the Delhi airport and the various run ways there, the itinerary of the flight and an overview of the places that the flight would go through. At one point he told, “We would be flying over Agra which would be on our left. And given the visibility that we have today, you would be able to see some minarets. But my suggestion is that you pay a visit to Agra for the same. Any ways Air Deccan offers you many flights from Delhi at convenient times.” This again was a smash hit among the passengers.

And this way he kept the passengers a bit occupied.

I was really impressed with the thoughtfulness and the presence of mind of the captain. He could have carried on his designated work, but he took to onus to extend the purview of his responsibility. He took the responsibility to make a difference and he did. The airlines industry is a part of the hospitality domain and he actually held the banner of hospitality aloft. Thanks to the unknown captain.

To Baby :)

We were fresh out of college undergoing our initial training in a leading software MNC at Chennai where I met Karthik for the first time. He was the class representative of our batch and seemed a pretty withdrawn and reserved person. Even I was not one of the outgoing sorts, so our interactions were limited to the “professional” ones. Our whole class used to go for lunches together where we indulged in pretty limited conversations. After the training I was posted at the Kolkatta branch of the same company. I moved on from Chennai. In the fast paced IT world that we lead I had serious doubts if I would be in touch with any of the friends I had made at Chennai. I was certain once we all would get into the regular grind of our project works the busy schedule would get the better of all of us to leave any time for relationships.

Life did not go so fine at Kolkatta with me. It was a pretty lonesome and dreary time. Then out of the blue I happened to get this forward called “Donkey Attitude” which I religiously sent to the whole training group as I used to send any forward I found interesting enough. And Karthik responded to the mail by saying that it was a real nice forward that he had got in many days. Then we got on chatting with each other. We started with pretty mundane talks as to what who was doing in the batch, and then slowly we were chatting on any thing on the surface of the world. I would be jubilant each day to get to office so that I could log on to outlook and talk to him, and so would he (as he later confessed). And the days I would get a bit late to come to office my inbox would be flooded with at least a dozen mails from him with either of the two lines “Where are you?” and “When are you going to reach office? Me bored”. So we were pretty addicted to mailing each other and then one fine day he called me. I was pretty shocked to hear his voice over the phone. And we both were pretty tongue-tied. The first call we spoke of house rents and travelling costs and compared the costs of living in Kolkatta and Chennai. It seemed a pretty drab topic to talk about as an after thought. Then the calls got on to be pretty regular. I was passing through real tough times then, and all the while he was there as an understanding friend. I have a very close circle of family and friends, and consult each one of them before any step, and he was not at all jealous of them, which increased my respect for him by leaps and bounds.

One year down the line I had to make a trip to Bangalore to meet a friend of mine. He came over to see me then. It was the first time that we saw each other after a year. When I saw him at the airport for the first time, I was delighted. Over the few days at Bangalore, we roamed around a lot and had a lot of fun. And then one evening when we were sitting on the terrace of my friends house talking about the problems I was facing on the work front, he said some times I wish I was of the same community as yours so that I could ask your hand for marriage, because I don’t think your parents would approve of a Tamilian as an alliance. (Well he was Tamilian and I was from Orissa) I was a shocked but I was really touched by the innocence as well as the practicality of his question. Here was a man who was in love with me, but his feet were firmly in ground because he never under estimated how important parental consent was. But I was not sure that what I felt for him was love, it could have been mere infatuation. So I told him, “You are a dear friend of mine and I really respect you, but I think it’s important for me to think about you and about us”.

I came back to Kolkatta and informed my friends and family about Karthik’s proposal. My mother was really supportive of me, and I am still grateful to her for making me see things from a wider perspective. All the while her only stand was, if he is some one who respects you and your wishes it just does not matter from which part of India he is. Cultural differences can always be bridged when there is love and understanding. My friends also balanced me during the tumultuous times, by constantly guiding me. But all the while Karthik never behaved as a jilted lover. He had to convince his parents and his family about his move. His mother first thought of it as an immature move of a young lad, but he convinced her that he had his head firmly on his shoulders and not some teenager smitten with love. His mother was also a very understanding lady. She had always stood by her children and even in this critical juncture; she decided to support her son.

And all the while though I had not said, “yes” to Karthik, I always reached out to him as a true friend. And he was always there. Apart from his responsibilities at home, he also took care of me. I still remember, once when I was pretty ill with chronic gastritis, he spoke to me well past midnight so distract me from the pain. It was only when I felt really sleepy that he wished me good night and kept the phone. I always had a pessimistic approach towards marriage, and I was not sure, whether I would get a good husband in Karthik or loose a close friend. But as time passed I began to see the utter selflessness in him. And I was moved by the thought “a woman should always marry the man who loves her.” And the closing lines of the movie Kal ho na ho rang in my ears which said, women search for a friend in their husbands, but I had found my husband in my best friend. Maybe God had designed something similar for me. So after 4 months of his formally having asked me for my hand, I gave my consent.

Now I am working at Hyderabad while he is pursuing his career at Chennai. We are still apart and yearn for each other’s company, but we feel close to each other. The constant distance has made the relationship and the bond stronger. We intend to get married next year as soon as he finishes some project commitments.