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A letter to an NRI friend on the merits of flying Air India

Posted by on February 19, 2015
The Maharajah after his makeover

The Maharajah after his makeover. He is now a man in the midst of a mid-life crisis.

I have just received an email from a second generation Canadian friend of Indian origin, who is coming to India after several decades. She intends to travel across the motherland to acquaint herself with the new India and asks for my assistance in doing so. India has a sizable buffet of airlines, she is told and Nadia wishes to handpick the airline that suits her most as she goes about living out the cliché’ of rediscovering her lost roots.

I envy Nadia. The life of a person, who is not in search of their roots, because they were not lost in the first place, is a terribly unimaginative one. All I can do is live vicariously, through Nadia’s journey through India. I must, therefore, do my best to help my friend in getting to know her country better.

I share with you the contents of my email to Nadia:

Dear Nadia,

I salute you, as a woman, to want to discover India all by yourself. I find it heartening that the frequency of rapes hasn’t deterred you the least bit  from your resolve to explore the great land of your forefathers. This leads me to infer that you are either exceptionally brave or abysmally daft.

Be that as it may, my advise to you is that if you truly want to have a meaningful brush with your Indian roots, you must shun all international carriers and travel to India aboard an Air India flight. Indeed, the very carrier that transported your parents to Canada from Punjab before you were so much a twinkle in their eyes.

Yes, India has changed a lot from the time your parents traveled aboard that flight. I wish to inform you that it might have held you in good stead had your parents stayed in touch with the flight attendants of that particular flight because, in all probability, she is a famous industrialist’s wife today. She could have assisted you in your discovery of India much better than I can hope to and also thrown you a dinner party or two with movie stars in attendance.

But worry not! All is not lost even if your parents only managed to make their acquaintance with the air hostess who did not end up with a famous last name, for she is still working with the airline as a senior flight attendant and will help you with an upgrade, should you help her jog her memory a bit. I must caution you to do this as gently as possible however, bearing in mind that Alzheimer’s patients don’t respond well to aggression.

Since you mention that you are keen to work with any NGO while in India, I take it that you are not lacking in compassion for the elderly. I, therefore, suggest that you go easy on this air hostess because walking up and down the galley after a hip replacement surgery can be challenging for people of a certain age.

So yes, do book yourself on Air-India. The Maharaja from the flight of your childhood has recently shed his so-called regal threads in favour of what the airline feels is a more yuppie avatar with spiky hair, jeans and sneakers.

This makeover of the mascot has been done allegedly to entice the young Indian traveler, although, if you must know, the new Maharajah hardly looks young himself. This chap looks more like one of those middle-aged guys who think that they can pull off a Farhan Akhtar by wearing hip clothes that they cannot carry off. And before you ask, no, I am not talking about Saif Ali Khan here. But on the whole, India is not devoid of such men, especially in our cities and you will probably find them on your flight too. So well, there you are, a step closer to the real India already.

The foremost advantage of flying with Air India is that we have very religious pilots in our crew. Come rain or air pockets, you will know that your life is safe in hands of those who pray. In fact, only yesterday a flight got delayed by a few hours in Delhi because the pilot on duty was pious enough to go to the Shiv temple on the occasion of Maha Shivratri before take off. Am sure all passengers on board that flight were moved to tears by the devout pilot’s need to offer prayers so spontaneously, without so much a notice. See a praying heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.

I would not be surprised if some of our god-fearing pilots leave the cockpit to offer prayers before or during landing as well. That is, if they are still awake during landing in the first place. Some of these pilots are so adept at flying that their subconscious can take care of take-offs and landings for them. You must not give this a second thought or let it bother you because Air India’s subliminal motto is: In God we trust. They just don’t advertise this maxim for fear of being confused with the ISIS.

And finally, my reason for urging you to fly Air India is because you have often asked me about the Hindu view on life and death. What better way to understand this than an NDE (Near Death Experience) just like 171 passengers flying from Guwahati to New Delhi aboard the national carrier experienced not long ago, when the aircraft burst a tyre and it’s wing caught fire while landing. Look, our pilots believe in reincarnation and thus are of the belief that death cannot limit life.

It is landmark moments such as these that alter the course of one’s life and fast track one’s enlightenment. You will truly savour life once you have looked death in the eye and comprehended its true purpose. There is, you will come to realize after spending time in your motherland, a higher purpose to everything in life.

Air-India is just one of them.

I await your response so I can help you book your domestic flights within India as well.

Yours truly,

Shunali S.

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