I work for the “Maharaja of the skies”, as Air India is so lovingly known by its affable mascot, the ever graceful Maharaja. I recently completed 20 years of service with the airline. It is quite a milestone, especially in the fast paced start-up age we now live in.
Wishes and affection poured in through virtual platforms. I missed having an in-person celebration with at least some physical form of affection, handshakes, hugs or flowers. I would have liked to have a cake and eat it too. 🙂
My batchmates and I are always candid in our interactions which is a boon in itself. Our planned hill station celebration with its niche members, was unceremoniously withdrawn due to the raging covid situation, leaving me with an unfulfilled feeling.
I found myself craving real conversations with real people who have experienced the grind and grandeur of the years and were not afraid to talk about it. Alas! The virtual world restricts us to niceties over text and calls.
We even did condolence meetings online for our colleagues we lost to Covid. I now realize how much their families must have missed receiving real comfort now available only through a screen.
As momentous as this occasion was, it brought about reflections with some questions in my head about the time I have spent here. While everyone congratulated my on the milestone achievement, I thought to myself, was it really, “an achievement”?
The self-reflection came when I saw this meme a few months ago. Made me really think hard about my reasons for staying in Air India as I struggled to find even a few in the list above. I have a feeling you might have the same question for me in your mind, like numerous others.
Let me give you a little background. I joined Air India, then Indian Airlines, back in 2001 when there were only two other airlines operating. It was a matter of great pride to clear the selection amidst stiff competition and extensive testing. Not to mention the trials and tribulations of being a general category applicant.
My young naïve self was completely oblivious to the workings of a public sector unit. I was the first in my family to ever take up a professionally qualified, highly skilled, very coveted job. With no prior experience or guided mentoring, I trudged along with my heart in the right place and my head held high.
As the years passed, I began to realize the dichotomy that came with working for this large entity with its unique work culture. I both loved and hated it. Being an Air India employee came with a burden of a certain kind of reputation that I found myself either fighting off or defending.
I endured my share of flak over the years from the insiders who found my non conformity hard to accept while the outsiders expected me to be just like the rest.
I quickly realized that I was the blackest sheep there was and that came with its own set of challenges. Listing those will require another article. 🙂
The usual reasons to leave and join another job didn’t seem to entice me. I wanted to feel satisfaction, pride, honor working for an organization that provided a sense of belonging. A tall ask. Almost fantastical. My loyalty, it seems, was conditional.
I now know that it was a mirage I was chasing. In joining another airline, even though I may have gained some tangible things, leaving Air India would still have felt like an intangible loss. I followed my instincts and the universe pitched in.
It dawned on me that this empty feeling inside me had to be filled internally and not externally. No outside agency could do it for me. So, I made a conscious choice and decided to do only what makes me happy. Flying made me happy. All else was foam.
I can now proudly say that I stayed because I wanted to stay. Accepting that and finding peace in it is my achievement. I live with the hope that the lost glory of the Maharaja will return. We are all waiting with baited breath to feel like we belong once again! There is no better feeling than that.
Until next time…..@thethinkingcaptain