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Sunday 11 March 2012

This story is about my friend Capt. Somesh Bhatnagar

Capt. Somesh Bhatnagar

I met him for the first time in the beautiful place popularly known as pink city- Jaipur in 2002. Still can visualise that day, I was glued to window of the bus until arrival of this City where every nook and corner was depicting a cultural heritage and Pink colour. 

With the mixed feelings of excitement and fear, my hands knocked the door of the house, whose address was provided to me by my friend Neeraj. This is the place where Neeraj and his other colleagues as well, I ought.
Suddenly a young boy opened the door for me.

I was welcomed in by warm smile of his. On enquiring about Trainee Pilot Neeraj  I learned that he along with others have already left for Rajasthan State Flying School  [ aka Jaipur Flying Club]. 

The boy offered me water, followed by very tasty Jaljira and then food. While talking with him I got to know that this bungalow belongs to his father, who is general manager with B.S.N.L. He has two sibling a sister and brother he being the eldest. 

They have given one portion of their Big house on rent more of as a paying guest to the trainee pilots as their house is close to Jaipur Airport. While talking with Somesh I lost the track of the time. The boy 
was extremely energetic, humble and enthuastic.

In evening, Neeraj and other friends came back from the Flying club and I joined them in my new room. Soon my Flying Training got started. With time my bonding with Somesh also got stronger.

He had always been helpful to us. Whenever we came back after night Flying he use to come to pick us up from the Airport. He even at times dropped us by his Old but sweet Maruti 800 car. His vehicle is always there in case we get late for our Flights.

All festivals were celebrated together. We became more like a family. His mom our Aunty was like a Mom for all of us. Even she knows more aviation jargons then all of us. Somesh use to roam with us, we use to have cigarettes and beers in the parties, where Somesh never use to participate rather he  Displayed  us all in his computer one day, a slide show with the images of people having deadly diseases in their mouth, throat and all over. They were people from all age group. Photos were scary as if wounds displayed in their faces have decayed and made us read the displayed information of each patient where it was mention 
that among them mostly died later.

That night we couldn’t sleep. To everyone’s surprise I along with few of our friends quit smoking forever. Till this day I m thankful to him for that eye opening act.  That way he made a strong influence on all of us, even though being younger to us, he was a living mentor for all.

Seeing his determination and commitment towards work and the spirit to follow what’s right, I suggested him while interacting one day as “Somesh, Why Don’t u too like us become a pilot after your studies.”
He said, “I would love to be one, but then I wonder whether it will be a correct decision, as the course is too expensive and it might take along all the hard earned money of my father.”
Little astonished by the reaction, I said –“Is this really Somesh speaking, who have never considered any task at hand evendifficult let alone impossible. He said “no, I   am not scared”, it was just the money I am little concerned about.

I explained him “Somesh , life is all about taking risk! Until you do not try new things, explore the unknown you will not be able to grow .That is a challenge  So you must give it try and then devote your full self in it. And I know for the boy like you, who never accept anything wrong but hard work, it is a great option; build the Aviators spirit in you, to excel always”.

He thought over and decided to take his career above the sky, and to fly the amazing machine he has spent his childhood watching.

Thus after finishing his school he too got enrolled in  the Rajasthan Flying Club as a Trainee Pilot. His ride of training was not very smooth , Flying went slow due to lack of Air Planes and later then Pilot Instructors were not available. He struggled for years to achieve his Commercial Pilot License. Even after his father being retired as a chief with B.S.N.L, which reflects a powerful position, he never used his father’s position 
and influence and went on struggling to achieve the CPL. Ultimately  he decided to fly to USA and finish remaining training in Texas.

As every night is followed by sunshine, there came the auspicious day and he got his Commercial Pilot License issued. By that time I got in the Air India and was flying for them. When he applied, air India didn’t have any vacancies, so he got into  nothing but vein. He kept on studying and kept himself current, after waiting for long, there was want for flying choppers of the C.M of the Rajasthan.  He applied, and did well in the interview but didn’t get in, later he was asked if he can pay, he will get the chance. Very furious by the offer, he straight away said No, and came back.  However in a flight for official meeting the plane along with C.M got crashed one day, due to bad weather and high thunderstorm condition and everybody on board died.

In this situation of dilemma, new Chief Minister was selected and government urgently required a good Pilot in order to fly the new Chief Minister. This way, he was called back by the company and he got a job, as a Co-Pilot to fly the plane of Chief Minister of the state.  Very soon he went on becoming the captain.
And was quite popular cause of his excellent landing and other flying skills in the company.
One day while Somesh was attending a family function, he got a call and was asked to come for a flight at night. He rushed to reach the airport and so did his co-pilot.
They had to take the flight to Udaipur. They landed at Udaipur and Chief Minister left the Airport. That time Airport was completely vacant and shops were closed,  so these Pilots remained in at the airport waiting for the Chief Minister to return so they may take him back.

As I was on the Udaipur itself that time, Somesh called me at the airport, I reached there, we chatted for hours, as they both were quiet hungry I brought along food, and they had it, we waited there for Chief Minister for long but around 01:00 am I had to leave cause of my flight that day, they both kept on waiting, being on duty hours they kept their calm and simply waited. After two more hours C.M came back. Somesh lost his temper once he got to know that they were waiting for hours as C.M brought the plane especially to Udaipur in order he can watch a movie 3 idiot  in Lake Palace with some guests |!

He was very upset, seeing the waste of government funds done by the ministers and waste of his skills, next morning he resigned the job.  I and everyone tried to explain him the importance of the job but fell on deaf ears. I was little worried for my friend.

I came to meet him and asked him that what will he do now?

Somesh said “I will open my own travel agency and help people reaching their destinations.
I found the idea very absurd. Quiet shocked I said “Are you kidding me? Starting your travel agency! That’s a big investment and huge risk.”
Somesh smiled and said –“I understand my friend, but now I have the aviator’s spirit in me! My flying experience has taught me to explore the unknown and take risk, now; I understood the words you spoke when you wanted me to enter in the world of aviation, it’s now that I know exactly what aviators spirit is, and it is already burning.”

“But where will you open the agency”? I asked.

In my house itself, I will start with one room; we use to give for rent.
As Somesh was so keen and enthuastic to start his business , I thought maybe once the agency starts he will realize that practically it’s not so easy and again come to fly.

By that time I was promoted to International Flights and life started running on fast pace. With Mumbai (that time Bombay) as my base , and having schedule to Mumbai-Frankfurt –Chicago flight circle I use to get only two days at home, I got busy with my life and unfortunately lost touch with Somesh , I did tried calling him at times , but due to change in his number I couldn’t be in contact.
I got busy with my profession and family but still I was keen to hear about Somesh , weather he joined C.M back or is he flying with airlines , but I didn’t have any way to trace , other than his address. Still I use to imagine meeting him some day in uniform flying, though never found him that way.

Once due to technical problem in the plane in one of my flight we were diverted to Jaipur. Landing at Jaipur after years gave me a different feeling of joy and could recall my days when at the same Airport we use to land with instructors beside in our Cesena’s. 

Those bumpy landings, instructor’s shouting, waiting for flights, roaming in the city with buddies and Somesh. How beautiful were those days, I thought .My mind however got stuck with Somesh. Somesh, yes I can now find about his whereabouts our plane went under maintenance and we were schedule for next day morning flight. On our way to hotel I was watching from the window of the car, how significantly city has changed. After reaching the hotel where we were supposed to wait or rest till next flight, I got very active as I knew this is my chance to meet or to get information about Somesh.

I came out of the hotel, and called the first cab that came in my sight, hopped in, said the address and then waited, my god, my heart begin beating faster as I saw the same street where we roamed once, ohh, how excited I was to see my friend, will I find him, how will he react once he see me, what will I say once we meet, so many stories to share! My mind was full of such questions and I was growing more and more impatient.  And my cab stopped in front of the bungalow. The house was not same as before, now it was way bigger than it once was, and its beauty was enhanced by a marvellous garden in front.

I entered in and knocked the door. It was Capt Bhanu, Somesh younger brother; he had grown taller and smarter too. He was visibly astonished and amazed to see me after years. I said-“Hey, Bhanu, how have you been?  What are you doing these days ?  Nice to see you after this long.”
Bhanu too was delighted to meet me, he said-“wow, what a surprise, seeing you after years. I am a Commercial Pilot now, and so is my sister. We are both flying for Jet Airways India Ltd.”

“Ohh, that’s so wonderful to know. Den of aviators”-I chuckled.
“And Capt Somesh”, I asked-where is he?
He said –“I will better take you to him rather than telling, he will be so happy to see you.”
“he is in the city itself, great!”-I said.

I joined him in his Honda Civic Car and we were headed to Capt Somesh. Finally I have got a chance to meet him. There I saw a jaw dropping sight. There was a huge board of “Somlly Tours and Travels Pvt. Ltd”. Huge office he has got. “Man!  He is actually into Travel Agency that too with such a huge office.”I asked –“Does this office belong to Somesh ?”  He smiled and nodded. That man has done it. From inside place was like some palace, mind blowing interior, I thought. Somesh saw me through his cabin and came out.He hugged me and said” ohh yaar, how are you? I am buttoned up man, can’t tell you how great it is to see you.”

         I said “Seriously even I am speechless, let’s have a seat first”.
We both rested our selves, came back into senses, and I asked “how did you manage to grow such a vast empire. You started with just a room, and now as Bhanu told me on the way- that you earn more than the sum of their both Pilots income together. You are a multimillionaire now. Where’s the magic stick, such a establish business, how did you managed?”

Somesh smiled and said-“That night waiting for the minister made me realised that I was wasting my abilities for those illiterate   ministers, who just know to loot the countries money and fill their bag. The incident brought a fire in me and kept me going.
When I started the agency I had no experience of the field but I had something unique, which kept the fire on.”
I asked “What was that?”

He said “Aviator’s spirit and thus I never lost hope”.

I felt so happy and proud of my friend.

“So what’s the next target Mr. Aviator”?

He said-“Now, I desire to provide my service in every possible place in the world. Where ever any one can point in the world map, I should be able to land my service.

“Certainly you will Captain ”-I said.

Be An Aviator not A Pilot

Be an Aviator Not a Pilot 
Shekhar Gupta 
Capt Ankisha Awasthi
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