Wish you and your families a very very happy new year.
It was probably the hottest summer day in Vancouver when I finally took my flight test. August 15 2008, aptly applied to me, is Independence Day. I passed the test, and lo and behold, I am now the proud owner of a Commercial Pilot License. As much as I had wanted to complete the Multi-Engine Instrument Rating (MEIR), I promptly brought an end to my flight training. With several of my friends without aviation jobs a year after completing their courses, I saw no merit in spending another fortune on MEIR. The economy was already hurting and pilot jobs in India had all dried up or blown away. Of course, there was one last thing left to be done. And that was to return to India and complete the Indian exams for license conversion. I was dreading those. Imagine going to an exam knowing well that the pass percentage is 10% - only 10% of the applicants ever pass the exam.
On my way back to India, I hopped over to San Francisco (SFO) to meet Shachi - Srikant and Naveen - Monali. Flying to India via SFO was somehow $200 cheaper than going direct from Vancouver. Canada is a bloody expensive country. The 2 days I spent in SFO were fabulous. Shachi and Srikant treated me to an evening of champagne and bowling and one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen. So much alcohol after a long time made me woozy and crazy. The next day, Naveen took a day off to show me the inspiring Stanford University. Just being there made me want to study. We then drove to Half Moon Bay to grab the best clam chowder, and we later smoked a cigar by the Pacific Ocean. That was the last time I drank, smoked and ate non-vegetarian food.
I lost my laptop at SFO airport. More appropriately, I forgot it at the airport. I forgot a bunch of stuff at Vancouver too. I was going home after a very long time, and nothing seemed to trouble me. I was at peace. Or so I felt. As my luck would have it, the laptop was later traced to the lost and found at SFO airport, and Naveen picked it up for me. Someday, I may see the laptop again.
I landed at Bangalore at 1pm on mom’s birthday. The plan was to surprise her, by landing up 2 days before what I had communicated to her. My sister gave it all away. And I’m so glad she did. She picked me up from the airport, and drove me apparently for a rendezvous with her husband before we went home. We ended up at Rajdhani, a new restaurant at UB City. And there was my entire family, 15 of them, waiting to give me the biggest surprise ever.
Four days later, I was in a train to Delhi. I signed up for tuitions for the Indian exams and spent the next 2 months studying. This was the most intense form of studying I have ever done in my entire life. I hadn’t studied like this in school or college. The days stretched beyond my liking and I had nothing else to do but study. It was like a study fever. I lived in a PG (Paying Guest) run by a hitler of a punjabi lady and her mouse of a husband, sharing a room with 2 senior high school boys, eating 3 somewhat deplorable meals a day.
I picked up a nasty cold in Delhi. With the cold, I had walked up to the Saket J-block market to pick up some brandy. My room mates had encouraged me to get some, the brandy would cure the cold and I could focus on the books. The small liquor store did not have any brandy. As I dragged myself away, something caught my eye from behind the shelves of the pharmacy just beside the liquor store. And I walked home with a bottle of Bournvita. I don't even remember the last time I had Bournvita. And the Bournvita worked wonders, it gave me so much energy, my room mates said I was getting high on it. Another day, I started coughing. I thought it was allergic, but it developed into a chronic cough. It took 3 months and 4 doctors to cure.
My class was a 15 minute walk from the PG, and my tutor, Mr.Duggal, gave the small class of 10 enough to work at. Towards the end of the classes as the exams got closer, he said that he had high expectations from me. And the pressure was becoming unbearable. The authorities made matters worse, the 2 days before the exams were as miserable as could be. Along with several classmates, I had to spend those 2 days standing in long queues to get an examination admit card. Those 2 days could have meant several more hours of study and those few annoying marks that make the difference between pass and fail. A month later, the results were declared, and I had passed. Pappu pass ho gaya.
What am I doing now? I am in Bangalore, looking for a job in IT. There are no pilot jobs anymore in India. And India is where I want to be. The colors, the music, the people, the food, the beauty, the simplicity, the love. It’s all here. Home is where the heart is. And IT is what I did best. So that's what I shall continue to do.
May the souls of the Mumbai carnage rest in peace and those who lost their loved ones be given the strength to accept.