The year was 1995 and I had just appeared for my SSC exams. The results were awaited, vacation had been enjoyed thoroughly and plans were being made upon how to approach the colleges for collection of forms.
My Dad's company Mahindra and Mahindra, had arranged a career counselling session by an educationist from Mumbai University. During the whole discussion, the counsellor had been extrovert, motivating and persuasive. She had made a passing remark while talking to girls saying "Do you want to be like Saudamini Deshmukh, who is one of the few women pilot's in India and keeps travelling?" That's it. That's all I remember. But, somehow the name, SAUDAMINI DESHMUKH had registered in my mind. I would recall the name everytime I would see column's on career counselling in newspapers. I would wonder what would be the purpose of me remembering that name.
It was 15th June 2009, earlier this week. I was scheduled for a flight from Mumbai to Bangalore at 8:30pm. With the usual melee that happens when I am leaving Mumbai, I got late again and got stuck in traffic again and the missed the flight... yeah this was a first - missing the flight.
Scheduled in a flight the next day, I was all belted-up to take-off and the PAS announced the name of the pilot Captain SAUDAMINI DESHMUKH. I decided to take a shot at trying to meet her. Thinking all the while that probably this is the purpose the name had registered my mind and all. I waited until I had to disembark from the flight and approached the Flight Stewardess asking if the Captain is the same SAUDAMINI DESHMUKH who writes articles and was one of the first few women pilot's in India. They replied in the affirmative and asked me to wait for a while until everyone alights from the flight, so that they could arrange a meeting with her.
The flight got empty of passengers and the air hostess conveyed to the Captain saying a passenger wants to meet you. I had thought she might just decline or might be preoccupied to talk much to me. I was waiting for her to come out of the cockpit.
But Voila! I was escorted inside the cockpit, I went in, spoke to Captain Saudamini for a few minutes introducing myself and thanking her for being an inspiration to many. She was very warm in addressing me and her enthusiasm was particularly contagious. Although I was jaded with the long wait at the airport and the flight, I felt freshened up and excited. After the niceties were exchanged and she enquired about me and how I had come to know of her, I thanked her for the meet and left the cockpit. The actual gravity of event hit me after I was out. I had just ENTERED THE COCKPIT OF AN AIR INDIA - AIRBUS A320 FLIGHT!!!
Wow, I felt, although the experience was not an unique one nor the Captain would be known to many people, but I guess these small things about life is all that we need to celebrate. Someone whose name had amusingly registered in my mind for years together and whom I would remember for as unrelated thing as career counselling, gave me a chance to enter the cockpit and talk about the details there.
As they say it was a double whammy for me, meeting Captain Saudamini and entering the cockpit of a plane although being just a passenger. For once I could not stop thanking the traffic for my missed flight earlier.