I have a lot of friends who are pilots and part of cabin crew and I keep thinking back to how they are still flying and doing their bit to ensure everyone gets home safely. Here I am writing this article, from the safety of my home, where I’ve kept myself happily isolated. Hell, I’m terrified to even meet my neighbours and then there are these silent heroes who are still doing their bit. They go to the airport every single day, work together – not in isolation, but as a group and meet unknown passengers who they serve, speak to and probably even come in physical contact with. While most of India is quarantined, these HUMAN BEINGS – and let me emphasise on the fact that they are human beings – are still doing their bit for society. They are regular people, like you and me, with families to look after, kids, brothers, sisters and probably even old parents. They are risking everything to make sure that people like you and me can get home safely or travel to where we need to safely.
This is the story of my friend, an Air India pilot, Dushyant Kamath, who just flew his last flight, which was an evacuation of Indians from Abu Dhabi. The Indian government finally issued a ban on domestic flights, starting tomorrow midnight. Over a telephonic interview with Dushyant, I asked him why he is choosing to fly and continue to be of service, when he has a family to care for. He has 2 young kids and a wife at home whom he returns to. This is the interview as told to me by Dushyant:
Curly Tales: You’re a pilot with Air India and you are still flying. Why are you choosing to do so?
Dushyant Kamath: Being a government airline , we have a duty to get people back home . The ban for international travel came in force on the 22nd and domestic will come in effect on the 24th. We have done all we can to make sure people had some connectivity and had a chance to get back to INDIA before everyone closes their borders.
Curly Tales: What are the measures Air India is taking to ensure your safety?
Dushyant: We are supplied with masks / gloves / sanitizers as part of our kit as and when we fly . As the coronavirus situation got more serious, hazmat suits (decontamination suits) were also provided to the crew. We were always well taken care of.
Curly Tales: How are your friends and family reacting to you still going out & flying?
Dushyant: To be honest, my family were definitely worried. My wife was also concerned about the susceptibility of our 2 young daughters. Friends were also worried. But they also knew it was part of our jobs and it was a sense of pride . For them and for me.
Curly Tales: Have you faced any flak at all from neighbours or society people because you’re still flying?
Dushyant: Thankfully no, my neighbors and my building have been super supportive and have appreciated my efforts.
Curly Tales: What about your colleagues? Were they as lucky as you?
Dushyant: Some of my colleagues were called out by their neighbors. In fact, the police also got involved, but they managed to convince the authorities when they came.
Curly Tales: How are you ensuring your family doesn’t stand a chance of infection?
Dushyant: Family wise , it’s difficult to quarantine totally from my immediate family , but they are the only ones I am in contact with. I haven’t shown any symptoms as yet . I do sleep in a separate room and wash and clean myself before interacting, after I get back from a flight
Curly Tales: What do you have to say to our fellow Indians though these tough times?
Dushyant: There are a lot of people in essential services who don’t have a choice about stepping out, but there are a lot of you who do. Stay safe, stay isolated and remember that now, more than ever – divided we stand and united we fall.