When all you had was a single airline called Air India

My grandfather, T.S Sreekantiya and grandmother, S. Kamlamma with family and staff at the Arrival lounge at the Airport, Bombay, Maharashtra. 1978

Image and Narrative contributed by Prasad Ramamurthy, Mumbai

Both my grandparents’ families were Tamil Palghat Brahmins and migrated from Kerala over generations through Karnataka to finally settle in Bengaluru (Bangalore) . A few years after they got married my grandparents moved from Bengaluru to Bombay in 1932.

In the late 70’s when all you had was a single airline called Air India to fly you out the country to anywhere, you really needed to ‘know’ somebody to help you get Emergency Quota tickets air travel and that was a well and truly a big deal. So when you set off somewhere or returned it meant the entire family, extended family and the house staff turned up to say hello or bid you goodbye.

Like, when my grandparents who had gone to Iran to visit an uncle of mine (he worked for the Tata’s and was building power plants for the Iranian government then) returned. We; my parents, the three of us, my uncle, the house staff, my uncle’s office staff and two others I don’t even recognise turned up garlands in hand and with those curious things that every newly married couple was made to hold onto in those days while greeting guests at the marriage reception. I’m sure my uncle was thankful that when he set off a few years later, on what then to us was an epic trip to the US for three whole months, we didn’t do the garland-bouquet routine. But of course there always was a mandatory picture, family, extended family, staff included!

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Mathew T. George

    Was surprised to see the Centaur on the Air-India logo in 1978. I always thought that it was a relatively recent motif, replacing the Maharaja. Wikipedia says the Centaur was on since the 1940? That’s not possible, is it?

    1. K Raj

      Mr George- I believe the centaur was always the logo. The maharaja was the Amul girl equivalent- a character that people could recognize in PR materials. I grew up with a Maharaja doll proudly displayed in our showcase at home.

  2. My Life Chronicles

    I heard a similar story when my father returned from Canada in 1963 after a year’s stay at Atlas Steel Company, Welland, Ontario. My Uncle, aunt and a few others went to the Dum Dum airport (now Netaji Subhas Bose) with garlands and bouquets. Unfortunately the flight from Delhi did not arrive that day (there were no SMS updates) and they came back disappointed. I can imagine how embarrassing it would have been for him had the flight arrived on schedule. He came quietly the next day without anybody waiting to receive him at the airport.

  3. mychronicledlife

    Read your blog and about Indian memory project in the newspaper. This is a commendable venture. I started My Life Chronicles (www.mylifechronicles.com) last year. We help individuals, institutes and corporates preserve their memories by creating memoir book an biographies. And photos, like the ones shared here, are an integral part of the memoirs. Once again, a wonderful initiative! Regards, Sumit

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