Bhasins, an aviator family that has clocked 100 years of flights together
Crisp whites, peak caps, flight bags, four stripes on their shoulders -- and the love for flying -- are the constants for three generations of Bhasins, a unique aviator family.
Five members of the family -- parents, two children and their late grandfather -- have nearly 100 years of flying among them.
The grandfather and the pioneer in the family, Captain Jai Dev Bhasin, was among the first seven pilots in the country to become a commander in 1954. When his future daughter-in-law Nivedita Jain joined his company, Indian Airlines, she was the third woman to do so.
Today, she and her husband Captain Rohit Bhasin are proud parents of two young commanders, Rohan and Niharika Bhasin.
“Flying fascinated me for as long as I can remember. Maybe when I was as young as six or seven,” recalls the matriarch, 54.
Her face lights up recounting the most important day of her life as if it were yesterday.
“I was at a friend’s birthday party when my father came running with an appointment letter for me from Indian Airlines. The day is etched in my memory. It was June 29, 1984,” she says.
She was just 20 when she received the letter and in the next 11 years, went on to achieve her most cherished career milestones.
At 26, already a mother of a one-year-old, she received her command on Boeing 737, becoming the youngest woman captain of a jet plane in the world.
Seven years later when she became a commander on Airbus 300 - one of the bigger aircraft then in the world and also the first-ever wide-body aircraft- it would be the culmination of her dreams.
She also became a trendsetter when she co-piloted the world’s first ever all-woman crew flight with a Fokker Friendship aircraft on the Calcutta-Silchar route in 1985.
Her feats set her apart and her children say they were in awe of her from their early days.
“As a a child I used to keep looking at her while she was getting ready for work and I really wanted to dress up like that one day,” says Niharika, 26, who has been flying with IndiGo for over four years and received her command on the Airbus A320 recently.
Not having their parents around all the time during their childhood did not bother the siblings as it was the only normal they knew. That has changed since they started flying.
“I realise now how difficult it would have been to co- ordinate flying and bringing up two children. They made it seem so smooth, but in all honesty it’s not,” Niharika says.
Nivedita Bhasin was the first pilot in her company to become a mother and it was in the years following her first child that the company instituted a policy on maternity leave.
The mother admits that there were times she thought of quitting the profession, especially when her children were nearing adolescence, but she was not ready to give up on a dream she had struggled to achieve.
That dream and passion were passed on to the offspring, who say that the thought of pursuing any other career never crossed their minds.
“I was appearing for an interview for KG class when I introduced myself as Captain Rohan Bhasin. Somehow I felt that since both my parents were captains then I must also be one. I was obsessed with aircraft,” says Rohan, 29.
His favourite TV shows were Wings and Extreme Machines on Discovery Channel and the books he read were about different kinds of military aircraft, he adds.
And so within 10 days after his 12 class exams, he was already in the US for training. Rohan has now been an Air Indian for 10 years and flies the Boeing 777 as a commander.
The younger Bhasins had to prove themselves in the eyes of their parents who wanted them to pursue other careers.
Niharika says that it was only after she topped her class at her training academy was she able to convince them about her commitment to flying.
The quirky father, who before becoming a pilot had harboured plans to be a tea taster, wanted his daughter to become a hairdresser.
While their parents, both of whom fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, have not flown together, the father-son duo have been in the cockpit on at least 10 flights.
So do the parents worry about the safety of their children when they fly?
“We are anxious and protective sometimes. We often advise them not to be tempted to land when the weather is bad, to carry extra fuel, not to be in a hurry,” says the father.
Flying in and out of Delhi to various parts of the country and the world the family can only manage to be together five to six days a month.
To a question whether there will be more pilots in the following generation, the geeky son, who married an HR professional, wonders if humans will still be flying 20 years from now.
“I don’t know if the job will still exist, especially with artificial intelligence and robotics gaining prominence.”
The daughter though is likely to add a pilot to the family by marrying one soon.