One of India’s most recognisable and loved mascots, Air India’s portly Maharajah with folded hands has held a special place in the hearts of its citizens for years.
“We can call him the Maharajah for want of a better description. But his blood isn’t blue. He may look like royalty, but he isn’t royal. He is capable of entertaining the Queen of England and splitting a beer with her butler. He is a man of many parts: lover boy, sumo wrestler, pavement artist, vendor of naughty post cards, Capuchin monk, Arab merchant…”
These are the words of Bobby Kooka, the man who conceived Air India’s Maharajah nearly 72 years ago. One of India’s most recognisable and loved mascots, this portly figure in regal garb has held a special place in the hearts of its citizens for years.
A part of Air India’s campaign to distinguish itself from its peers, the jovial and rotund Maharajah first made his appearance on an in-flight memo pad in the mid-1940s. He was conceived by SK (Bobby) Kooka, who was then a Commercial Director with Air India and sketched by Umesh Rao, an artist at J Walter Thompson in Bombay.
Back then, India was known as the “Land of the Maharajas” and Air India was its only international carrier, flying to destinations such as Cairo, Prague, Damascus, Zurich and Istanbul. So Kooka wanted to create an illustration for Air India’s letterhead that would symbolise graciousness and elegant living.
I went to Kolkata with an upset tummy and returned with an upset husband. He had been very cheerful while we boarded the flight and the plane began to taxi. The air hostess started her routine, giving seat belt instructions and survival tips if the plane decided to take a dip into the ocean. My husband took a dip into his book when I asked him, “Where’s your briefcase?” I just remembered it wasn’t part of the hand luggage we had shoved into the overhead compartment.
He answered airily, “We checked it in,” and returned to his reading when what I said next made him forget his book for a long time. And that was some achievement. “We didn’t,” I persisted. “It was your carry-on baggage. Remember you left it unlocked because it would be with you?”
He turned ashen, clapped a hand to his mouth and jerked forward, straining his fastened seat belt and crashing back into his seat. “Oh no! I’ve left it behind! Where?” As he tried to figure that out, the plane accelerated and took off leaving his briefcase behind in Kolkata. “At the security check!” My husband exclaimed, looking aghast as he recalled his memory lapse.
He had forgotten to take it after the security check, having been pleased to collect his sling bag into which he had deposited his wallet, phone, pens and a notebook with a spiral spine, all guaranteed to beep if on his person. In fact, at the security check on our way to Kolkata, his pocket had behaved so much like an impromptu orchestra that on the return he had hit upon the idea of emptying his pockets into his shoulder bag before it was screened and, cock-a-hoop with its success, had completely forgotten his briefcase.
“What next?,” I asked. “No point informing the crew; no plane is going back for a briefcase unless it contained state secrets. And what’s in it?”
We racked our brains to recall the contents. Luckily my husband had emptied the case to accommodate the last minute shopping of the previous evening. So it didn’t have any important documents or cards. But it contained new silk saris, dress material, T shirts and a few knick knacks.
“So if we don’t recover it, we only lose these,” said my husband, looking relieved. “The saris!,” I cried in anguish.
During the flight we discussed the next course of action. I believed we would recover the case since my husband had chosen the best place in the airport to leave something behind – at the security check. Then I recalled that any abandoned piece of baggage is viewed with suspicion. “What if they immerse the case in water? Or something else?,” I was alarmed. “The saris!,” I cried out again. “They’ll be ruined.”
“Can you think only of saris?,” my husband snapped. The tension was getting to him. “One of them is your gift to me, that’s why,” I said and that mollified him.
We had more than five hours in Chennai before boarding the flight to Thiruvananthapuram. Earlier we had wondered how we would spend the time, but my husband’s ingenious briefcase plot took care of that. We explored the length and breadth of the airport putting in a few kilometres of brisk walking-cum hops, skips and jumps before learning what to do.
The airport manager, seeing my husband’s anxious face, reassured him, “Don’t look so worried, sir, you’ll get it back. Such things happen all the time.”
“‘Really?” Now my husband beamed, grateful he didn’t hold exclusive copyright for losing baggage.
The Lost and Found Department at Kolkata airport whom we called were close-lipped about the whereabouts of the briefcase but gave instructions on the procedure to follow in Thiruvananthapuram.
Once home, we revived our letter-writing skills what with the never-ending letters and e-mails we had to send to various addresses, describing the briefcase and its contents, all with scanned copies of the boarding pass and ID proof attached.
We also had endless calls to make and everyone wanted details. I was most relieved we had decent items inside the case and lauded my husband’s uncanny foresight that had made him remove his innerwear from it.
Lost and found
After many twists and turns in the plot in the next few days that would have done Jeffrey Archer proud, the briefcase, decorated all over with the Lost Property number, returned home. Bringing it in, my husband declared he wouldn’t leave the corporation limits again. Ignoring his loaded statement, I asked anxiously, “Are the saris intact?”
A fortnightly column by the city-based writer, academic and author of the Butterfingers series. She can be contacted at email@example.com
Source….Khyrunnisa . A
As part of the custom, the idols along with temple elephants are taken to Shangumugam beach for the ritualistic bath.
For two days in a year, the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport halts its flight operations for five hours on the basis of a ‘Notice to Airmen’ (NOTAM).
Respecting a centuries old temple tradition, the airport runway makes way for a grand procession.
Saturday is one of the two days in a year that sees members of the Travancore royal family, temple priests, police, and even elephants walk down the runway, as part of the temple procession. Hundreds of people also escorted the idols past the 3400-metre runway.
Flights have been halted between 4pm and 9pm at Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday.
The ‘Arat’ procession marks the conclusion of the Painkuni festival and the Alpassi festival. Painkuni and Alpassi are references to Tamil months. While Painkuni is in April, Alpassi is in October.
Arat is the ritualistic bath procession of temple idols at Sree Padmanabha Swami temple in Thiruvananthapuram. The procession, which began at 5pm, crossed the runway at 6.30 pm.
As part of the custom, the idols along with temple elephants are taken to Shangumugam beach for the ritualistic bath. The procession sees royal family members wearing traditional attire and carrying swords. All priests along with royal family members take a dip into the sea three times. The idols are also given a ritualistic bath.
The procession returns to the temple on the same route, accompanied by people carrying traditional fire lamps.
They have to, however, ensure that they clear the runway by 8.45pm.
“The ritual was started centuries ago when the Travancore royal family ruled here. Even after the airport was established, the procession continued to pass through the runway. When the airport was established in 1932, it was under the Royal Flying Club. Since then, the runway was open for these processions. Even after it was converted into an international airport in 1991, the practice continued as the tradition is very important to this place,” an airport official told TNM.
Since the runway is part of traditional arat procession route, the Airport Authority of India issues passes to those who participate in it. Only those who have a pass can enter the route and cross the runway to head to the beach.
“There are strict restrictions inside the airport area. CISF officials guarding the area allow only people with passes. We issue the pass only to people in the list given by temple authorities,” he added.
NOTAM is issued a week before these two dates in the year, so that all the international flights can change their schedule. NOTAM is a notice issued to pilots or airline operators before flights, alerting them of the circumstances or changes in aeronautical facilities or about local procedures that affect safety.
Source….Haritha John in http://www.the newsminute.com