Fighter pilots are a breed into themselves. This is something that must be experienced and no amount of anecdotes can make you aware of this fact.
Superficially one sees the signature aviator glasses, dashing uniform and a dynamic personality immortalized by Tom Cruise in ‘Top Gun’. No one can remain unimpressed when faced with such raw energy, charm and their sense of humour. Their ability ‘to think on their feet’ is something that all of us must try to imbibe.
Dig a little deeper and you will find that pilots in general tend to be different from other professionals, fighter pilots in particular. It could be because of the rigorous training they undergo combined with the very nature of their flying that can be unforgiving or close knit relationships they form in their flying units/squadrons.
Before I am accused of exaggeration, here is scientific proof of some of these differences:
A University College London study has found huge differences in brains of pilots of fighter aircraft in comparison to a control group. Researchers used cognitive tests and MRI scans for the study. It is not yet known if people are born with these differences or they are acquired later. (Read the study here or copy paste the following in a new browser: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1012/10121402)
In a country increasingly enamoured with fat pay checks and ivy league MBAs, such studies can help encourage youngsters to take up a career in military flying that is often only associated with low pay and dangers.
Fighter pilots are a rare breed of human beings. They lead intense lives fully appreciating each moment to its utmost. Up at the crack of dawn, they seem to have an endless store of energy even if called on to work 24X7. Flying over inhospitable terrain or unfriendly/enemy territory actually brings out their best.
One way to recognise a pilot away from his airbase, is from his characteristic Ray-ban Aviator sunglasses. This iconic brand is almost synonymous with pilots. Sunny or cloudy the weather conditions are immaterial…
The use of aeronautical jargon is often carried through into daily lives such as “what time do we leave?” is often replaced with “wheels roll time”; a sudden downpour is due to a CB (cumulonimbus cloud); all procedures need thorough SOPs (standard operating procedure) from making tea to emergencies like a hot water scald; a family picnic needs a ‘briefing’ for all members, each one is “detailed” for a duty (games in-charge, food i/c, tpt i/c)….
There are some other distinguishing personality traits that all of us from the IAF family have experienced. To name a few: attention to detail, a systematic manner of executing tasks (even its just buying subjee), a pathological disregard for inactivity, ready to take a joke about themselves…
Before you think I am prejudiced read these that were part of an email forwarded to me…
Jokes apart, we wouldn’t want things any other way….
Q: How do you know if there is a fighter pilot at your party?
A: He’ll tell you.
Q: What’s the difference between God and fighter pilots?
A: God doesn’t think he’s a fighter pilot.
Q: What’s the difference between a fighter pilot and a jet engine?
A: A jet engine stops whining when the plane shuts down.
08 October is celebrated as Air Force Day in the Indian Air Force.
Last night there was an unexpected “ farmaish” of ‘baked beans’ for dinner. Living out of the environs of an Air Force (AF) Station for over 4 years now, this request brought memories of our life there tumbling out.
Dining in the Officers Mess was always an option for all of us whether it was for an impromptu party or Tuesday lunch to savour ‘chole bhature’ or when the lady of the house decided she simply did not want to cook. Officers Messes in some AF stations boasted of such high standards of food that families regularly dined there.
However, by and large everyone agreed that food all places tasted the same. It was always a mystery to me how the cooks managed this feat with the tea, custard or the curries. All the vegetables were uniformly tasteless and we ladies being very finicky invariably found faults with the ‘rotis’. I always ordered ‘parathas’ on ‘extra messing’ which never disappointed.
As far as the vegetables went, ordering a tin of ‘baked beans’ or egg bhurjee (spicy scrambled eggs) again on ‘extra messing’ usually took care of that aspect of the menu. These humble preparations saved many a meal. Families awaiting accommodation had to dine in the Mess and they never complained at the monotony of these ‘extra dishes’. There were complaints galore for the freshly cooked subjees served…. I freely admit that I too have indulged in these inexplicable complaining sessions!
At one of our postings in the East, the ladies took an initiative and decided to help out the cooks in an attempt to improve the taste of the meals. That was the time I got an “insight” into the workings of mess kitchens. We came up with innovative spice combinations using ration issued condiments to help the cooks to prepare delicious preparations. Every lady lent her own special touch bringing a different personality to every meal menu. The ironic part was that most of us had never bothered to use the same innovation at our own homes, preferring instead to disdainfully away give the ration stuff to the maid and use the readymade packaged stuff instead!!!!!
On civil street today the privilege of dining in the Officers Mess in not available to me. The experience in the East had shown me the difficulties faced by the cooks and mess committees in catering and these were by and large same in most AF stations. This probably explained the uniformity in the taste. I however look at this aspect as a boon. At every posting the process of settling down at the new place is a testing one for the entire family. The comforting familiarity of the food makes the process that bit easier!
We have had the privilege of living in all parts of the country, interacting with some of the best people, bringing up our children in vast open spaces where the air was pure and fresh. Of course life was not easy – frequent postings, schooling that may not always be the best, limited professional opportunities for ladies – just to name a few, but given a second chance, I would not choose any other.
As we finished up the last of the beans and poured over old albums I mentally saluted the ‘baked beans’ for making the mess dining experience a memorable one!
Air Force Day
An important period for us a few years back as it meant weeks of hectic activities and preparations for this week that usually had several events.
The big one usually was the Officers Mess function. Ladies were kept busy preparing an entertainment program, decorations, food etc. All our postings were in far flung regions so outsourcing food to some hotel was never an option.
Its our cooks who did the honours and always came out shining. Ladies too put in their bit with special recipes or decor.
An important effort during the party was to look after ‘veterans’ who were invited to this annual do.
Today we are on the other side of the fence….
From my experience last year, this party is still carried out with the same zest as before only I looked at it from a different lens.
We had lived in dilapidated ‘bashas’, read freshly delivered 2-day old newspapers, stayed connected via trunk calls then STD PCOs, accepted snakes, leeches and scorpions….
We lived in clean fresh air, our kids had plenty of space to play… The friends we made are for life. The lessons we learnt still stand by us. The skills we gained come in handy even today in the urban jungle that is now our home.
All the very best to the Indian Air Force.
Happy Landings to all the men in blue.
8th October is the Air Force Day. As the Indian Air Force celebrates its Platinum Jubilee, we congratulate the men in blue and offer our best wishes for them to touch greater heights!
Let’s pause for a moment and remember the contributions of all our brave soldiers especially those who are no longer amongst us. Every one of them has put nation before self to protect the nation.
Their families too happily and selflessly make several sacrifices.
Take a few minutes of your time and learn more about this service at :
A very relevant question.
To me its the colour of the wide unending blue sky….
All covering, all protecting
yet instills fear that may fall down on our heads if anything goes drastically wrong!
Its also the uniform colour of our brave military pilots!
Yes the men (and women) flying the iron birds and doing such a wonderful job to protect our skies.
Most of us don’t even recognise their existence except when some skirmishes begin with neighbouring countries. Some see them as rescue workers in case of floods or other natural calamities.
Yet we owe much of our feeling of security and comfort to the hard work they put in! The hardships they bear. The risks they take.
Think about it the next time you hear a fighter jet streaking past overhead, leaving behind a white trail just in case you failed to spot it on time!
Yes, A yen for blue!