In Conversation with Amit, In-flight Executive, Jet Airways

(These are my notes from my conversation with Amit, In-Flight Executive of Jet Airways en route from London to Mumbai, – August 29, 2007)

Amit has been working with Jet for about 3 years now. He started working in the domestic sector first, and then took up the international flights about an year back.

He was a part of the cabin crew initially, and is now an in-flight executive. Critical difference, I figured, was in the level of responsibilities. IFEs lead flights. Amit, here, was responsible for handling the entire Economy class of passengers (my guess is that this responsibility can be a handful).

Choice of Career – Amit mentioned that he was keen on being a part of the hospitality sector pretty much from the beginning itself. Entered the line of Hotel Management from Bandra itself (after his Class XIIth), he was a chef (4th in line from the head chef) at JW Marriott. A lot of people in the hotels do realize after a while the slowness in growth. I know it because my own cousin quit JW Marriott to join a cruise where the growth, excitement, money- everything is higher. Back to Amit – his view is that in the hospitality industry, airlines is where the highest growth is. Net net- he took up this job, and is probably one of the younger IFEs at Jet Airways.

About alternatives to being a IFE/Cabin Crew Member – Mentioned that there are a lot of alternative careers available if you decide to quit this amount of flying. People take specialized courses once in a while in areas such as HR, marketing, etc and move to specialized roles. He mentioned examples of people moving not only into Airlines, but mainline IT firms as well. His point of view is that the experience of handling a flight and the number of people that we interact with is so high, that it gears them up for handling a lot of stressful people situations as well. Even otherwise, when these guys are not flying, they are involved in a lot of training etc.

About the traveling – Amit mentioned that the travel is not so harassing as it seems simply because they get comfortable breaks between flights unlike us corporate travellers, where the travel part is just the begining of the pain. They dont have to carry any work home. Pang of jealosy, I did feel! 😉

On asking him about the places he had been to, he mentioned that all the sectors where Jet is flying right now, he has had a chance to go – Toronto, NY, London, Brussels, Singapore, etc. Jet is starting a UAE sector as well. However, he mentioned that after a while the amount of traveling you do within the location goes down – Same location every time, how much can you spend, are the kind of questions you ask yourself.

About Jet’s performance –

Jet is apparently strongly emerging as a strong competitor to many airlines, as evidenced by the Singapore Airlines comment where the opening line mentioned Jet explicitly as the biggest threat. Now, we all know that Singapore Airlines is considered to be one of the best airlines in the business.

He was all praises for the new crafts Jet has introduced, in terms of comfort, ambience, the shades used, etc. He insisted that those flights give you less of the tardy feeling of having been aboard a flight for so many hours. He encourages you all to try them at least once.

Another passenger onboard who is part of the international marketing team for Hiranandani Builders was all praises for the marketing efforts of Jet. Cited the case of a recent marketing event in Toronto where Jet had invited about 500 prominent people from business and Economics kinda areas and gave them an experience of the new crafts by even having seats/layouts the way it would be on the flights.

About important people on flights –

Interesting tidbits here. It came out during our conversations around how Jet is becoming a preferred airline on many circuits and is giving tough competition to mature players. The flight I had taken had Juhi Chawla on board (now I know that she isn’t that big a celebrity anymore, but that does not mean that she is pretty and famous and all that and all that and things like that). He mentioned that because you have to handle so many other activities for these important travelers (like film stars, politicians, cricket players, etc.) you automatically start understanding their travel habits, etc. And if they are frequent travelers, they also start recognizing faces and people who are taking care of their travel needs. Net result, it becomes something far more valuable than just a traveler-facilitator relationship. Interesting, isn’t it? I have seen people bragging about knowing important people so many times. But its quite interesting that for them, usually, a business class is about important people and they end up meeting/knowing a lot of interesting people, and probably the high and drama of meeting them tapers off after a while.

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Now, you might be wondering after reading this long post whether I am advertising Jet Airways, or the career of an in-flight executive. Neither. I just find it very interesting to understand people from different walks of life. Being on a flight with fewer passengers just helps get a chance to interact more. Its like having a conversation with the Mumbai cabbie about how he makes his living, the auto driver about his expensive music system when he is saving every penny for survival, or the musician or advertising professional who discovers his creative penchant very late in life.

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London Travelogue – Part 1

I landed in London on Monday morning. It was 8:30AM or so by the time I came out of the airport. A slight chill (~15 Deg. Celsius) in the air, few vehicles on the street (Monday was a bank holiday in London), I realized that I was liking the city. Despite my horrible immigration experience, where 4 people were handling immigrations for 6 simultaneous flights, I was, fairly soon, thrown into a city with some beautiful buildings, narrow paved streets and people walking around in all kinds of dresses (formal and informal). What took me in the most is the architecture.

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The hotel I was staying at – Radisson Mountbatten, can be called an average hotel, the likes of which you find quite a lot in places like NY – nice and good, small rooms, basic functionality kinds. Not the expansive rooms that Indian hotels have, but comfortable and functional. The hotel is in the heart of the Central London – a few blocks from Trafalgar square, Leicester Square, very close to Covent Garden, Theater Lane, China Town, etc. A couple of miles off is the London Eye, Westminister Abbey. The office was a couple of small blocks away. Office being on the 10th floor of a Central London building, there are some excellent views available from the meeting room windows.

That far was the background. Now, let me tell you what I did.

Morning: After refreshing myself a bit, I went out with Bee and Ranjeetha. They had come to pick me from the hotel. We went to their place first, grabbed some breakfast, and then moved out. We want to Kent to meet Crap, and found that he had taken a break to vegetate in his room. And vegetate he did with a huge 43′ HDTV, a fully integreated home theater system with DVD player, VHS tape player, speakers etc and a complete collection of Star Trek- The Next Generation video tapes. We bull-ed around for some time. Discussed random things, before checking out his newly acquired prized possession- a Toyota Sports Car – 220BHP, 2000 CC, red color, car for just 1000 pounds. It was a steal, I say! Considering he would break even on this investment in just 2 months, and he gets to be a proud owner of a sports car!

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Lunch: After this nice meet-do we started towards Greenwich where I saw people trying to control kites that were as big as parasailing balloons. Nice.. Moved to have lunch at a nice Italian Lunch at Bella Vista (not that I would recommend this restaurant to a lot of people, but it was a decent change from the Indian Italian I am used to). Came back to Bee’s place to see India almost losing the match to England (they did lose the match eventually). Finally, I was dropped back at the Leicester Square station by Bee and Ranju.

I was supposed to call Alex now, who had been waiting for me all day long. I had somehow managed to get a slip so far. But not for long. While trying to find his hotel, I passed Trafalgar square three times and saw and enjoyed almost everything that is there to be enjoyed. Its a nice place to spend an evening just chit-chatting and looking at the victorian architecture surrounding the place.

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Evening: After locating Alex, we grabbed a cuppa at Starbucks, chatted about different things, and how Partner was in love with the city of London because there was so much activity, so many colorful people and I am sure there would have been several other reasons (yeah.. the description of all the women he liked) if I had shown even marginal interest in knowing what the reasons were! Just as I fear on such occasions, our conversation quickly moved to official stuff and I reminded myself that the workaholic me hasn’t thought about the next day. So, we got back to business, went back to his hotel, and started working on the two decks that we were supposed to be working on. Finished that by around 9PM and came out for Dinner.

Dinner : When in Rome, do the Romans. I wanted to have an “English” Dinner. The first three places that we went to, had their kitchen closed at 9PM, Monday being a holiday in London. Finally, we went to a Garfunkel’s. Now, Garfunkel is like the English cross between McDonald’s and TGIF. I dont know if TGIF is also an English chain though. It serves standard fare, has outlets in every third corner of London, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner along with nice Alcohol. I went about the business with a nice order of Chicken Kiev and Diet Coke. Partner ordered something to suit his palette. And I realized something that I had been thinking about all through the day. English people are Europeans! They take 25 minutes+ to serve your order. And the whole dinner/lunch affair is usually upwards of an hour. Everything is done at a leisurely pace. Nice! MKOP.

Good night! : I came back to my room at around 11 in the night, drained of energy and a sagging mind (it was 3:30AM IST! What do you think??). Still unable to sleep, I think I got about 2-3 hours of sleep till about 6AM. And the last note here, is that you guys should definitely listen to the “Jana Gana Mana” album by A R Rahman. Awesome!! Its difficult to channel so much creativity together. Over 20-25 great artists giving voice and soul to the national anthem in their own way. Simply mindblowing stuff.

 

Update: Click on the image thumbnails to enlarge the pics

Change

At times its a little difficult to understand. Not just your silence, but also your words…

” You remember? The times when we had a lot of time. A lot of time to think about the lot of time that we could use. These days its a little different. We don’t have time.”

You seem to have forgotten! You don’t seem to miss anything anymore…

“Don’t I? Let me think. To be honest, I have never been a good multi-tasker. I need time to get things done.”

Ahh.. I dont agree. I think you do multi-task quite well.

“Well.. you shouldnt be saying that…”

Why?

“If I were a good multi-tasker, I wouldn’t have forgotten. I would still miss.”

No.

“What?”

No…

“….”

I mean.. you would not have missed. You would have done..

“So… what is it?”

The letter you wrote a zillion aeons back…

“??”

About changing.. and still being the same..

“??”

You still are the same! You still have a lot of time.

“??”

You have changed as well. You don’t do the same things anymore!

B-rating them… C who got pulped!!

Picked from SARIN’s blog

please appreciate the talent in creating this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9Sz8u4GcX0

and then read the narrative at: http://www.geocities.com/sarinsuares/Samhar.doc

Oh! I love this.. I just love this! Its the kind of sadistic pleasure I derive from totally frivolous things. IIM Bangalore thrashing the shit out of IIM Calcutta- in a sports festival. A college with 75% attendance requirement (B) beating the shit out of a college where people take pride in having no attendance requirement (C). Where the USP over the years has been their life beyond academics culture ;)… LOL… ROTFL..

Vinod may pull my bonus down because of this post… But does it look like I care! 😉

And now, I am just waiting to hear IIMCians come up with all sort of wise-cracks about why and how they lost!! “And we thought there could B no one worse than XL”.. LOL… LORL… “Now can you C what’s worse than XL?”

Guys- Sista, Nishant and all you guys.. you just made my day! my week.. my month! 🙂 Its gonna be great fun! 😀

Movie Review: Gandhi, My Father

Rating: 9 on 10. 1 point deducted for the last 20 minutes which are a little slow.

Harilal giving an apple to Ba at train station

The movie is not about Gandhi – the father of the nation. Its about Gandhi, the failed father of a failed son. The greatness of this movie is not in the greatness/Gandhi surname of its protagonists, but the fact that you come out of this 140 minute session without blaming either of the two. Coupled with some great performances from Akshaye, Darshan, Shefali and Bhoomika, this movie is an extremely sensitive portrayal of an issue which could have ignited quite a few factions in the society. However, having gone looking for good acting and some nice controversy (oh yes, I was expecting that), I came out having seen an excellent movie, directed with photographic finesse, enacted with artistic excellence, and consciously staying away from controversy while communicating everything the storyteller wanted to say.

The relationship between the Father and the Son is best described in a shot of the movie – Harilal reaches South Africa. Gandhiji could not go to the port to receive him. His retort – itne kaam hai aur waqt itna kam. Next dusk, early morning, Harilal goes to meet Mahatma, touches his feet and sits next to him. It’s a shot where only the silhouettes are shown and you can see an older but perfectly straight Mahatma Gandhi sitting next to a younger but slightly slouched/bent over Harilal. That posture, that subtlety, defines the relationship and the kind of people the two were.

Now, I might inviting the ire of a lot of people (critics, bloggers) who would call the movie drab, slow, unauthentic, lacking details, etc etc., but I guess I am entitled to my opinion.

Unlike many who love or hate the Father of the Nation in totality, I still have mixed feelings about Gandhiji. I respect him for being one of the greatest leaders of all times, and for bringing the entire (well, almost) nation under one philosophy. But at the same time, I don’t consider him God who could not have made mistakes. I do agree with some of the views of the nation paying a price for some of his decisions. That said, it does not take away all that he did this for a nation which comes together only for a cricket match or a war.

Anyways – the movie is about Harilal, Mahatma Gandhi’s son, and his relationship with his father, who incidentally, was the Father of the Nation. Its not about Gandhi family. Its not about the three other sons of Gandhiji. Neither is it about Kasturba Gandhi (Ba), or Gulab (Harilal’s wife). They exist in the movie as supplements to the relationship between Gandhiji and Harilal. And to that extent, full marks to the director for being so focused on what he wanted to show.

Direction is good, albeit slow at places. But lets not forget that this movie could not have had singing dancing the way run of the mill movies have. Neither a deep exploration of relationships is best shown at a rocket pace (remember? The “Art Movies” of yesteryears).

Its definitely acting where the movie scores a home run. Akshay and Darshan are phenomenal in their performances. Akshay continues to be one of the most underrated actors of the industry. The way he essays a character is quite understated and restrained. And that’s what makes him so lovable. Despite the fact that Harilal does come across as an idiot by the end of the movie, you don’t come out of the theatre hating him. You feel pity for him.

The surprise package, surely, is Darshan. I hadn’t seen a lot of him. I had no idea how good or bad an actor he is. I remember him from comedy serials, where he played his part well. But this movie marks his coming of age (high time 😉 ). Now, Gandhi, as a character, is not the easiest to play. From what I understand, and what I had imagined Mahatma Gandhi to be, Darshan did bring it to life. Gandhiji for me – perpetual smile/amusement/wonder, the ease with which he went about handling the most difficult of circumstances, his walk, his proud personality inside a (seemingly) frail body – I could feel that Darshan has done justice to his character.

Even Shefali Chaya as Kasturba Gandhi and Bhoomika Chawla as Gulab Gandhi have performed brilliantly. Their silences and agony tear you apart at times.

My endnote on this movie – If you have the sensibility of keeping your emotions for Gandhiji (as the Father of the Nation) aside, while evaluating what human relationships are all about, you should definitely see this movie. If you are looking for some mudslinging on Gandhiji/Harilal, then this is not the movie for you. This movie is just a reflection of a proverb from Indian mythology– one of the heaviest burdens to carry on your shoulders is that of your father’s fame.

Movie Review: Chak De India

Update – Just realized that I had left this post in the draft mode! 🙂
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This movie should become a big hit. And you have to see the movie to understand why.

It’s a pretty drab script about a failed coach leading a substandard team to world cup glory, nothing less. It has 16 very very average to hopeless actors trying to support Shahrukh ‘Kabir Khan’ make this movie what it is. The music barring a few chords here and there can at best be called average. But the movie is nothing short of sensational. A perfect sports movie capturing the spirit of sportsmanship, the passion that being at the highest level requires, the agony of loss, the ecstasy of victory, the embarrassment and happiness of newly found fame, the jealousy between champions, and the lack of humility being the downfall of every sportsman.
The movie took me to the times when I used to take the field. Much as you know that this is just a game, and winning and losing are a part of it, only a sportsman can understand the pain of losing a game. The one thing I have never been able to understand about betting scandals is how someone can throw the game at the highest level. The honor, pride and emotions (in addition to the love for the game) are what make you play the game at the highest level. Maybe the money is too high and people do get tempted. But I am sure its difficult to implement the bet once you take the field. It must kill you as a sportsman.

Anyways, back to the movie, I think this movie is perfect film-making example. The Director does not depend on too many things/people to make a great movie. He just knows what he is making, and what he wants his actors to do, what his cinematographers to shoot. For this movie, I would give full marks to the Director. And to Shahrukh. Now, to tell you, I am not a great fan of Shahrukh. More often than not, I don’t like his movies. The candy floss romance from the YR table is just not me. I would anyday prefer watching a Gunda, Shivaji, Partner over a Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. But in this movie, its one helluva restrained performance, no hamming and you get a feeling that he must have played some game at some point in time.

The editing and cinematrography when it comes to the hockey match scenes is also good. Whats definitely worth mentioning is that unlike most of the hindi sports movies where bulk of the movie time is devoted to off-the-field histrionics, this movie is a humbly sports-centric movie and spends most of the time on the field (and training grounds). There aren’t too many people falling in and out of love, neither are they doing it for their father/mother. Everyone is playing for himself/herself and eventually, for the pride and honor of playing for the Indian team. That’s the winning sentiment.

And quite refreshingly, the way the cast is selected, at least most of them don’t look like jokers holding hockey sticks (remember Asif  Tariq (thanks Kuffir for pointing this out) holding the guitar in Kya hua tera waada? Or, Rishi Kapoor molesting the guitar in Dard-e-Dil dard-e-jigar? Or, more specifically, Amir Khan fooling around with a bat in Awwal Number?)

I would STRONGLY RECOMMEND watching this movie. And you can tell me that you were not able to feel the surge of emotions at different times.

Ahh.. and before I close the post – a song which is definitely worthy of mention – Maula mere le le meri jaan!! Beautiful, in the background, and extremely melancholic. You all must listen to this track!

Music Review: Kailasa – Jhoomo Re

I have been listening to the latest Kailasa (Kailash Kher’s band) album, Jhoomo Re since morning. And a vote of appreciation is due. (Though I often reprimand myself for refering to Kailasa as Kailash Kher’s band. Its a group of extremely talented artists – Kailash Kher, Naresh Kamath, Paresh Kamath, Kurt Peters, Sanket Athale, Rinku Rajput, Sameer Chiplunkar, Debyajyoti Dutta (Jonqui), Sankarshan Kini and Tejasvi Rao)

In their new album, Kailasa continue from where they left “Teri Deewani”, their previous hit album. “Teri Deewani”, the title song of their previous album, continues to be one of the finest use of Sufi undertones amongst commercial albums of recent times. Jhoomo Re builds further and establishes the bands credentials further. Kailasa is definitely a band to watch out for.

From “Jhoomo Re”, TV channels are already airing videos of two of the songs – Ba Bam Bam, and Saiyaan.

Ba Bam Bam has a rustic feel to it and will probably be appreciated more by people who understand Lord Shiva worshipping better. I don’t know the technical word for it, but those who have heard devout Lord Shiva worshippers will understand the sound as well as the rendition of this song. It’s a song full of energy and mindless devotion. That said, I don’t expect the song to become a popular hit, much against its originality and feel.

The next song- Saiyaan, is in the same league as Teri Deewani and Dilruba. High notes, soulful, and extremely powerful, Saiyaan is a must hear for all you sufi music lovers out there.

“Hire Moti Main Na chahoon,
Main to chahoon sangam tera
Main to teri .. saiyaan
Tu hai mera

Tu jo choo le pyaar se
Araam se mar jaoon main
Aaja chanda bahon mein
Tujh mein hi gum ho jaoon main
Tere naam mein kho jaoon main…”

(from Saiyaan). Interpret it in as many ways as you like!

The other songs that I would definitely recommend are Chaap Tilak (Khusro’s classic work), Daulat Shohrat (with a liberal touch of Sufism), and Tere Naina (beautiful lullaby). Beyond these three, there is ‘Tu hi mera Jaan hai’ (rendered in Punjabi folk tone) and Joban Chalke (sung with a Rajasthani feel). The amount of amalgamation (of spiritual and regional flavors) in this album is just too good to resist.

Things to reach out for when you are hearing this album –

1. Multiple interpretations, just as you would when you read vintage Sufi poetry
2. The music arrangement – its an excellent mix of modern and traditional instruments. Also, watch out for the use of natural sounds.
3. Kailash Kher’s voice – to me, his voice stands for humility and purity.
4. Effective use of backing vocals to accentuate emotions.

Let me know what you guys think after hearing the album.

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