Over time we become increasingly aware about aspects of our behaviour that adversely affect our health and the eco-system around us. Even in the early history of Air India, this is very evident. The airline prided itself in high quality gifts to passengers and business contacts. Often in the 1950s all the way through to the 1970s, these were cigarette lighters and ash trays. You can see images of these elsewhere in our website as well (https://www.airindiacollector.com/gifts-and-souvenirs.html).
Over time the airline became more aware of the ill-effects of tobacco, and participated in a campaign to create awareness of the harmful effects of smoking.
The poster itself was released in July 1977, and was ironically sponsored by the Cigarette Manufacturers Association. In classic Air India style, it features our Maharajah, and a touch of humor consistent with his unique personality.
Bobby Kooka himself was a bon vivant, and enjoyed his smoke, so this is hardly surprising. What is amazing is the transformation of the image of the airline from one that prided itself in promoting smoking into one that promoted awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco.
This story does not end with smoking alone. Kooka himself was an avid hunter, and it is not surprising that in the early years the airline glorified this bloody sport.
In June 1969 the airline published it’s Shikar (hunting) poster
A product of the Air India art studio, this is an adaptation of an old Indian Miniature painting. This version shows our Maharajah on horseback, out for Shikar (hunting), and his attendant is spearing a tiger to death. At one time, Shikar was considered a royal sport. The Maharajah on Shikar made an appearance also on the cover of the January 1967 timetable.
There is another depiction of a hunt, on the cover of the June 1967 timetable. In perhaps the most unforgivable depiction of our maharajah, this one has him hunting using a long barrel rifle, and an innocent deer is the unfortunate victim. One cannot help but shed a tear at this sight. There is nothing sporting or manly about such a shameful act.
However, the airline did finally redeem itself. Kooka himself was closely associated with the World Wildlife Fund in his later years, and Air India released a series of posters encouraging protection of the animal species. Here are some of the wonderful creations that were to follow.
What I do know is that there was a grand celebration event held at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, and Mr. J. R. D. Tata was invited as the chief guest. He spoke nostalgically about his years with the airline, and a Films Division documentary of the 1948 flight was also shown.
The Swarowski Maharajah was also presented to Mr. Tata and other senior Air India officials. The one in my collection was graciously presented to me by a former Managing Director of the airline, and I am ever so grateful to him for his generosity. This is so rare that is all these years of collecting Air India memorabilia, I have never seen this on the market, in India or abroad.
The Maharajah comes packed in molded foam, set inside a strong cylindrical box with a decorative motif and Air-India Centaur and Maharajah logos.
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