A marriage made in the heavens …. literally!
The bridal couple, Sunita & Dilip Popley being welcomed at Mumbai airport by Uttara Parikh of Air India.
Air India always did things differently, and has many firsts to its credit, particularly for customer delight and here is one more example. When Laxman Popley of Mumbai, owner of Popley & Sons, Jewelers wanted to celebrate his son Dilip’s wedding with Sunita in October 1994, he approached the airline for something different, and the airline replied that for him, The Sky is the Limit! This is what made the airline truly unique.
Air-India dedicated 3 decorated check-in counters at Mumbai Airport for all the Hawai Bandhan flight guests.
The entire event was called ‘Hawai Bandhan’ (Wedding in the Air). A special design was created for this entire ceremony and tickets were given to guests in a folder specially designed for this. This folder said, ‘Air India proudly welcomes you to a historic wedding in the air, A marriage that’s truly made in heaven. We hope you enjoy the world’s first airborne wedding’. The same design was repeated on to the boarding cards and other collateral.
The Managing Director of Air-India, Capt. D.S. Mathur with Bride and Groom
Boarding was at 12.30 pm and take off was at 1.00 pm. Eight rows of seats were removed from the aircraft for the priest to perform the wedding ceremony and for the bridal couple. The bridal couple came to the airport in all their wedding finery and checked in at the beautifully decorated check in counter. Uttara Parikh, who was the main organizer on part of the airline, was there to greet them and was also on the flight. The Managing Director of Air India, Capt. D.S. Mathur who also happened to be at the airport greeted the couple as well.
Rose water was sprinkled on the guests as they boarded the aircraft, and a rose bud was presented to each of them. Shehnai music which is traditionally performed in Indian weddings was playing on the music system inside the aircraft as were other traditional wedding songs. The priest started performing the wedding ceremony once the aircraft took off. The ceremony itself was performed in full including recitation of traditional shlokas (hymns). The only part that was not possible was the lighting of the holy fire, which was not permitted for safety reasons.
These tent cards were placed in each meal tray on the flight.
While the ceremony was going on, guests were served with refreshments. The airline pulled out all the sops where it came to catering. Master Chef, Sanjeev Kapoor was roped in to curate the meal and he also prepared the three-tier wedding cake. The meals were served on Royal Doulton crockery. Each tray had a little menu card with the same Hawai Bandhan motif. The food served on board was catered by Air India in full compliance with their requirements of loading meals on board to fit in the trolleys.
A gift was also given by Air India to all the guests at the wedding. Air India also gifted the newly married couple tickets to Switzerland for their honeymoon. This was the first time a wedding ceremony was performed in the air, and was not repeated anywhere for many years by any other airline.
On a lighter note, I would love to see what their wedding certificate says about the place of marriage.
Here is a link to a 2 minute video about the wedding
She was the coordinator from Air India for this event.
The first ‘real’ pilot of Tata Airlines
We all know about how the house of Tatas forayed into civil aviation in 1932 as the Aviation Division of Tata Sons Ltd. Much has been written about two of the three pilots involved in the first flight between Karachi and Madras and back, between 15-18 October 1932.
He then joined Tata in 1932 flying mail for them between Karachi and Madras. During the eight years he was with Tata, he not only flew as part of the 15 October 1932 first flight, but also both the special flights with Christmas mail and the Colombo extension on 23 & 24 December 1936. Later when the Empire Air Mail Scheme was introduced, Bharucha again had the honor of flying the first extension flight from Karachi to Colombo on 27 February 1938.
Left: Homi with a Chinese pilot during World War II.
Right: (L to R) Sir Phiroze Sethna, Homi Bharucha, a postal official, Thelma and J.R.D. Tata, C.M. Eastly, Nusserwanji Guzder and Lady Sorab Saklatvala.
Mail flown by Homi D. Bharucha on first flights of Tata Air services.
Left: Bombay to Karachi on 18 October 1932; Right: Madras to Colombo on 23 December 1936 (pilot signed cover)
He joined the Maharaja of Jaipur in 1940 looking after his fleet of aircraft and aerodrome. He was then lent to the R.I.A.F. between 1942-1945 as a pilot, a Flt. Lieutenant, flying critical missions ‘over the hump’ in the Eastern Himalayas. He flew over 1,000 hours and was decorated with the AFC and DFC. After the war, when India took over the Air Force, he was promoted to Wing Commander.
Having taken very ill, he sadly passed away in 1948, just 40 years of age. His final resting place is at the Brockwood Cemetery and there is a beautiful plaque in his memory installed by his son Cyrus and daughter Gita in August 2022.
Sir, we salute you!
His children, Gita & Cyrus at his resting place in Brockwood Cemetery in August 2022
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