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
We are grateful to Uttara Parikh, our source of never ending knowledge on everything about Air India, for sharing this wonderful story with us and to permit us to use the images.
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
Shariar recounts his wonderful experiences while working with Air-India over the years
Shariar Karim, has served India’s national carrier Air-India with dedication for 38 years and 4 months, of its golden era, making him one of the longest serving Cabin Crew in the history of Civil Aviation in India. He has flown around the world with distinction as an In-Flight Supervisor and has been selected 26 times to operate V.V.I.P. flights for Kings, Presidents and Prime Ministers. He has also excelled as an Instructor, training Cabin Crew for flight duties, conducting Management Seminars for Executives, as well as motivating employees through Corporate Training Programmes all over India.
He introduced a package of ten innovations that took Air- India’s In-flight Service to a different level. A Gold Medalist and winner of several merit awards for excellence in service and teaching, he was nominated for the Prime Minister’s ‘Shram Award’.
Through his innovative and creative talents, he had conceptualized, choreographed and conducted a series of unique simulated ‘Flights of Fancy’ along with Bollywood stars, for socially deprived, physically challenged and terminally ill children. These flights won the hearts of many and received wide acclaim in the press and media for their noble contribution to social service.
He has composed many poems for Air-India’s special flights which have been printed in their International Magazine “Magic Carpet” and has compiled and published his lifetime’s works, "ODYSEY - AI Milestones and Memories". He is occasionally posting stories from his published book on social media. Some of his posts are listed below in PDF Form.
Maurice Wickstead served with Air India at London Heathrow Airport roughly between 1971 and 1982, having arrived there from Trans-Canada Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS). In his own words, “ ir India was a great outfit to work for, oft times chaotic, but great fun and the camaraderie developed there has lasted well beyond our tenure, since many of us although now a lot older, have remained in contact for all these years.”
Subsequently he embarked on a new leisure time 'career' as an aviation author, specializing in airline and air transport history. Most of his output over the last thirty-odd years has been directed towards international aviation magazines on a regular basis, and also has two small books on the history of the Douglas Dakota and a complete history of every British airline company since 1919. to his name. More recently, he has had published the histories of Air India, Indian Airlines, Pakistan International, together with a history of every (as far as he could discover) Indian airline. Currently under construction is the story of Biman Bangladesh. In fact, he has been in and around aviation all his life - from making model aeroplanes to aircraft spotting at Heathrow in the propeller era hey-dey and in retirement, with light aircraft and the local flying club.
Among the items in his collection of ephemera are a 1941 Tata timetable, a number of AI Annual reports dating from early post-war.
The three-part series on the history of Air India was was published in Aviation News (Dec 2003-Feb 2004). His in-depth study of the history of the airline, and passion for Air India is evident in his writings. He has been prolific writer and has published several magazine articles for various major UK and US aviation periodicals. 'British Dakotas' was published ,around 1985, followed by 'European Dakotas' in 1988, both were limited production runs by a small-time publisher and one would be very lucky to find copies for sale these days. Similarly, around five years ago, he authored a complete condensed history of every British airline company since 1919 - again this was a small run brought out on DVD because of the text size.
She has also carefully preserved some examples of her work and has kindly permitted me to post images of these. These include hand painted work-in-progress examples, Printers Proofs etc. of scarves that were gifted as promotion items, menu cards, wine lists etc. Nargis spent 3-4 years at Air-India International before relocating to London to build her career in Advertising.
Here are some examples of her work. On the top left, we have a hand painted design for a scarf. On the top center we have a printers proof of the menu card design which has the artists name signed just below the right hand of the woman. On the top right is another hand painted design of a Poster design. This poster was used to promote the new Slumberettes introduced in the Lockheed Super Constellations acquired by the airline in 1954.
I have added here a link to my Dropbox account for you to enjoy all the lovely items she has preserved.
Post Script: Very nice article appear in Conde Nast Traveler Magazine on May 11, 2018 about Nargis Wadia and her stint in Air-India. Click here to know more.
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