Author: G. R. Gopinath
"You Cannot Miss This Flight: essays Emerging On India" | Musings on an emerging India
Captain Gopinath’s writings, interspersed with light humour, and sarcastic quotes, make it a fulfilling read for all who are interested in India’s politics and policies, writes Radhika Dutt.
Captain GR Gopinath’s life has been nothing short of colourful. Beginning with his humble roots in the Gorur village of Karnataka, he went on to leave his imprint on the world of aviation with his low-cost airline Air Deccan. The colours of his life have been brought to the forefront in the recent compilation of his writings that have been published in the book titled “You cannot miss this flight: Essays on an Emerging India.” The title plays on the Air Deccan promise of providing affordable air services to all, by reminding readers to not miss this flight (the book), especially now when there is abundant convergent discourse on ideas that could shape India’s future. A regular contributor to leading national dailies, Captain Gopinath not only carries an inspirational story of harbingering difference in this modern world of constant cacophony and meaningless belligerence, but he also brings about a breath of fresh arguments where he analyses the constituents of our present democracy while repeatedly laying emphasis on the future of India that could be drawn out of the shadows of today’s miseries.
Divided into five distinct sections the book deals with issues most closely related to the Captain—Aviation, Enterprise, Society and Governance, Politics, and a closing section titled Musings. The only aspect that was given a miss, and could have been extremely consequential, especially today, is a section on the Defence Forces. With first-hand experience of being in the Army, where he also fought during the 1971 War of Bangladesh’s Liberation, Captain Gopinath could have provided some of his witty perceptive insight to unravel the underlying intentions of defence strategists and perhaps even highlighted the plight of soldiers who give up an immense lot to be at war in the most difficult terrains. Yet, these are musings of an insatiate reader who engrossed in Gopinath’s extremely reflexive writing wished she had more to immerse into.
Aviation could be termed as Gopinath’s first love. The idea to revolutionise aviation by providing access to all citizens irrespective of their social and economic bearing was indeed a unique and sellable idea that worked wonders for Air Deccan. However, glory was short-lived after the agreement with Kingfisher saw this very USP being shrouded under a cloud of privilege and fancy embellishments. He terms Aviation as the “Sick man of India,” one that needs urgent rejuvenation. Even now air services are limited in their access to ordinary citizens of the country. There is little use in developing technology and services if it fails to benefit the scale of our population. Originating from aviation and being a star entrepreneur himself, Captain Gopinath is adequately placed to speak of how aviation requires intervention and initiative to rejuvenate itself, sometimes from within sometimes from outside.
While Narendra Modi came to the Centre and suddenly revolutionised the idea of an entrepreneurial India, the fact that entrepreneurship has been the backbone of any growing economy remains undeniable. There is little progress we can make while polishing someone else’s boot. And stepping into the 21st century, India has equipped itself to wear the boot, rather than simply bending to polish it. However even now entrepreneurial pursuits are not enough, there must be more initiative by driven individuals to create something new, something more meaningful, that would drive the economy by providing occupation to hundreds of others residing quietly in our immediate periphery. We are still an economy reliant on agriculture and services, to grow at the desired rate of 10 per cent, we must bring the emphasis on entrepreneurial vision.
Governance and politics—almost two sides of the same coin, often the same warped coin that has indistinct imprints on either side. With a dozen essays on these corresponding themes, Captain Gopinath speaks elaborately on the condition of governance and politics in the state of India today. While addressing the issues of intolerance which he vehemently condemns, he also brings up the complexities of corruption—Gopinath traces the trajectory of what makes or breaks the Indian cycle of polity, politics and popular votes. A one-time member of the controversial Aam Aadmi Party, he also speaks of what compelled him to join the movement against rampant corruption while also addressing the problems of succumbing to a single party, a single ideology. In India, it is becoming increasingly difficult to divorce oneself from the practice of hero worship—whether in religion, or movies, or sports, or even politics. The ‘I’ centred narrative is eating its way into people’s minds, and the idea of collective action is dwindling in its executive capacity. This is dangerous because focal power does not spell well for anyone, not for those who have to live under its hegemony, and neither for those who momentarily embody its cloak. However, it was the same charisma of Narendra Modi that brought him to power in 2014. While Modi too presents a focal power, he has accomplished the daunting task of divorcing himself from the backlashes of this very power, expressed mostly in the form of corruption. This combination of being unfaltering while being powerful is what attracted thousands of Indians towards him, and he still thus continues to carry the beacon for our country’s future.
Captain Gopinath’s writings are interspersed with light humour, and sarcastic quotes, making it a fulfilling read for all who are interested in India’s politics and policies. As he ends the book with his musings, he brings into focus the new surprising phenomenon ruling the lives of Indians, that of Godmen and their often ridiculous ways. After all this rational brainstorming he sits to contemplate, “I wondered if this is my true calling, that I should become a godman.”