E-Pao! EI - Atiyada Manipuri/Flying Manipuris!!!!

Atiyada Manipuri / Flying Manipuris!!!!
By: Mohammed Sirazul Haidar *

Following is not a fishy story. Something to makes us Manipuri's proud of…read on.

I and my wife were the last passengers about to board the airplane of the Air India Express at the tarmac of Abu Dhabi airport on a dark early hour of a winter morning. We were on our way home for a long awaited vacation; the gentle cool breeze of the desert soothes the roaring engine of the huge airplane.

We were still on the top of the ladder docked to the entrance door of the airplane while the air hostesses were welcoming the passengers and helping them to their respective seats. One particular airhostess caught my eye however my wife was not aware of the fact that I was actually looking at the airhostess. I instinctively knew that the airhostess was of North East origin.

Diverting a little from the lady I was observing the cockpit which was clearly seen through the window. Suddenly a voice from behind asked me casually "Kya aap underse dekhna chahte hai?" I looked back and found a man in white uniform, the pilot.

With excitement and trepidation I replied "Sure! Kyon nahi?" and stepped my foot on the plane while my better half made her way inside the plane after exchanging the pleasantries with the hostess in question. Finally the hostess welcomes the last passenger with their usual Air India "Namashkar". I tried to scan her name hurriedly on the badge but was unable to do so.

Again the pilot said "Kya aap nahi dekhenge?. "Kyon Nahi, Kyon Nahi..." I replied and followed him to the cockpit. He took his seat on the left and introduced his colleague the main Pilot and himself. My wife was watching the events closely from behind with excitement that her husband was being allowed to view the cockpit so closely. I was thrilled to be invited for a first hand experience. I thought this only happened in the movies or in print.

"kaisa Laga? ...."Wonderful... I have never seen these before....I'll cherish this moment....thank you...blah....blah...." Finally he asked me..."Where are you from?" the North East, I replied. I did not think to go into more detail as not many Indians know of Manipur. "Where in the North East..." he continued. "Manipur" I replied.

"We have a crew member from Manipur with us." He proceeded to point out the airhostess who had initially greeted us onto the plane, the same hostess I had originally thought of as of North East Origin.

The airhostess I noticed was following the conversation inside the cockpit flashed her smile, in excitement I asked her, "Manipurdagiro? ..ou...maani...RITA number kaya oibiraba...."..."9E & 9F"..."adudi lengsinbirammu...ei...amukta take off ki loisinjakhige...ei lakke..."

Can anyone ever imagine how happy one Manipuri can get to find a Manipuri airhostess on board a plane they are flying, but an overseas flight as well? How envious for the other passengers, we were talking to an airhostess in our mother tongue! "Kayada chaothok charaba eikhoina...."

After all this excitement the plane took off for Delhi via Muscat. During the flight Rita continually came to chat to my wife and I, telling us about her experiences with Air India. We learnt that she is quite senior within the company and that she is currently supervising a new team of air hostesses for the budget carrier. She also told us this was the second time she had met a Manipuri on board; the first was when she was doing a flight from London to New York.

My wife was equally amused in conversation with the Manipuri airhostess, being born and brought up in Assam she hardly knows of the many achievements we Manipuri's have made in various fields. Seeing a Manipuri airhostess was beyond her imagination. Later on I told her that one of our neighbors "Boinu" (as she is known to us); a Kuki girl from Jiribam has been an airhostess for years. Many people who were fortunate to fly with her all praised her for her courtesy and hospitality.

We landed at Seeb International Airport at Muscat and the rest was history. There was an old North Indian diabetic passenger who had an attack while at Muscat Airport; his ailment delayed the flight for about two hours.

The impatient passengers unable to remain seated for these two hours hampered the medical service offered to the old man. I wondered how the hijackers of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 from Kathmandu to Kandahar dealt with the passengers, mostly Indians for a couple of days inside the airplane. The hijackers were indeed patient, they didn't kill everyone!!!

Finally the plane took off for Delhi, and whilst making myself comfortable in my seat I reflected on the wonderful service we had received from Rita. We truly got a first class service on this low cost single class carrier and my wife and I are grateful to have met her.

Minutes before we land at Delhi she gave us a midsized poly pack full of acha athak ......???? and said "Eikhoigidi Lairaba airlines nina karisu taujaba ngamdre, amuk unani khangde, waroubinu."....I was hesitant to take the gift but I could not refuse.

While at the arrival lounge we bumped into Rita and without hesitation I captured Rita with my wife on my digicam and we bid her goodbye. I promised her that I would write a feature about our meeting on

Our return journey after the short vacation back to Abu Dhabi from Delhi on the same airlines was even more astonishing, we found another Manipuri this time a male flight steward. I came to know of him being a Manipuri was from his name plate "xxxxxxxxxxx Kipgen" I was keen to talk to him but he seemed very busy so I decided to hold back till he finished his routine.

In the mean time I passed on a message to another steward to ask if Mr. Kipgen can see us at seat no. 15A & 15B. After about an hour Mr. Kipgen came looking for us, our look does not enable him to recognize us as Manipuri's "Pangal nina...Mayang Shak changbado..."

Mr. Kipgen is from Churachandpur, a place which always receives bad press. Oh! What a coincidence Rita too is from Churachandpur. We exchanged pleasantries and talked about a lot of things concerning the careers of Manipuris especially in the aviation sector.

He told us that there were no less than twenty flight stewards and airhostesses with the Indian carrier. I also remember that my brother told me many more Manipuri's are involved with the in flight training services of AHA in New Delhi.

I certainly hope that the number of Manipuri staff will go up...maybe I'll find two hostesses on my next flight with Air India...I'll let you know if I do.

While writing this I have just read an article about a Chinese Airline in the process of recruiting Indians for their in flight services, so it's good news and high time these prospective candidates grab this opportunity and chart new grounds bringing fame to Ima Manipur.

For more details on vacancies check Google, the Omnipotent...he knows all.

* Mohammed Sirazul Haidar contributes to regularly.
The writer can be contacted at [email protected]
This article was webcasted on April 30th 2006.

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