It’s all in the family

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on January 09, 2018

Flying high Rohit and Nivedita Bhasin’s family is made up of five pilots, and will soon acquire another - a son-in-law -to-be. Sushil Kumar Verma

For over sixty years, three generations of Bhasins have been flying commercial flights in India

We have all heard of doctors’ children becoming doctors and engineers’ children becoming engineers but three generations of pilots? That too with the same airline, Air India?

Meet the Bhasin family. Captain Jai Dev Bhasin joined the National Airways before shifting to Indian Airlines in 1956 from which he retired as a senior pilot in 1986. His son Rohit is a commander with Air India with over three decades of flying experience, which includes flying President Pratibha Patil on her foreign tours. And then there is grandson Rohan who became a Commander on the Boeing 777 aircraft flown by Air India this year.

And this is not all. Rohit’s wife Nivedita too is a pilot with Air India and has many distinctions to her name – when she joined Indian Airlines she was only the third woman pilot in India and twice she has been a part of all-women crews on flights.

The only exception is daughter Niharika. But only because she works for IndiGo and not Air India. The family collectively has captained and flown almost all the aircraft flown by domestic airlines in India.

Rohit is perhaps the only one in the family who was not keen on following in his father’s footsteps when he was growing up in Kolkata. Rohit thought he would either become a tennis player or a tea taster but his first flight changed his thinking. “I flew in the cockpit of the Airbus A-300 along with my father from Chennai to Singapore and it was a wow experience,” Rohit recalls. And soon were born dreams of flying the Boeing 747, the largest commercial plane flying in the skies globally then.

Rohit and Nivedita met in Kolkata where she was working as a trainee pilot for the Fokker aircraft in 1985 and after a whirlwind romance they got married. Children Rohan and Niharika followed soon after. Initially Nivedita seriously thought of quitting work and staying at home to look after the children but her father-in-law dissuaded her from giving up her career. Just as he dissuaded her from joining a private airline when they first came on the scene in the 1990s even though she was tempted. “He would always say it (Air India) has given us our bread and butter. Respect your profession,” says she.

Jai Dev gave other bits of advice as well which Rohit and Nivedita are passing on to their children. “He was very particular that we be fit and rested before any flight. He would tell us to sort our differences before going to sleep and not get ruffled before a flight. The other thing he would often say is respect the weather,” recalls Rohit.

In comparison career decisions were easy for the children. According to Nivedita, Rohan was clear from an early age that he wanted to be a pilot and Niharika too says she always wanted to be a pilot. “I loved the entire process. From wearing that crisp uniform to flying hundreds of people safely around the world,” she says, adding, “I can easily say that I love my job as when I am at work I feel so empowered and there is nothing else that makes me feel the same way.”

Rohit has been lucky enough to fly with Rohan besides him in the cockpit at least 10 times on long-haul flights, but not Nivedita. She also missed the chance of flying with her father-in-law as he retired just a few months after she joined as a trainee.

Today while Nivedita, Rohan and Niharika live in Delhi, Rohit is based in Kolkata. Rohan is married to a HR professional but carrying the family legacy forward is Niharika who too is getting married soon to a pilot working for IndiGo. One can’t resist asking: Does the family only meet at airports between flights? The family is quick to debunk stereotypes. “There are months when we spend five, six, even seven days together at home,” says Nivedita. Adds Niharika, “Normally we come across a family of doctors but I hope we are starting a trend here!”

Published on August 02, 2017

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