Fervour”, it is likely, holds the key. It is not enough, according to Air India — the country’s national carrier and well-known drain on national resources — for its crew on flights to merely utter “Jai Hind” after every announcement on board. They must do so “after a slight pause” and with “much fervour”. The pause, presumably, is meant to build anticipation for the patriotic zeal to follow.
If there’s one thing Air India is good at, it’s building anticipation, and so what if it is mostly in vain. Its patrons wait for the day they are guaranteed a modicum of punctuality, a fraction of what the market leaders in the aviation industry provide. Or even suitable notice on flight changes and cancellations. Non-vegetarian passengers anticipate with bated breath that when they are finally in the air and en route, a stale chicken curry can provide some succour once the airline decides not to police people’s dietary choices on domestic routes. In fact, to address its critics who demand an explanation for the losses (to the tune of Rs 3,500 crore last year, a little less than the year before) borne by the taxpayer, bids were invited for the strategic disinvestment of the airline over a year ago. The people wait in anticipation for a gullible buyer.
The advisory to Air India staff to feverishly shout ‘Jai Hind’ is an attempt, too little too late, to distract from the anticipation that is turning into anger. Who, after all, will have the temerity to question the price for an often-late flight, in the face of a nationalist greeting? Fervour, the second cousin of madness, when encountered mid-air, is an effective tool to ensure customer satisfaction. But there are times when even patriotism, genuine or contrived, is no refuge.