On the “other side” of the counter @AeroIndia 2019

An aspiring pilot at one time converted to an aviation enthusiast, I am always on the lookout for getting as close as possible to aircrafts. When that’s not possible, I have even “jumped” out of one !!

The biennial event of AeroIndia is something I have been looking forward to from the time I attended the last edition in 2017. Its the biggest event in India for aviation enthusiasts like me to witness the very latest in the field of aviation. The cherry on the cake is the aerobatic displays performed by a variety of aircrafts. It is here that I saw the incredible capabilities of the Rafale, F-16 and our very own Tejas.

I was desperately looking forward to this edition of AeroIndia since a very close friend of mine from the Airforce had been posted in Bengaluru. It’s a dream come true for someone like me to watch the aerobatic display with one of the best fighter pilots of the country giving an instant de-brief of every single aerobatic move. To put things into perspective, its the difference between watching a football or a cricket match with and without commentary !! Politics was threatening to spoil the fun when there was talk of shifting AeroIndia to the far north but eventually Bengaluru was finalised and I heaved a big sigh of relief.

I was counting the days when Aarti informed that her venture, AERODEK, was allotted spaces in the exhibition area of AeroIndia. AERODEK is a start-up that offers memorabilia and artifacts related to aviation – stuff that anybody and everybody can own and flaunt. Considering the fact that AeroIndia is not just a national but an international event, this was a huge opportunity for AERODEK to showcase its inventory – that too so early from its inception.

It was an amazing opportunity for me to be a part of AERODEK since it came with an added benefit of spending 5 full days (the entire duration of the event) at AeroIndia. The aerobatic displays happen twice every day for 2 full hours – which meant 10 hours of breath-taking aerobatic displays!! I was already on cloud nine!! (I couldn’t have been more wrong eventually – read on to find out). I also roped in Shailendra-Nandita and Dhruv-Vaishali since we needed more people. They were to join in on the last two days – the weekend of AeroIndia.

DAY ZERO:
I was booked on an evening flight which would land into Bengaluru around 2100 hrs. The carrier I had booked onto had run into financial crisis recently which caused a lot of delays and cancellations. Though I went to the airport prepared for something unexpected, I was also hoping it wouldn’t affect me since my flight was on a busy sector. Not sure if it was my gut feeling or Murphy’s Law at play but my flight had been cancelled. The lady at the counter, apparently already tired of dealing with irate flyers, vented out her frustration on me and a co-traveler saying she could only put us on a next morning flight and won’t give us any food or accommodation until then !!

There were developments back in Bengaluru due to which Aarti wanted me to reach that same evening by hook or crook. Realizing that things needed to be dealt with diplomatically, I calmed down the lady at the counter (as ironical as it may seem – my flight was cancelled !!) and told her to put me on any other flight – as long as it dropped me into Bengaluru the same night. I didn’t need any free food or accommodation, just a seat on a flight to Bengaluru the same evening. Fortunately, the lady managed to find me a seat on a flight that was leaving even before my scheduled flight. The dispatch staff took all the efforts to rush me through the security checks and I was on the flight like a VIP – among-st the last few to board. The gentleman with me, who didn’t take any efforts in resolving the crisis, was now besides me on a window seat !! (face palm)

So, after an initial scare, I was finally up at cruising altitude and making me forget a lot of things were these amazing scenes !!

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The flight was an interesting one for another reason as the gentleman on my left (who had graciously offered his window seat to my co-traveler) got me into a conversation. It’s not often that I get into conversations with my co-travelers but here I was quite literally dragged into it. But as the discussion progressed, I was glad I didn’t stop myself. He was an IIM-C graduate who, after having served on the top positions in quite a few corporate organisations, had now turned into a consultant advising corporate houses run by families. In a long, intriguing and enriching discussion, I got a bird’s eye view of how family-owned and run business ensured blood-relations become the strength of their business and not a hindrance.

On landing, I also ended up saving close to Rs. 500/- by choosing public transport over cabs. A polite request to the driver and conductor of the bus ensured I could get down at the place nearest to my hotel which otherwise was not a designated bus-stop.

As I walked towards the hotel, I went over all these events and realized that I had had a wonderful travelling experience just by being calm, polite and patient. I may have been lucky as well to have come across people who appreciated my behavior but then I think I deserve credit for doing my bit right !!

As I reached the base-camp of AERODEK, I learnt that Aarti, Bhaagyashree and the team were still at the venue setting up the stall I was going to man the next day. I thought that was an unnecessary effort, which time was going to tell how wrong I was !!

DAY  ONE :
I had slowly started to fathom the scale of what I was getting into for AERODEK. The excitement of watching 10 hours of aerobatic displays was being taken over by the apprehension of standing-in on this side of the counter for 5 full days !! 

For the first time in my life, I was going to sell real stuff to real customers and deal with real money !! 
I could literally feel the responsibility of the time, effort and money Aarti and the team had invested into this. Although I would like to believe I am quite responsible in dealing with money, I couldn’t afford any mistakes here. To make matters worse, due to some operational issues, I was going to be the only person at this particular stall while Aarti and Bhaagyashree would take care of the other stall. The only thing that was somewhat of a morale booster was I knew a lot about the stuff that I had to sell. In pure ‘sales and marketing parlance’, I knew my domain very well !!

As I was taking control of the stall, an official informed me that I could also take up the adjoining stall. Now that was a really really interesting development, we definitely wanted more space but were severely short on man-power. I wasn’t sure if I could man the entire area alone but still thanked the official and took charge of the second stall as well. (This was going to one of the best things to have happened to us eventually !!)
I could hear India’s Defence Minister and the Railways Minister speak at the inaugural function. I also heard various aircrafts fly over my stall, one of which also had my friend!!

Finally I had taken control of the entire stall and just to check everything looked in shape, I crossed over to the ‘customer side’ of the counter to have a look!!

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Assuming I won’t have any customers today since this area was not open to everybody in the morning session, I decided to take a peek at the aerobatic displays of the Tejas, Su-30 and Rafale, after all that was my primary objective of coming down here !!

And just when I was enjoying the show, I was called back to my stall – I had my very first customers – Air Force officers who were absolutely thrilled to see the stuff on display. As they started asking for stuff, the challenge of standing on ‘this side of the counter’ hit me the hardest !! 
–   I had stuff on display but was not sure where the stock exactly was. I started digging into every shelf just to find one specific fridge magnet the officers were looking for.
–   That’s when I also realized the tremendous amount of variety that was on display at the stall and the challenge involved in searching this stuff as quickly as possible.
–  Then there were prices which I had to be absolutely thorough with. As of now, for every new item they chose, I had to look into the price list which we (Aarti, me and the team) had prepared just last night.

It was a blessing in disguise for me that these officers visited the stall. I realized how (ill)prepared I was for this task. Fortunately, I was able to make my first sale as the officers showed a lot of patience and understanding. They also gave me some parting suggestions on preparing myself for the rush hours that were to follow.

Completing my first sale was an absolutely incredible feeling. In that instant, I realized the sheer joy of selling something as opposed to buying something. I have heard people going on a shopping spree just to cheer up their bad mood, people deriving great satisfaction and pleasure from buying expensive stuff. And here I was, realizing the adrenaline rush all those shopkeepers derive from people using shopping as therapy!!
Wow, I was absolutely pumped up for this new experience!! In fact, in the excitement of making this sale, I even missed the amazing B-52 bomber aircraft fly over me!!

People had started trickling in by now but I was still able to manage it alone. The aerobatic displays of the afternoon session started around 1400 hrs. and I thought I might have some free time until 1600 hrs. when the aerobatic display would end. But I was terribly wrong again. The hot and sultry weather forced people to look for shelter and by 1500 hrs. the crowd at the stall started increasing.

The enclosure where my stall was had other stalls selling garments, toys, handicraft items etc. However AERODEK was the only stall which had these aviation artifacts and memorabilia which caught the eye of the people in an instant. To add to it, the kind of variety we had on display quite literally glued people to the stall. People, already in the hangover of the enthralling aerobatic displays, were almost going berserk looking at the stuff on display. Managing them soon started to become a challenge and that’s when I also started to get my first lessons in crowd management.

People had lined up in front of both the counters which meant I had about 6-7 people in front of me and all of them were asking me to show stuff almost simultaneously. The one thing I had in my mind even before I landed at the venue was – come what may, I am going to avoid “theft” as much as possible. One of things that I realized pretty soon was I cannot entertain multiple customers at the same time otherwise I am bound to forget who is looking at what and with the stuff being as small as tie-pins, lapel-pins, key chains etc. “theft” would be piece of cake.

The crowd started swelling as the aerobatic displays were coming to an end and soon there were about 25-30 people at my stall. Some were patient enough to understand my limitations, others not so much. Some lost out on their patience and left the stall without buying anything but I was helpless, I had to keep the chaos in check or it would have cost me and AERODEK very dearly.

Amidst all this a smart, young lady, offered to help me out with the billing. It was one of the nicest things to have happened in the entire day and of course, always a pleasure when a young lady says this. I definitely needed help but given the time constraints, even with our best efforts, both of us couldn’t have made a big difference. I thanked her for offering to help but politely declined. (While I write this, I am quite literally cursing myself for doing what I did). I promised I will take her order next but as fate would have it, the guards came in and asked everyone to leave the venue since it was closing time already. All the 20-25 people including that lady had to leave the counter !!

I had been standing all along for a good 6-7 hours. Although the crowd was less initially but it was just about enough to ensure I don’t get to sit. I had had no time to move out for lunch, snacks or even a loo-break. Thanks to the lunch Bhaagya (Bhaagyashree) had packed in for me, which I had to eat at the counter itself, I could survive this intense selling period. I couldn’t remember the last time I was so occupied and engrossed into something.

After a short break, I realized that I had to get a lot of things in order if I have to ensure a smooth selling experience from the next day. I started off with getting all the stock in line with display items. Wherever possible, I piled up the stock on the display itself – this ensured at least some stuff was readily available. The amount of variety, which as a customer even I would have liked, was becoming a big headache for me. The shape, size, pattern and color variations meant the customers where spoilt for choice which in turn meant a lot more dancing around for me. Although reducing the variety was not an option, I started to ear-mark every variety, making very specific markings on the boxes of stock. I also arranged the T-shirts in a way where I could see their sizes quite easily. One of the most important things we did was price tagging every single item on display – this was going to reduce a lot of questions for me (at least that’s what we hoped for !!). I could relate to all the shopkeepers who have do this day in day out !! I spent the next couple of hours arranging “my shop” for the next day and before I could realize it was 2000 hrs. (8 PM). Wow !! what a busy, busy day it was !! And we still had to do the accounting and planning for the next day. The very thought of standing here again in the next 12-14 hours was indeed scary, to be honest !!

The moment I entered the hotel room, I threw myself on the mattress and lay still for a few seconds. My legs were hurting real bad and for an IT guy, this was one of those days that could very well make-up for those long hours spent sitting in the office !! And there were 4 more of these days to follow !!! I came back to senses when Aarti very excitedly started calculating the day’s sales !! Just to make matters a little more interesting, we decided to total up the two stalls separately – so it was Aarti and Bhaagya versus Me!! I had a bigger stall as compared to them but they were two of them in a smaller area. Moreover they had a steady flow of customers since quite early in the day. To add to it – in Aarti’s words – the charm of the two supposedly beautiful ladies attracted a lot of customers to their stall. I knew I had lost the battle for Day One and I was already thinking how do I bump-up my sales tomorrow.

Fortunately, it was accepted that I alone couldn’t manage my stall and that’s when we managed to rope in a volunteer – one of Bhaagya’s friend. By then I had already disclosed my encounter with that lady and like all “good friends”, Aarti and Golu were bashing me for not taking that lady’s contact no. – something I have not managed to do in the three decades of my existence !!

DAY TWO:
The pressure and excitement of this day ensured we reached our stalls around 0830 hrs. and got on the job almost immediately. Today there were people right from the morning. Having learnt from yesterday’s experience and with all the arrangements done, I was a lot more confident today. With the sparse crowd of the morning, I was able to attend couple of customers simultaneously.

Titas (Bhaagya’s friend and my wing’woman’ at the stall) was to arrive around noon which meant I still had to deal with things alone. Looking at the crowds I knew I would not be able to watch the aerobatic displays even for a minute today. Standing inside the enclosure dealing with customers, I started taking guesses about which aircraft was performing.

As was the case yesterday, the crowd got tired of the weather and within an hour of the aerobatic displays, there was huge rush at the stall again. To add to it, there were people who had entered the area for the afternoon displays. The crowd was a lot more than yesterday but even I was better prepared today. I requested and then ordered people to stand in a queue. When people realized they had no option but to follow the system, they fell in line. Although there was rush now, it wasn’t chaos, it wasn’t madness and I was able to do my job with ease. No one, including me, had thought getting the crowd under control would be possible for a single person like me who has had absolutely no experience of standing at stalls or cash counters!! I guess it simply came down to the strong imprint of the Indian Air Force on the entire event that people realized this was not just any other public event where they could behave as they wanted. And that’s what I feel is the need of the hour for our country – organized and disciplined public behavior !!

Titas reached right at the peak hour and so, fortunately or unfortunately, realized what she had got into !! There was no way I could take time out to give her a walk-through of everything so I just asked her to observe for a while. She quickly grasped how things were moving and was able to take things in control pretty soon. That eased a lot of pressure from me and even though the crowd was a lot, lot more than yesterday, we were able to handle it quite efficiently.

Day two was a lot smoother than day one. However, the after-work was equally more and since Titas had to leave early, it was again all down to me to get things in order for the next day !!

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It again took me a couple of hours to ‘arrange’ the stall and replenish the stock. We were back at the hotel around 2100 hrs. and the most important activity of the day – accounting was underway !! Although both the stalls had made more than double the sales since yesterday, Aarti-n-Bhaagya were the winners yet again !!

DAY THREE :
By now all of us had settled well into our routine and “the job”. Titas also seemed pretty comfortable with what she had to do and had reached the venue on time. The one thing I was pretty surprised with was she was absolutely not interested in the aerobatic display!! An economics post-graduate, she was keen to understand the possible outcomes of hosting these Aero exhibitions and displays. I tried to give her some insights based on my limited knowledge.

We were functioning quite well in tandem when all of a sudden, a glass door of one of the shelves got disengaged from the hinges and landed straight on Titas’ head !! I was occupied with the billing and the loud gasp of the customers made me realize what had happened !! I quickly moved the glass away and checked if she was alright. This is the last thing any “volunteer” would wish for. To add to it, today was her last day at AeroIndia. It would be really, really unfortunate if she had to return with such a bad memory !! But fortunately there was no major injury, most importantly no bleeding. She was definitely in a big shock but at the same time she showed great character and composed herself very, very quickly. We could complete the day with sales figures higher than the previous two days put together. Credit to the amazing work put in by Titas !!
On a lighter note, to make up for the glass door incident, Titas did finish the day with some garment shopping from the adjacent stalls, which otherwise had very few visitors !!

Today, I managed to replenish the stock and arrange everything a lot earlier. Moreover having spent almost 3 full days in the enclosure, I desperately wanted some fresh air. So I left the stall and went out. It was dusk time – one of my favorite times of the day and with all the crowd gone, I could see how huge this airfield was. It has been one of my dreams to be in the open expanse of an airfield specifically around sunrise or sunset time and watch the sun in the endless horizon. It seemed today my wish was answered and how !!

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The cherry on the cake was to see the three work-horses of the Indian Air Force – the mighty and huge C-17 Globemaster, the C-130J Super Hercules and AN-32 – all take-off one after the other !!

Its a privilege to capture both the C-17 and C-130J in a single frame !!

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The Big Bro – C-17 – gets priority treatment while the smaller sibling C-130J awaits his turn to fly out !!
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The smallest one – AN-32 is the last one to fly out :

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The C-130J (in the background) on his way to take-off while the AN-32 (in the foreground), taxing towards the end of the runway:

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This is the enclosure inside which I had spent the most part of the last 3 days:
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It was indeed the best evening I had spent so far at AeroIndia – quite an unique one indeed !!

But here’s probably the biggest highlight of this blog – thanks to the 6-year-old Rano!! Aarti and Golu were busy on their respective cell phones while I was playing and chatting with Rano. I showed Rano how her parents were busy with cellphones sharing a quick high-five and a giggle. Sensing something fishy, Golu asked Rano if she had told Kaka (me) anything about Mumma-Dada (Aarti and Golu). To which, Rano, the innocent kiddo replied – “I didn’t even say anything !! I have just told everything to my school friend Vivaan. I have told absolutely nothing about your fights to Kaka (me) “!!
I broke into the biggest laugh of all times seeing the look on the faces of Aarti and Golu !! They probably had all their 20 fingers (including the feet) in their mouth and absolutely no place on the earth to hide their faces !! They finally had to laugh it out. Rano, big enough to realize what she had done, was happy I was there to save her the pitti (consequences of spilling the beans) that would have followed for saying what she said !! She had just given us a timeless memory !!

DAY FOUR :
This was Saturday – the first day of the weekend when we were expecting unprecedented footfall. Fortunately for us, we did have our reinforcements in the form of Shailendra-Nandita and Dhruv-Vaishali flying in all the way from Pune. At the breakfast table, we were discussing about who will join whom. Aarti made a strong claim about her stall being in the “business” area and how it had only “business class” visitors !! Dhruv-Vaishali almost immediately fell for this and in spite of me requesting Dhruv to accompany me until Shailendra-Nandita reach my stall, decided to join-in Aarti and Bhaagya. So now a single cabinet stall was going to have 4 people (Aarti-Bhaagya-Vaishali-Dhruv) while our bigger, two cabinet one was still going to have 3 people (Shailendra-Nandita and myself).

The competition between the two stalls had just turned a lot more fierce and cut-throat with the element of ijjat (self-respect) added to it !!

Shailendra-Nandita reached my stall slightly late since they had to travel a little longer. But once they reached, it was good to have them. I had started off manning the stall alone for a day and half, then had Titas for another day and half and now we were 3 of us. Moreover, over the three days, I had managed to organize the stall quite a bit which was surely making sales a lot more smoother. With due credit to all the efforts Titas had put-in, having people you know very well makes a whole lot of difference !! Shailendra-Nandita and me got our act sorted out quite literally on-the-job.

However, I also noticed subtle changes that were being made by other stall owners who were left fuming for the past three days by the excessive footfall at the AERODEK stall!! The adjacent stall had shifted their stuff to the empty shelves far away from our stall. Reason – the long, curvy queue for AERODEK had quite literally eclipsed their stall and they almost didn’t get any customers on Day Three !! Other stall owners had kept a person at the entrance to direct customers in exactly the opposite direction of AERODEK. Reason – after shopping at AERODEK, people were heading straight to the exit. These were both flattering and scary developments. I and even Shailendra-Nandita were standing at such stalls for the first time in our lives. This was real business, real competition and real money at stake. I was just hoping these desperate attempts by the jealous stall owners don’t take a ugly turn by the end of AeroIndia !!

The crowd at the stall was simply relentless. As a result the queue reached the same stall that had shifted to a new shelf away from us – guess they were now falling short of space to run away from AERODEK !! But the flip side to this was, all three of us were completely occupied continuously. We lost track of time and only realized it was lunch time when the other stall owners closed the entrance !! Even after that we still had customers with us and before we could clear them and have our lunch break, the doors were opened again and people started queuing up at our stall again. We finally decided to take lunch in turns – one at a time while the other two manned the stall. It almost felt like nobody was watching the aerobatic displays !! Finally around 17:30 hrs. – like everyday – the guards literally pulled people out of the stalls.

Somewhere around noon, Karan was calling me frantically but being occupied at the counter, I couldn’t answer his call. It was only around 1600 hrs. in the evening that I learnt about the fire tragedy that had happened in the parking lot and that’s when I understood the reason for his frantic calls !! The entire world, far-and-wide, had heard except us – who were just a couple of kilometers away from the incident spot!!

I had roped in Shailendra-Nandita by selling them a rosy picture of enjoying breath-taking aerobatic displays at least once in the day while doing some sales on the sidelines of it. Here, at the end of their Day-1, they had hardly managed to enjoy the displays for not more than 10 mins. at a stretch. I was quite apprehensive they might give me a nice bashing for fooling them into this !! But to my relief, they also seemed to enjoy this new experience.

It was decided that we all were going to visit the static aircraft display area today. We were going to see the Rafale, SU-30, TEJAS and a lot of other air crafts up and very close. Having missed out on the aerobatic displays, none of us wanted to miss out on this one. We locked up our stall quickly and headed to the static display area with “our friend with wings” !!

The entire static display area was completely vacant and all of us – TEAM AERODEK in our signature t-shirts were the only ones there. Our “friend with wings”  was giving us a quick briefing about all the aircrafts on display and at the same time, was kind enough to take our snaps as well.

TEAM AERODEK with the Swedish-made SAAB GRIPEN in the background:

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With the US Air Force’s F-18 Hornet (Naval version) in the background:
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Another angle with the F-18 Hornet. A C-17 Globemaster takes to the skies in the far right

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With the Made-In-India HAL Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) in the background :

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With the much-talked-about Rafale in the background :

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Just when we were moving to the next aircraft, one of the Air Force Officers saw our group. He immediately suggested my friend to take all of us “across the barricades” much closer to the aircrafts !! I just couldn’t believe my ears – this was quite literally once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for someone like me, an aviation enthusiast, to get closest to all the aircrafts that I had so far only seen up in the air or in the pics !! I was literally jumping like a kid !!

Up and Close with the C-130 J Super Hercules Transport Aircraft :

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The F-16s that perform in the aerobatic displays with the gorgeous skyline in the background :

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With another much-talked-about aircraft – the Made-In-India Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas). This aircraft got the FOC (Final Operational Clearance) during the AeroIndia which means this aircraft will now join the work-force of the Indian Airforce and we’ll see a lot of them in our skies soon!!

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This had turned out to be THE BEST EVENING at AeroIndia 2019 for me!! All the frustration of missing out on the aerobatic displays was replaced with adrenaline rush and high that comes when you get an elite / special treatment. All thanks to “our brother with wings” !!

We went back to the stalls and did the usual routine of replenishment and arrangement. Before leaving for the day, we took a moment to capture how we looked like “on the other side of the counter”

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All of us returned to the hotel around 2000 hrs. It was a full house today with Bhaagya, Kulbhushan and their chirpy little, Tara also joining us. The most important ritual of accounting was done and lo behold – for the first time in 4 days Aarti-Bhaagya had lost the battle with a huge margin!! To add to it, I was told that Dhruv-Vaishali had to do a lot of running in and out of the stall to operate the card-swipe machine !!! I, generally the last one to dance, didn’t hold anything back and celebrated right in the centre of the room, much to the dismay of Aarti-Bhaagya-Dhruv-Vaishali !! We also decided then and there that the same teams will continue tomorrow contrary to what was decided earlier !!

Jokes and competition apart, it’s always special to share such moments with close friends – a moment definitely worth cherishing and capturing !!

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DAY FIVE : THE LAST DAY OF AEROINDIA:
It was the last day for Aarti and her team who had been preparing for this mega-event for months together. It was the last day for us at the stalls, for what had been a life-changing experience in more ways than one. Individually we were all exhausted but as a team we were looking forward to giving our best for one last time !!

But things had changed drastically owing to the fire tragedy of the earlier day. While yesterday was busy right from the word go, today morning was very, very quiet. There were hardly any people even to watch the aero-displays. Meanwhile there was a discussion on the possibility of sabotage in yesterday’s tragedy though on the records it was an accident. That’s when we got a first-hand experience of the “side” but “very real” effects of such events – on people whose livelihoods depend on these events. Due to a silly mistake or a selfish act (assuming for a moment it was sabotage) of one person, the poor ice-candy seller, who had been standing in the hot and sultry weather for 4 days, was not sure if he’ll earn enough for the day, caterers who had prepared huge amounts of food items were now looking at huge losses. I am not even talking about AERODEK and other stalls !! This experience / learning / message should reach far and wide so that every one understands what is at stake and what all is lost in – quite literally – moments of madness !!

Fortunately, the crowds started pouring-in in the afternoon session. Of course the sales were still affected but everyone could salvage something in the last few hours.

We did have quite a few Air Force officers visiting our stalls, especially in non-peak hours. Quite a few visited both our stalls. But I’ll remember this particular Wing Commander (someone who has served a minimum of 13 – 15 years in the Air-Force, so quite a senior officer) who had visited our stall on Day Two or Three. He and another colleague of his, a Wing Commander again, wanted two sets of almost everything we had on display. They were short on time and had asked me to keep their two sets ready. But I, already over-occupied with the stuff at hand, had not managed to do it. Today, he was back at stall and asked me for his stuff. I apologized and explained the reason why I couldn’t do it for him. Fortunately for me, he accepted the situation was bad but what he did next has humbled me to a very great extent. He said “the only way I can get my stuff, as I can see is, waiting in the queue.” And he actually waited in the queue for a good 20 minutes, PATIENTLY!! Even when he reached the counter, he was absolutely calm and composed, showed no arrogance or frustration whatsoever and went about buying his stuff calmly!!

We definitely need more and more of such people, for sure!! People who never misuse their position or power and are always full of humility!! We have read and heard about how down to earth some of the most famous personalities are. But getting a first hand experience from these “real heroes” always leaves a big, lasting impression. I’ll always be thankful to him for giving me a wonderful memory and a lesson for a lifetime!!

Another wonderful memory I have carried back is when a lady actually took a moment to appreciate and congratulate all three of us for the way we were managing the crowd at our stall and thus giving a method to the madness !! We had honestly and sincerely been trying to make this a very smooth experience for both, the customers as well as us, from Day One. So, to get this compliment on the last day of the event was indeed very, very satisfying. That’s when I learnt another lesson – of appreciating people who are genuinely and honestly doing their bit!! Everyone likes and yearns for appreciation. When we know it’s so important, why not give it as well rather than just yearn for it ??!! Trust me, it makes a whole lot of difference.

Of course, there were quite a few bad experiences as well. But I am NOT going to waste my (and your time) in pondering over the negatives, especially after these two beautiful events!!

The entry to the enclosure was shut earlier than usual today and we once again lost out on some potential sales. But we decided not to fight for it and just let it be.

And that’s when began the most painful of all tasks – the final wrap up!! The painstaking task of putting everything back into the very same cartons from which we had removed it just a couple of days back. It made me realize that coming-in day after day, doing the sales, standing at the stall all day without any breaks is the easier stuff – the“high or the adrenaline rush” makes you forget it. You start to believe that is the only thing that matters. That is until you yourself have to do the supposedly dirty, thankless and non-glamorous job of wrapping up!! Nobody is going to watch you or appreciate you for doing it but IT SIMPLY NEEDS TO BE DONE. No one else is doing it for you and the sooner you do it, the earlier you will be relieved of that stress!!

I realized the amount of mental strength it takes, at the end of entire event, to take the stall down from THIS :

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TO THIS :

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I am really glad and proud that all of us managed to do it and do it the RIGHT WAY!!
Yet another lesson learnt !!

It was time for one final photo shoot before we left the airbase for the final time

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THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY :
Today was also the first anniversary of Shailendra and Nandita. They had come down with the hopes of celebrating their first one differently – by watching the aerobatic displays and everything. But here they were, having spent almost the entire day standing at the stall, ignoring the calls and messages of friends and family wishing them on their special day.

Thankfully a celebration was planned – a celebration which even all of us were looking forward to -finally it was time to let our hair down and savour a job-well-done !!

First anniversaries are always special and we are sure Nandita-Shailendra are going to remember this one for a lot of things !!

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HOW’S THE JOSH : 
We spent the night chatting about everything – from sarees to landing speeds and tire pressures of aircrafts in Leh-Ladakh !! It was TEAM AERODEK signing-off from AEROINDIA 2019 !!

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The 5 of us – Vaishali-Dhruv, Nandita-Shailendra and me were headed back home the next morning. We decided our “dress-code” for the airport would be our signature “HOW’S THE JOSH” t-shirt.

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I must admit, I have never had so many people check me out ever before in my life!! In fact, the looks that all 5 of us got at the airport actually made us feel like CELEBRITIES!!

This surely has been an experience of a lifetime. In fact, in hindsight, I now feel I would not have learnt as much watching those aerobatic displays for 10 hrs. as I have learnt at AERODEK!!

Of all things, it understated the immense strength of friendship – bonds that last a lifetime and the great things we can achieve with it !!

To FRIENDSHIP and AERODEK ………… !!!

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5 thoughts on “On the “other side” of the counter @AeroIndia 2019

    1. Wow… Felt like reading through a book of off the beat adventures… What an experience… To the Warriors of the Air Force and to the sales warriors of AERODEK…CHEERS…..

      Liked by 2 people

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