The immediate lockdown in India following the pandemic across the world left hundreds of Indians stranded away from home. While they were worrying over finding a flight back home, there are some who have taken their duty to heart and flown back those who were stranded.
One such story is that of Swati Raval, who shared how she bravely flew to Rome and rescued stranded Indians, leaving behind two kids, in this Human of Bombay post.
As an Air India pilot, Swati was given the chance to pilot a flight to Rome and back and was asked to make her decision in 5 seconds. And while Swati was concerned about her 5-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter, she knew it was the right thing to say yes, putting her duty first.
The thought of those 263 Indians desperately waiting to go back home to their families made me agree. So I gathered courage and said, ‘Yes, I will pilot this flight’. I left the next day, kissing my kids goodbye.
Swati is the first woman to pilot a rescue flight in India. She recalls flying an empty plane for 8 hours in silence, making it the eeriest flight she's even flown. But once the passengers got on board, the atmosphere completely changes as they charged the air with pure happiness and relief.
A passenger even said, ‘I never thought a flight home would mean so much’. I felt his excitement to be with his family; After all, I was heading back to mine.
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“On March 20th, I got a call from my team saying that I had to pilot a flight from Delhi to Rome the next day–it was a rescue flight to get 263 Indian passengers trapped in Rome back to Delhi. I had 5 seconds to answer him, and all I could think about was my 5 year old son and 18 month old daughter. The memory of my daughter falling sick a few months before, while I was flying, made me hesitant. But the thought of those 263 Indians desperately waiting to go back home to their families made me agree. So I gathered courage and said, ‘Yes, I will pilot this flight’. I left the next day, kissing my kids goodbye. When my crew and I boarded the flight, I realised that it was the eeriest evening of my life–there were no passengers on the flight; just 8 hours of silence. But after the passengers in Rome boarded the flight, the vibe instantly changed. For a brief moment, it felt like the pandemic never existed. After landing, the passengers cheered for us before leaving the plane. A passenger even said, ‘I never thought a flight home would mean so much’. I felt his excitement to be with his family; After all, I was heading back to mine. After what felt like a rescue mission, I headed home. But returning to my family after that flight was different. When my son ran to hug me as I entered, I had to stop him and tell him, ‘Mumma can’t hug you’. When my baby girl saw me, she had a huge smile on her face as she waddled her way to me–but my husband had to pick her up and take her away. She screamed and cried–it broke my heart. I had to isolate for 14 days before I could meet both my kids. In those 14 days, my daughter couldn’t stay away from me. Any chance she got, she tried sneaking into my room. It became a game, where I’d run and she’d try to catch me. It was the best way to explain the situation to my baby. But after isolating, when I finally got to hold my kids, I felt what those passengers must have felt–an ache to be close to loved ones. And if it means that we can bring families together, I’m ready to pilot as many flights as it takes to bring my fellow Indians home, safe and sound.”
Those on the frontlines are sacrificing so much just to make sure that everyone is safe amidst the pandemic. They're doing their jobs, but are still going the extra mile. Hats off to these corona warriors.