“Sri Rama Chandra Murthy!” yelled Chung.
The voice reverberated across the floor. Each of us, stopped what we were doing, while we waited for the echo to end and peered around to see what the ruckus was about. A yell from Chung of this magnitude meant only one thing: not good.
“Keep your shirt on, Chung. I am right here,” Sri responded, with a hint of laughter in his voice, after what seemed an eternity, getting up from one of the desks in the corner.
Chung eyed him squarely, as if he could devour him with his gaze. “And what took you so long to respond?” he queried sternly. “I thought you might like a moment to chill out,” smiled Sri, nonchalantly and easily, as he headed over to the front desk.
“Hey dude, you know I thought you handled Bert with aplomb. I knew I could count on you. Hearing you giving him the run through on the club rules and how you would make mince-meat of him if he even had a single straying thought in that direction was superb. You know I always admire the way you handle things around here with the precision of the military general. You know you never finished telling me the story about how you…”, the voices faded as Sri, yet again smoothly and suavely, averted another showdown with Chung and had him distracted enough, to be eating out his hands. I could soon hear laughter as yet again Chung reminisced about his war days recounting another of his escapades, the issue with Bert long forgotten.
Sri was an easy going chap, always smiling, cheerful and well-loved equally by instructors and students alike. He had a sharp mind, a computer engineer by profession, and a flight instructor by choice. He had shown up at the flight school a couple of years ago wanting to get flying lessons. He had swarmed through the professional program that Dessert Air offered from private pilot to certified flight instructor within a year and was now a part time CFI. Most weekends he could be seen hanging out in the lounge when not teaching, having long debates with anyone who was around about any topic in the world. He was a geek at heart.
Truth be told, I had a fondness for Sri. He was my first student at Dessert Air.
One fine summer morning, he had shown up at the flight school asking about classes. Things were slow. Not too many students to feed all the out of work CFI. I hung around the lounge, anxious to get in the air even if in a two seater. Being in the air felt normal. Sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting for someone or something was not my thing.
On one of those bright summer mornings, Sri had shown up promptly at 9:00 am on a Saturday morning. I could hear the excitement in his voice as he queried the front desk personnel, “I want to learn to fly. What do I need to get started?”
It was one of those lucky days for me. I was glad I had woken up early and showed up at 9:00am. Sri was an exemplary student. He was a quick learner and at times spoke incessantly. I could hear the concern in his voice as he expressed doubts and the assertiveness as he argued a point. He had a plethora of random bits of knowledge and it was impossible to outsmart any debate with him. He almost always had the last word.
At the end of that first discovery flight, he admitted to having an aunt who was pilot and having flown with her over the glorious San Francisco Bay as a 17 year old. The joy and incredible enthusiasm in his voice as he recounted those memories and how they sparked his excitement and eagerness spoke volumes about his passion for flying. How could I doubt a teenager’s eagerness to be a pilot?
I had been in his shoes, not so long ago. In a way, Sri was my savior. On a day, when my world was crumbling, he was the anchor that steered me in.
And so began my second career as a CFI.