Taking wings as a writer

DECCAN DREAMS Capt. Gopinath at the launch  

On Capt. Gopinath's book, ‘Simply Fly: A Deccan Odyssey'

It was part rousing motivational speech, part long-winded discourse on the Indian aviation scene, part anecdotes of soul-baring honesty, and part exhaustive dissections of Air Deccan's past and Deccan 360's future.

Captain Gopinath's heartfelt autobiography, Simply Fly: A Deccan Odyssey, was released recently at Chennai.

“I have deliberately written this book as a story — my story and the story of Air Deccan, but also the story of New India, of the India of possibilities,” he said. “This is not a how-to book or a book on Indian aviation — it's about following you dreams, having a zest for life, about not giving up in the face of overwhelming odds.”

A straightforwardly written, engaging read, the book chronicles Gopinath's childhood in the little village of Gorur, his experiences as an officer in the Indian army, his days of dabbling in farming, and, of course, his launch of India's first low-cost airline, Air Deccan.

“Whenever I went to give talks at schools and colleges, people always wanted to know — how did you build an airline after leaving the army with just Rs. 6,500?” he said during a chat afterward. “So, I decided to tell my story. I especially wanted to reach young people who can get disillusioned easily in today's world.”

That was a recurring theme during the talk — having ‘inextinguishable optimism' about our country, and ‘perennial enthusiasm' for trying to make a difference. “We're all concerned about the state of affairs in this country today, but we need to stay engaged. Cynicism is suicide,” he said earnestly. “My naïve optimism sometimes got me into trouble, but it also got me out of it.”

He may have been given to platitudes (“never give up”, “find happiness in the small things”) and the overuse of inspirational quotes (Gandhi, Napoleon, Einstein…), but it all still carried conviction because of his very enthusiasm, and his anecdotes — how, for instance, he refused to pay bribes for his licenses to start Deccan, but still got them through dogged determination. Or, how he stood for the Lok Sabha elections as an independent in 2009 because of the corruption in our existing political parties.

As Gopinath put it: “An indifferent citizen is worse than the most corrupt politician.”