India, Real People »
October 20, 2012 | Comments Off on Up in the Air | Betsy Woodman
I’m looking for a picture. Here’s the story.
When I was planning and writing Love Potion Number 10, I wanted some helicopter lore. A friend introduced me (by phone) to Captain Rustom Captain, who had served as helicopter pilot to Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister. Captain Captain, whose Indian civil helicopter pilot license was number 1, is now retired and lives in Canada. We had several good phone conversations about such things as makes and models of aircraft, how high you could fly in a chopper, and where you could refuel if making a helicopter trip in India in the early 1960s.
Even more fascinating was hearing about Rustom’s career. Rustom was a prominent figure in Indian aviation. At age twenty-one, he was the youngest ever Chief Flying Instructor at the Bombay Flying Club, and his distinguished career in civil aviation won him wide recognition and a silver salver from the Indian government. He served as Director in Charge of Cambatta Aviation, Ltd.
In 1968, he took the Beatles sightseeing by air, when they made their famous visit to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in Rishikesh, in northern India.
I found a couple of photos of this visit on the Internet, one from an aviation company (scroll down to picture 19) and the other from a Beatles fan blog. In both, the Maharishi has on his usual jolly expression, and John Lennon is concerned with his camera. Rustom, in the pilot’s seat between them, is partly obscured.
The May 19, 1968 issue of the Saturday Evening Post also contained a picture of the Maharishi aboard the helicopter, with another man, perhaps Rustom, turned away from the camera.
Rustom tells me that he used to have a better picture of this event, where you can clearly see all three faces–right to left, the Maharishi, himself, and John Lennon. He no longer has the picture, but would like to find a copy. I’d love to track it down. It may be in the Asian edition of Life magazine, most probably in early March 1968, but I haven’t found a library that has that edition. Any photo sleuths out there? Do send me your clues!