The first thing an Indian Air Force officer tells you is that the Air Force 'looks after you very well'. "It's true!" says Flying Officer Neville Vaz. "Even now my senior officers call to see if I am doing fine." "And there are co-locations," says a sprightly Squadron Leader Asha Vashisht, "where if both the partners are serving in the Air Force usually they get posted together."
Even working hours are flexible says Squadron Leader Vashisht who's been married for seven years now. "If my four-year-old daughter is unwell, I am home within minutes or just ask a colleague to look after my child if I cannot come." Vashisth jogs three kilometres every day and swims for at least an hour in the evenings. "There are deer, peacocks, and open spaces for children to play. "And it's very safe," she says as she walks through the verdant, Air Force station at Hindon.
It is from the same station Flying Officer Vaz flies his aircraft. He's a transport pilot. "It's a 24-hour job, but we get a lot of time to ourselves." His colleague Flying Officer Nitin Raj wholeheartedly agrees. Before joining the Air Force, Flying Officer Vaz reviewed gadgets on Hindi news channel, CNBC Awaaz.
He was keen on a TV journalism career and did Media Studies at St Xavier's Mumbai. As no one in his family was in the armed forces, he had never thought of joining the Forces until the mother of a student he taught to support his studies encouraged him to apply. At the time he was preparing for CAT and it helped him clear the CDSE entrance. When he got called for the SSB, he had just got a job at CNBC Awaaz.
But Squadron Leader Vashisht was determined to become a pilot. "Well, I wanted to prove a point to the male community!" she laughs. She was so keen on flying that at 5: 30 in the morning she would cycle to the civilian airport in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa to fly and then reach college by 11 a.m. for her classes. She was studying microbiology. "I would sleep in class!" Despite that she stood 3rd in class.
Much against her father's resistance, she applied to the Air Force and cleared the PABT test. But she failed the medical test. 'I was short by 2 centimetres.' But that did not dampen her spirits. She joined the Administration branch. "Well, I still have the chance to serve my country!" These past several years have been a rollercoaster ride for Squadron Leader Vashisht. "I love to sky-dive." Well, she broke her ankle while landing, and yet with the same foot she has done several demo jumps at melas, promoting the Air Force to young men and women.
For Flying Officer Vaz the PABT test was fun, though he noticed many candidates overdoing it. "One should be just chilled out." But when he cleared the medical exam he was suddenly confused about joining the IAF as he was to have his own show on the channel. "But my boss at CNBC supported my decision."
"To be honest, life in the Air Force is incomparable."