In your early years, you talk about how after an accident in the army, you considered becoming a monk. What were those years like
I underwent a spiritual crisis. In comparison to a jawan, the officer lives a life of luxury. When you live a life of a young army officer, you experience all good things of life. But there is so much evil, injustice and poverty around you. I was torn between a conflict of spirit and flesh. Finding equanimity is difficult. So I wanted to become a monk. But soon realised if I become a monk I will be a burden on society. I remembered reading how Leo Tolstoy had described the arrogance of the monk when he is surrounded by the powerful and women. I was not comfortable with the idea at all. I went through a process of internal realisation, you have to lose yourself in action, to find yourself. That is when I went back to my village and the farm and submerged myself in it. It was a physical and spiritual challenge for me. I lived in a tent, ploughed the land, and milked the cattle.
So, did you find the answers
Yes and no. One is seeking answers as long as one lives. But I found salvation through good, meaningful work. I started to admire the goodness and abundance of nature. Again it was Tolstoys words of wisdom that beckoned. There are three categories of people. One who see no problem with things the way they are. The second recognise the problems, but just crib about them, find faults with system, have long discussions about them in gatherings and do nothing about them. The third category is of people who do not just recognise the problem but do their bit to find solutions, contribute for development, take a stand and not feel ashamed to stand by it.
You describe your days at the farm as your tryst with your karambhoomi. Do you still think the same way
Yes and no. On the farm I went through hell and discovered heaven. Even if I was poor at the farm, I didnt feel I was in poverty. I had become one with the farm, I suffused in it. I was intoxicated by the morning walk. My poverty was full of sunshine. Being with nature was more soul filling than anything else. It was at the farm I realised the biggest charity was to create jobsvision is the art of seeing the invisible. The rich were becoming richer, the smart were getting smarter and the poor were getting poorer. I wanted to create more jobs in the other India. I started with the helicopter company and then Deccan happened. The challenge was of a new intensity. When Deccan had 4,500 employees on board, the satisfaction was of a different kind.
As a first generation entrepreneur what was your experience, have things changed since then
Not really. Saint Purandaradasa had said, this age is not the age for honest people. It is difficult to fight evil. One knows that one has to bribe to get work done, but the idea of bribing never crossed my mind. If you go to Delhi with the attitude that you will get your get your work done by bribing, you will. But if you go with a burning flame, then no matter how much time it takes, you will not bribe, people can see through you and finally your work will happen. Businessmen are more corrupt than politicians. Once they get their licence, they make sure that no one else gets it. You have to be consumed with the idea and follow it with persistence and courage and things will move.
In a lot of ways Air Deccan has become your identity. What was the rebranding and merger experience like
The kind of impact Air Deccan had was tremendous. It touched many a lives and in the process transformed the sector. It made me realise there is more to life than business. Its about getting the country together. Lookup to the poor, look at them not just as hungry poor, but as hungry poor consumers. Help them participate in the economic growth. Let them know we share a common future, integrate the other India. Its the biggest high.
Deccan was more than a business; it became a cult. When Deccan happened, only 0.5% of India was flying by air. It created an ecosystem that takes pride in the low-cost model. It led to innovation and one discovered that price point of delivering the model is within reach. It involved building a product, working with the government and become an agent of change. When the rebranding happened, it was more than an emotional experience for me, at the back of my mind were my shareholders and the Deccan employees who had dreamt and delivered with me.
You have pointed out how political parties, whatever their hues and ideologies, suffer from one major shortcomingthe absence of inner party democracy. Was that the reason why you contested as an independent in the 2009 election
We are very fond of democracy, but are not democratic. No political party is democratic. I contested as an independent because I wanted to give out this message. All political parties today are giving tickets on the basis of caste and to criminals; the very foundation of the system is wrong. One wants to seek where is the money coming from for campaigns.
Vajpayeeji had said, The life of a politician starts with a lie. I did not want to be a mere politician, but a change maker. I wanted to create awareness for people to not be confined in their cocoons and just be happy criticising the system in a club. Remember, the most venomous politician and the most corrupt bureaucrat is better than an indifferent citizen.