For me and many loyal employees of Nepal Airlines, our country and our airline are synonymous. It could be because we are Nepal's international flag carrier. It could be because we have lived through trying times for both the nation and the country whose name the airline bears. Or it may be because we love both equally much.
Which must be why when Nepalis and foreigners talk disparagingly about our national airline it hurts me as much as when they speak ill about our country. My love and respect for my airline and the land of my birth will remain, no matter what anyone says, and no one can take that away from me.
I am no starry-eyed romantic, I am enough of a realist to know that both the country and the airline are in deep trouble. But I also know that the fate of one affects the other, and in fact it is the rot in the country's body politic that is infecting the airline. I am not going to allow my belief in seeing a prosperous Nepal and a strong Nepal Airlines go unmet in my lifetime. Not without a fight.
Nepal is going through a rough patch during its transition phase, but this is not unique. We all knew it wasn't going to be easy. We often encounter turbulence in flight, but we can anticipate it, go around or climb above the weather to take the plane to a safe landing at our destination. We don't let go of the controls when we hit a few bumps, or leave it up to the gods.
On every flight to Malaysia or Qatar, in the cabin behind me are hundreds of my Nepali brothers and sisters who are seeking greener pastures abroad. Every flight out of Nepal is Nepal in a microcosm, the passengers represent the collective aspirations and hopes of all Nepalis. They are leaving because what they see around them gives them no hope.
I admit, there are times when I feel tempted to join them. There is no shortage of jobs for experienced 757 pilots, and I could earn many times more what I earn here. My family and friends wish me well, and ask me why I am wasting my time in an airline that is going down. Why am I stubbornly refusing to see that the political leaders, airline mafia, other airlines, the unions and staff are hell bent on destroying Nepal Airlines? Why can't I just call it quits and go abroad instead of wasting my skill, knowledge and time?
How can I explain to them that this would be like abandoning my country? If your mother is sick, would you leave her? Do you just sit back and complain about what a burden she is on you, or do you try to find her proper care and nurse her back to health?
Things are not hopeless. We have come a long way since the war ended, and you can't expect politicians to behave any differently than they are doing here. But there are untainted political leaders with integrity and vision who are itching to set the country on the correct path. Same for the airline, if only the company was left to professionals it could prosper. There are enough of us in the airline who have abandoned neither Nepal nor the airline. We will be here till the end.
Politicians, stop interfering in Nepal Airlines. Leave us alone. We don't need fair weather friends, we need allies who will stay and support us while we negotiate the treacherous route ahead.
Vijay Lama is a Captain with Nepal Airlines with which he has been flying for 25 years.