The ones who never returned.

As 12 year old boy, I knew it, it was settled in my head, that I had to become a pilot. That is exactly what I did. On 21 June 1993, I was commissioned into the Indian Air Force as a transport pilot.

However, my story doesn’t start here. It starts some 23 years later on the 22nd of July 2016. I was at this point a freshly appointed Commanding Officer of a prestigious transport Squadron (Sqn). (A young squadron with an average age of just 27 years.) I had been on the hot seat for barely a month. On this ominous day, I was out of base on an official task, and I received a rather disturbing cryptic phone call from the officer in-charge in my absence. He, in a rather subdued voice said “the Andaman Courier Aircraft has gone missing with 29 souls on board at 1151 hours, All over due actions have been taken”. I acknowledged the message and told him “message copied, hold fort and I will be there ASAP”. To put it in context, an aircraft of my Squadron had just vanished from Chennai controls’ radar screen about 151 Nautical miles east of Chennai, it had 29 people on board. It was truly horrific news! The crew had been carefully selected as was the aircraft. How do I get my boys back was my primary thought.

My Flight Commander and I headed back to the Squadron. What we observed was a stunned squadron, a group of young boys and girls shell shocked and who looked listless in the face of this calamity.

As I walked around the Sqn complex to get the pulse, I realised immediately that they needed direction, and fast. In quick time work was distributed, scheduled and unscheduled tasks allotted. No one was idle, new registers were opened up. Information was collated, new channels of news distribution were opened up. Information boards were created; all sightings and alarm pickups were meticulously marked. It became our board of hope. The news would flow out to families and relatives after being whetted for quick dissemination. The aim was that no one should be left out. The primary aim of this unending tasking was to give this young Squadron a sense of direction. Every Officer, Airman & NC(E) did more than his or her part in getting the Sqn back on its feet after this blow. My flight commander &I combined offices, to present a unified front to all outside forces.

This continued for six to seven months. Flying had immediately recommenced. No one wanted to pack up, working hours stretched endlessly, strong friendships were formed hunched over maps plotting the PLB (Personal Locater Beacon) and shared hopes and dashed dreams. Bonding improved hugely. Camaraderie increased. Spirits were sky high, inspite of only a trickle of news coming through. Efficiency was super high. The results however, were as expected. The wreckage was not found and the crew and passengers were declared dead in a month or so. But the exercise continued for almost six months. Tears had to be used to cement our bonds. Drawn faces had to display the resilience they possessed. Strong wills had to take charge and the boys and girls had to be led and turned into men and women. This was a tough process of growing up and my team and I had the responsibility to see it through. All this period routine tasks continued unabated, because life doesn’t pause.

In this difficult period my Squadron came out stronger, it regrouped and showed commitment, teamwork, willpower and resurgence of a will, to fight what fate had thrown against it. The difference was the leadership, leadership at every level, that’s what made the difference. Hands on, fully involved, deeply committed and empathetic leadership.

The help provided by the station was invaluable. Immediately after the aircraft going missing, all duties for the Sqn stopped. The Board of Officers, various checks etc, all stopped. It showed the tremendous empathy Sunil Kumar Sir and his team and the other Squadrons possessed. A sincere thank you 🙏🏼.

Paul Sir , the Commodore Commandant, called regularly with sane advice, in this period of relative insanity, he often prompted a course correction with his humour. A sincere thank you 🙏🏼.

I wish I could write all the names, the strong, mature leaders, the mid level supervisors, the JCOs, the Cafeteria staff, who worked tirelessly providing unstinting support and the entire team who came together so beautifully. But most are in service & it wouldn’t be appropriate, however it was an excellent job done. They did a superlative job. My chest swells up with pride when I think of strong airwarriors I had the privilege of working with.

A story of loss of friends, is my team’s story of triumph of humankind. A story of tragedy, is my teams story of strength and commitment. A story of collective loss is my teams story of deep bonding and strong eternal friendships.

I am just saddened that we couldn’t get our brothers home.

Badsara, Nandal, Barpatte and Ranjan Saab, Chaudhary, Kapil & all the pax, RIP. We miss you all.

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Purpose

At what point in life did I decide that everything had to have a purpose?

At what time did I come believe that I simply can’t do a thing just for the fun of it?

When did I start taking life so so seriously that I forgot what it was to have fun?

Small aimless but utterly beautiful things like

Getting soaking wet in the rain and not giving a damn.

Cycling madly downhill with no concerns splash water from a puddle.

Soaking up the sun on a cold winters day while doing nothing.

Feeding biscuits to a friendly

dog, who wags his tail madly. Playing Stapu or Vish Amrit or Pitthoo or just any crazy self invented game.

Sitting with friends in our secret hideout camping eating half cooked tasteless food with relish.

I need to have fun again, I need to start soon. I promise myself 😊 to do it really really soon, before it gets too late.

Menchuka (our own paradise)

I have, by virtue of my profession, had a birds eye view of our beautiful and varied country. I have seen the beauty of India in its entirety; the drying heat of the summer, the freezing cold of the winter and whilst its thirst was being slaked, during the cleansing and headily perfumed Monsoon.

We live in a really beautiful land which is filled with wonders large and small. Which, we in the hurry of our day to day life just gloss over. I am trying to write about some of the places I have seen and explored a little more than the average countryman or woman of mine. My endeavor is merely to try and bring to your notice these little gems which exist in our land, ones we need to see, before they are slowly but steadily crushed in the march for so called ‘modernisation’.

If I were to be asked “which is the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen”, I’d say without any hesitation ‘Arunachal‘. I’d say this with conviction, if I was asleep, half asleep or wide awake. The erstwhile NEFA was rechristened in 1986 as Arunachal Pradesh. It is euphemistically called the North Eastern part of India. It is the politically neglected and a collectively ignored part of India. It is what I personally like to call the mystic and magical North East. If one was to consider politically neglected as a negative attribute, ignored is certainly not. Its precisely because of this attribute that for me Arunachal is such an amazing destination. Let me try to describe how it used to appear to me from the air, ground and from my heart (A different perspective that an Aviator is privileged to have)…..

The sluggish looking brown river called Brahmaputra, is vast and seemingly never ending. It has to its north, hills. Hills, where I could see the end of  the color brown. They are covered with thick green verdant forests. Isolated patches of blackened earth with smoke rising due to Jhoom cultivation and tiny villages are the only breaks in the green foliage. As I move ahead, the hills gain height slowly and their tops are soon covered by wispy cotton like clouds. The confluence of any two hills are marked by a river rushing, frothing its way in an unseemly hurry to marry up with the Brahmaputra. Dozens of waterfall dot the ridge line. Some were so high I just couldn’t see any cascade reaching the bottom, only what seemed to me as a heavenly cooling mist.

Seldom are words spoken while flying through this area, this was especially true for me, as I try to soak up every little thing I can see. In my mind the silence is also for several dear friends who have perished near this place. The forest quickly overgrows the areas of impact, but the hurt in our heart’s is forever. Far in the distance, my crew and I can see snow capped peaks. More clouds allow me to play peek a boo with the mountain tops. When I look down no concrete can be seen any where, all houses are made the traditional way, using locally available produce. When I say all houses I mean a cluster of three or four every 20-30 miles as a crow flies… Talk about space!!!

All houses are beautifully handcrafted, built with love they are without doubt both Traditional and Eco friendly……. 

Huts+in+Arunachal.jpg

One of the larger settlements enroute to Mechuka

I lost my train of thought, as I frequently do in such breathtakingly beautiful places, forgive me… My crew and I gradually reach the snow topped mountains… the slopes are covered by beautiful snow laden coniferous trees. These slopes would rival even the most sought after places in the world….Ahead in the distance I can see a beautiful green bowl surrounded by scraggly peaks, beautiful patch work terraced fields of various shades of green with a small clumps of houses in the middle.

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The approach area, time to get airborne, weather is packing up.

As I set my trusty An-32 down with a mild thud & a lion’s roar, absolutely no one complains…. after all who would complain of a mild thud while reaching heaven.. would you?  🙂 

Fields+with+huts+in+Arunachal.jpg

The first thing which strikes a visitor to this small piece of heaven on earth is the cold bracing breeze which welcomes one and all. The air is so crisp, so clean, that I began to wonder how in the world had I survived in the real world outside till date? The only sounds I remember hear was the soft pleasant but persistent gurgling of the stream close by, persistent because it is making an attempt to remind one not to miss the stream. The river in the village I remember, was about 30 odd feet wide, it had a beautiful, swaying road bridge and inspite of it being just four odd feet deep (when not flooded) the rocks lining the river bed are clearly visible. The water fed by melting snows, is of course, mind numbingly cold. 

The first thing all crew do after an arrival here, is get a refreshing cup of distinctive chai. It’s hot, to warm ones hands, strong, to help one get refreshed and has light fragrance of kerosene (so distinctively true on any ALG). Oh how I miss that Chai.

‘All along the river are small wooden sloping roof houses, with fields all around. Fields are filled with tall stalks of corn ready to be harvested. This corn is from personal experience, the tastiest, most tender and organic corn anyone could ever taste’.

I remember walking into the compound of house which had no gates whatsoever with a slight amount trepidation and hesitantly asking if I could buy corn. It was for home, neighbours, my friends and colleagues, the list was long, a total of 18 cobs of corn were required. The family of four were seated on the floor dehusking the corn & removing its kernels. (They make beer, flour with it. It’s their staple), They looked up at me questioningly, I asked, with my hands folded in greetings ‘Mujhe Bhutta chahiye’ the man responded, ‘peeche jaa ke lelo’. I said ‘Kitne Ka hai, kyuki mujhe 18 chahiye’, by then he had resumed working. So he stopped and looked at me & smiled, ‘jitna bhi chahiye lejao’ (he meant just go back and pluck them, as many as you need). When I insisted on paying, he told me that there was only one man in the village who sold stuff. He could be found six houses down. Such is the openness in our little paradise.

It was not at all unusual to see a warrior clad in traditional finery carrying a finely crafted Dao (deadly long knife) in a leather case, strapped on his back, lugging a 12 Bore rifle, heading out to the forest for a spot of hunting if you please!! In fact one of the bigger shops in this village, was selling weapons and ammunition!! Hunting continues to be one of the commonest professions. 

This is a breathtakingly beautiful place where trust is easily gained by flashing a happy smile. Where friends are quickly made merely by a jovial wave of the hand. No Internet, no mobile phones, hardly any cars, the favoured way to travel is walking, No hurry, no rushing… We have utopia within our reach…. I can reach this place simply by closing my eyes and allowing my mind to drift…. Once you visit this place you’ll know why… 🙂

I don’t need my An-32 any more.


The Line Squall

My crew and I were flying from near Chennai to near Coimbatore to end a long sortie over the Bay of Bengal. These sorties, in spite of being long, were refreshing and a great learning experience for everyone involved. This particular blog is basically to dig deeper into the last one, ( https://scepticnow.wordpress.com/2018/03/02/moments-of-oneness-with-nature-air/ ) as it had left a few readers confused. This is my small attempt to bring clarity.

I had an experienced Navigator and a relatively inexperienced Copilot who was on the left seat getting hours to appear for a D ‘White’ Cat/ Instrument Rating (IR) he was not categorised and fairly inexperienced. After getting airborne and climbing to Flight Level or FL 180 we set course under Chennai Radar control. We were constantly asking for deviations right of track due to Cumulonimbus (CB) clouds extending up to 27000-30000 feet on track, typical pre monsoon weather. We were often in clouds and rocking in moderate turbulence. Once or twice icing warning also had come. In short it was ‘fun and games’ we were all kept on our toes by Mother Nature. As we approached the turning point called Xilas (pronounced zilas) a Position south, south west of Chennai, we realised there was a line squall on track from short of Xilas till beyond Coimbatore. We turned short of that point and maintained well north of the route (Right of the track) on our left my crew and I could see extensive clouding, with embedded towering CB cells. We kept scouting for a break in clouds, either visually or in the radar to turn and reach our destination, but nothing could be seen.

All eyes were peeled and at times we even doubted if the weather radar was playing truant. The turbulence was moderate and incessant, we kept confirming load at the back was secure. Sharp long bolts of lightning could be seen forking down from the clouds at short but regular intervals, as if it wasn’t enough that the weather Gods were mocking us poor humans, but also taking pictures of us trying to finding a way back home.

The crew was coping up fairly ok, except the pilot under screen for whom so far, bad weather had been restricted to books. As if the constant turbulence, icing wasn’t enough, we now faced with the real possibility of entering these dense, dark clouds, it seemed for him a difficult prospect. He was for his experience dealing with the stress well, nevertheless he held the control column stiffly, he was slightly wide eyed & I could see some sweat on his face.

We had been flying in and out of clouds for roughly 30 minutes by this time, with moderate chop. I took over controls and retrimmed the aircraft, allowing the young pilot to calm down a little. We were approaching North of our destination and would soon be north of Coimbatore. We would have very little option but to turn. Diversion to Bangalore was out of question, since it was approaching sunset and Bangalore was notorious for huge fruit bats in and around the airfield.

Then I saw this(the image below), I told the crew ‘turn left make heading 180, radar is green, expect more turbulence’.

The pilot looked at me all goggle eyed and said ‘are you sure Sir’. I put my hand on his shoulder, smiled reassuringly & said ‘absolutely sure’. He very hesitantly looked again at the clouds while I took a picture and looked at me. I said ‘turn with me’ and turned towards our destination. Then I said ‘you’ve got her’, which he acknowledged. I looked back at the Navigator, he was looking at the radar. Realising that I was looking back, he looked at me and gave me a thumbs up. The Nav displaying good situational awareness, gave a Red On at the back and informed the ground crew on head set about the impending turbulence. We Were READY to face anything.

We went through, some knocks, some bumps and at the end, went over what seemed like a large speed breaker, suddenly in front of us lay clear faded blue skies. The sky was gradually changing colour with the setting sun. The weather through which we flew must’ve lasted longer, however, because of the intense concentration on everyones part, it appeared to have lasted barely three to four minutes. On the left and right were two tall dark CB cells like two escorts for our tiny airplane, they escorted us out of this line squall.

What was apparent immediately on our coming out on the other side of the line squall, was the stress flowing out of the pilot and in all probability all of us. His shoulders which were stiff, had relaxed, his face was visibly relaxed and not frowning any more. He was holding the control column more gently now.

We carried out an uneventful landing and switch off. Like true professionals we discussed the issues with the aircraft, which were really few, they were documented nonetheless. In the normal course of events I would have been the first to disembark, but today I stood unobtrusively and out of sight at the back and watched my crew. There was happy unhindered banter in progress, backslapping and good-humoured abuse, especially when the weather was discussed. The young pilot had a spring in his step. He had encountered weather for the first time, with adequate fuel & no serious constraints. He had flown through the weather without anyone following him on controls or taking over controls. He had tasted blood. He would over a period of time with more experience learn to discern weather, learn and understand what is negotiable and what isn’t.

As I mentioned, he had tasted blood and yes, he LIKED IT. I had in all probability witnessed an inflexion point in his career, I felt privileged to have been a part of it.

For most of us aviators, bad weather, difficult airfield, a tough drop, valley flying low flying etc, gives us a high like nothing else on earth. No alcohol and/or smoking compares with it. We all after such sorties exit the planes with damp sweat soaked overalls, wide eyed, and thumping hearts but a deep desire to do it again and again and again. The joys of being an aviator. This why the the brotherhood of aviators is so strong.

The Vijaynagar Decision

It was one of those bright summer days, that one sees in Jorhat. Clear blue skies, a few tufts of clouds green hills both north and south on the horizon, extremely hot, humid & absolutely no dust. An An-32 was tasked to carry army load to Vijaynagar from Mohanbari.

Such exotic sounding names, bring back memories of beautiful green valleys covered with clouds. Lush green forests with small fires, in areas being cleared for Jhoom cultivation. Innumerable beautiful green valley after valley untouched by humans except for the tribals, who actually belong & don’t really destroy it the way city dweller do, we city dwellers have a way of permanently destroying nature.

The aircraft positioned in Mohanbari smoothly, expecting it to be a normal sortie. Mohanbari has a buzz around it, like most bases dealing with forward area or support roles. Barely had the props wound down the load had been positioned behind the aircraft, the bowser was ready to refuel the ‘ANNA BATTIS’ as the fuel hungry beast was often affectionately called. The load manifest was ready to be presented to the Captain after the Flight Engineer had perused it. The Navigator was contacting the Met section on the old fashioned Land Line for updating the weather. Everything went like clockwork, after all everyone expected to drop the load at Vijaynagar and head on back to Jorhat. Easy-peasy.

The takeoff and outbound was flawless, just like the weather. The crew spotted the ‘Dragon lakes’ and wondered in amazement at their beauty. The multicoloured reflections were surreal. In general, the beauty of Namdapha towering on the left, impenetrable forests all around, while following the ribbon like river was unmatched. As soon as Gandhigram came into view, everyone almost unconsciously tightened their straps and their attention on the circuit and landing. Seeing the wreckage at the end of the majorly pierced steel planking strip made one wince. The landing was flawless.

As always, the arrival of the An-32 was an event, scores of children lined the fence, staring and gesticulating as a cool bracing breeze blew across the field. In quick time the aircraft was offloaded, as the crew was about to restart the aircraft, the medical assistant on T/D to Vijaynagar came running to the Captain. He pointed to an obviously pregnant woman standing near the fence and said ‘Sir, inko lejana hoga, ninth month mien hai, and it’s a breech baby it can’t be delivered here, both the mother and the baby will die’. Captain and the Nav discussed and pondered for a bit, as any in their position would have, it was an army sortie, civilians on board would cause problems, also hill out time wasn’t far away, then he was heading towards Jorhat, not Mohanbari. It must’ve taken them, less than 15 seconds and he said in a firm voice ‘please ask her to board immediately’. The die was cast.

After that, an undercurrent of some sort existed in the crew. The clouding had increased a little, exactly as per the Meteorological briefing. They got airborne, set course and climbed to cruising altitude. Every turn was done as gently as possible by the crew keeping in mind they had a lady in the cargo cabin who was pregnant. About twenty minutes into the sortie, there was some urgent knocking on the cockpit door. The flight engineer opened the door and the crew came to know that the lady had started to have labour pains & her water had broken.

The crew still had about 40 minutes to go for Jorhat and needed to get down as soon as possible to get Medical help. The Navigator gave frantic calls to Mohanbari, who cryptically announced they were going off R/T as the airfield watch hours were over. The Captain turned towards Mohanbari & took over R/T declaring a medical emergency, asking the airfield to remain open and ambulance to be available. Mohanbari airfield had no option but to comply. The aircraft landed and deboarded the lady who was extremely relieved to be on firm ground once again. She was whisked away in the ambulance immediately for medical attention.

Well after so much happened, the crew returned to base for a mild reprimand, mainly for sidestepping a multitude of regulations. I believe they deserved a good show, I believe strongly they should have got a god show. Anyway, the good news was, as I learnt later, both that mother and her baby girl (Almost an Ibex!!!!) were fine. Bakshi & Chaks Sir good job done. Proud of you, not everyone would have agreed to do,what you and your crew did.

Epilogue: The An-32 has been a part of so many lives, some good, some sad, some happy & hopefully mostly sanguine. It’s is nevertheless a part of so many lives. This is a part of a series of experiences shared, so you all get a glimpse of what happens in the lives of an aviator flying this Robust, ATF smelling beast ‘Anna Battis’.

The Sabji Courier

We had just taxied in on our An-32 and switched off late in the afternoon. It was towards the end of November in the year 1997, a large western disturbance had just passed, the temperature was about -2°C. Snow was piled on the side of the runways and the taxi tracks in Srinagar. The sky was covered with low clouds threatening to bring in snow flurries or at least some rain, a brisk 10 knot breeze added to the wind-chill factor. As the vegetables (Hence the name Sabji courier) and cargo was being offloaded, I saw a long line of passengers waiting to board the aircraft. This was my first trip to the valley, my aircraft was also the first one to enter the valley and I had been briefed that there was a lot of rush of passengers. This was because due to unusually heavy snowfall and the Banihal pass had been blocked.

I went with my flight engineer to where the passengers were being screened and announced, that all passengers who have an urgent commitment like a marriage or a birth of child in the family or have had an unfortunate demise in the family will be given priority so they may step to one side (I was cautioned by a crew member who was more experienced in the area, that they might even lie so I smiled and said, I can’t afford to leave even one person with such an urgent requirement, even if another few so-called liars get on board here. The rest can wait for another aircraft) about 20 army men in warm clothing of the valley stepped one side with one or other of these urgent requirements.

My crew and I had a quick cup of tea trying vainly to warm our hands, while we calculated our backload, fuel etc. We did a detailed briefing of the weather and other important information to be kept in mind in the valley. Then I asked my crew to proceed to the aircraft,while I sauntered around the aircraft to check the aircraft exterior vitals. I noticed my Co-pilot having a discussion with very archaic looking DSC jawan. After finishing my external checks I reached my co-pilot, who by then had already informed the jawan that he couldn’t board any more. I stepped in and asked the co-pilot what the issue was? he explained that we were approaching the limit of our take-off weight and could not take any more passengers. I nodded my head and asked him to go and prepare to start the aircraft, while I dealt with the passenger.

DSC jawans are army jawans, who join up from various regiments after completing their service with their parent arm and are deployed all over the country. They are disciplined and lead a ruthlessly tough life. I looked at him, he must’ve been approaching the end of his engagement with the services soon, and he looked haggard. He was wearing a thin jersey on his uniform, extremely inadequate for the cold weather we were facing. I asked him ‘kahaan jana hai aapko?’. He looked up with a glimmer of hope and said ‘Sonipat’. I said ‘Aap normal chutti peja rahe ho?’. This time he met my gaze steadily and said ‘Beti ki shadi hai parso sir!’ then bending down he opened his green duffel bag revealing currency notes. Continuing he said ‘Yeh Paanch lakh hai sir, dahej ki rakam’.

I looked at him speechless, I just knew in my heart he HAD to reach Sonipat in time for his daughter’s wedding. My crew and I had to facilitate it, honoured to be in a position to help. I held his shoulders and told him ‘Aap is jahaz me jaoge’, and I saw relief flooding into his eyes. I briefed my flight engineer that he had to be seated in the last seat and he must keep a sharp eye on his duffel bag.

I briefed my crew about the new passenger, and discussed & planned to warm up the engines extra on ground, to ensure we don’t take off with any additional weight. The return trip to Chandigarh was normal except for a few bumps due to weather. I did enquire about our DSC jawan out at the back about half way, he was fast asleep. 🙂

As were descending in to Chandigarh, we heard the Assam courier asked for taxi for Delhi. It was a god given opportunity for the DSC jawan to reach closer to home. I looked around at my crew wondered in my head whether the senior crew of the giant IL-76 would agree or not. I decided for the sake of the DSC Jawan I must try. So I pressed the PTT (press to transmit switch) and said ‘Air Force 441 Request accommodate a VIP passenger on board Sabji courier to Delhi please’. By then I could see the lumbering IL taxi out of its bay in the dispersal. ‘Send as many as you can’ was the Suave response as the IL came to a halt. I wanted to cheer wildly, but Aviate first is the dictum. So I thanked him and landed, taxied close to the IL. Off loaded all the passengers who needed to head on further south.

From the window I could see the DSC Jawan weighed down by his duffel bag, walk slowly towards the giant IL-76 moving away from the Sabji courier. ..

The Unknown Sikh Soldier in the Kargil War

. ..in the Kargil war

I remember it as if it was yesterday. It was the 23rdMay 1999, the Kargil conflict was on going. My crew and I were in Awantipur to pick up 24 casualties (20 sitting & 4 on stretchers) the casualties were seriously wounded. The age of the passengers ranged between 19-27 years. Some had deep bullet wounds, where the bullet had gone through, but they still had their legs and could sit, stand, walk, and so weren’t on a stretcher. The men who were on a stretcher were the badly hurt ones. They were those, who had stepped on a land mine & had their legs blown off.

The aircraft was the work horse of the IAF. The AN-32 reeked of Savlon and fear. As we waited for the last of the patients to arrive, I realised, that my An-32 also was a micro India. The diminutive Naga soldier was seated next to a tall Jat, the Tambi was besides the Maratha, the Rajput was alongside a JAKLI, Mahar sat with a tall Guards soldier & the tiny Gurkha was next to an equally tiny, though sturdy Kumaoni. All united by shades of Olive Green and the invisible thread of pain. Injuries they had suffered on our behalf have been forgotten.

In the ambulance, which was parked just at the edge of the ramp (behind the aircraft), was a really young soldier from the Sikh light Infantry. So young, that he barely had any facial hair. A mere boy. He had lost both his legs in a mine blast. In an effort to distract him, I asked him where he was from? I also inquired if he was fond of cricket? His eyes brightened up immediately and he said, “Yes Sir”. Seeing his response, I loudly addressed all my passengers, “India is playing with Kenya and Sachin Tendulkar has scored 140 runs in 101 balls not out. He has helped India reach 329 in 50 overs”. Every eye was one me , riveted and attentive. Noticing their reponse, I further added,“Tendulkar has dedicated his innings to his father who’s funeral he had returned from the previous day. What do you all think? Will we win?

YES SIR! Pat came the response. All of a sudden, a Tendulkar Tsunami swept through the aircraft and that ambulance behind it. 

Everyone forgot their pain & their injuries. They forgot their predicament, and all they could talk about was Tendulkar & his century. Everyone was excitedly chatting with the person next to them. I could see my new friend in the ambulance, talking animatedly. His eyes all lit up, his smile was ecstatic as he described Tendulkar’s shots. He was happy. All my passengers were happy. For a brief period everything was, the way it ought to be.

I don’t think Mr Tendulkar has a clue about how much we value him in our country, as he sells us everything from washing machines to toothpaste, in an effort to make even more money.

Epilogue: When I landed with my passengers in Delhi, I shared the good news with them that we had indeed won the match, far away in England. My friend who was on a stretcher strapped securely to the floor smiled at me. I shook his hand and wished him well. I am extremely glad it was dark and he couldn’t see my eyes. My crew and I stood behind the aircraft as they disembarked silently wishing them well. It’s men like my passengers that night, who silently walk away after giving their youth for all of us. Please do think about them for a moment.

Lonely Vigil….

Lonely Vigil

  • When I was young, I was Shiny, Bright and Majestic.
  • I was Oiled, Greased and taken care of every day by my soldiers, whose main job was ME.
  • The men who made me were proud of me. They, their Families and their Empire felt safer that I was on their side.
  • My soldiers stood behind me, safe and secure mounting a vigil with me as a TEAM.
  • Time passed, Times changed, Battles were waged and lost, Empires shrank.
  • My soldiers have all gone, I am where I was left.
  • I showing loyalty and resoluteness still Aim where I was asked to.
  • Steadfastly and Stubbornly I stand vigil as I had been briefed.
  • Tired, Alone & Rusted, but in a true display of character, I continue my LONELY VIGIL on behalf of the
    • The Empires that are no more.
    • The Armies that are no more.
    • & most of all My Soldiers who are no more.
These are images of one such weapon built by the Japanese, I happened to see it in the Andaman Islands. I am sure there are several more abandoned posts like this in that archipelago of ours.

Flying

Flying
To touch the sky so high was always my dream,
I wished and bowed before god, that it would be my life’s theme,
I hoped and I prayed from my childhood that I would fly,
I knew if it didn’t come true I’d have a torrent of tears from my eye,
The dream came true the dream came true,
I was part of an elected group so elequently called the “crew”,
When my time comes,I know these words shall be true
the aviator (ME) HE FLEW HE FLEW!