Every nation stands tall and remains unbreakable courtesy to the knights in uniforms who stand guard at our borders, shores and skies 24X7. These fearless (and needless to say, selfless) men and women hold the country's defences, laying down their lives in the line of fire to ensure that their countrymen get to lead a life that's not threatened by fear or uncertainty.
Their job description is special for more than one reason. We find them setting up their homes in the most remote areas of the country, or someplace with adverse climatic conditions, marking their territories and standing guard over it, should its borders be threatened. The Indian subcontinent boasts of such mighty knights of its own, who put on such a display of bravado in the face of challenge, which is matched only by a few others.
Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is one such Indian officer who wears the uniform with pride and stands by its ideals to the hilt. Abhinandan is a National Defence Academy (NDA) Khadakwasla alumnus, who is an officer with 51 Squadron of the Indian Air Force, which is known as Sword Arms and is based in Srinagar.
Hailing from Chennai, Abhinandan has been a fighter pilot with the IAF for the last 16 years and was an established Sukhoi-30 fighter pilot before he joined the 51 Squadron. A native from Chennai, Abhinandan was brought up respecting the principles of the armed forces, since his father is also an Air Force veteran.
Born to noted Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman, who retired as the Air-Officer-Commanding of the Eastern Command in Shillong in 2012, Abhinandan appeared in an episode of 'Jai Hind' in 2011, which was telecasted on NDTV Good Times. Holding a title of Flight Lieutenant at the time, he had said that it takes “bad attitude” to be a good Sukhoi pilot. He further added that there were no two ways about “blind faith” and trust that officers place on their co-pilots and the training they receive.
The 34-year-old Wing Commander, who currently flies a MiG-21 Bison, was captured by the Pakistan Armed Forces after he crash-landed across the LoC after an aerial dogfight with his Pakistani counterparts who had infiltrated the Indian airspace early morning yesterday, in retaliation to India's airstrike on terror camps in Pakistan and PoK.
The videos of his captivity began doing the rounds of social media. The first one showed the fighter pilot being beaten by an angry mob comprising of Pakistani locals until the Pakistani army intervened and brought Abhinandan to safety. The second video clip showed a wounded and blindfolded Abhinandan enquiring about his whereabouts, and calmly giving his name and service number when enquired by the Pakistani officers.
The third and final video showed him in a better space of mind, sipping on a cup of tea and informing the world that the Pakistani Army has treated him very well, and assuring that they've have been “thorough gentlemen” in their behaviour. However, for most Indians, the video series did more than just the obvious.
Sure, we saw the Pakistani Army's graciousness in keeping up with the ideals and ethics of combat, and hold up the principles of humanity but it was also Abhinandan's grit and strength in the face of adversity that stirred the spirit of every Indian who saw the man hold his chin up even when he realised he was in Pakistan's captivity.
In a tweet earlier today, Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh hailed Abhinandan an as “embodiment of a mentally tough, selfless and courageous soldier” and hoped for his safe return at the earliest.
#WingCommanderAbhinandan is an embodiment of a mentally tough, selfless & courageous soldier.
During these testing times the country stands, as one, behind him & his family.
Our efforts are on & under the #GenevaConvention we hope that the brave pilot would return home soon.
But it isn't just the minister who feels that way. Several young people across the country have come to find a different kind of hero in Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. They have seen Abhinandan prove that his nerves are made of steels, whose display of quiet strength and composure took away the power from his captors.
Abhinandan faced the Pakistani Army officers with the kind of attitude and demeanour befitting an officer of the Indian Armed Forces. Not only did he display immense strength of will, but he also didn't step away from the ideals an officer must abide by, and followed protocol by displaying dignity of character and respect towards the officers of the Pakistani army.
He quickly became the prime example of the kind of hero people wish to look up to, since Abhinandan's calm during such a moment of duress inspired respect not only from his fellow countrymen, but also from Pakistani citizens, who praised his bravado and show of dignity. But if you thought the video was all, hold your thoughts.
Did you know, that according to an India Today report Abhinandan swallowed all the confidential documents and maps he had on himself to ensure they don't end up with the Pakistani army after he gets captured?
Here is what 20-somethings are saying about their new-found hero in Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman:
Even though he was captured, Abhinandan maintained the dignity of being a representative of our Forces as well as our country, and stood by demands of protocol he might have been given the training for.
We agree to what Aditya pointed out right there. Being a soldier Abhinandan ensured that none of confidential documents or information he possessed could be accessed by the Pakistani army officers. He stood his ground and displayed integrity.
Not only as an officer in the Indian Armed Forces, but also as a fellow human being, Abhinandan was respectful to the Pakistani officers in the video, and acknowledged their graciousness and hospitality after his captivity.
Abhinandan's calmness and display of respect towards Pakistani officers has touched the hearts of million!
Abhinandan made numerous young men and women in the country and around the world, stop and take note of the bravado and do or die spirit thriving in the heart of every soldier around this world.
Now that Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan has gone on record to state that Abhinandan will be released on 1st March, as a sign of de-escalation and peace treaty between the two countries, we positively hope that the growing tension will recede and both nations can give peace a chance.
Pakistan will release Indian Pilot Abhinandan tomorrow as a gesture of peace: Prime Minister Imran Khan pic.twitter.com/6aUN4S9JVb— Govt of Pakistan (@pid_gov) February 28, 2019