Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Killer MiG-21...

Readerspeak: One more for RDB files

An Indian Air Force MiG-21 fighter jet crashed over West Bengal on Thursday, killing the pilot - Squadron Leader Swapnil Sakar Pandey. Pandey's cousin Vaibhav Vishal wrote in to

On Thursday, sometime during lunch, I saw the news ticker talking about some MiG-21 crash near Kurseong in West Bengal.

The pilot was feared killed, it said. "Yet another one for the RDB case files!", I thought to myself, feeling good about my astute social commentary skills, especially the wise 'RDB case files' bit, and continued digging my teeth into my lunch box.

The parathas were awesome.

At around 5:30 pm, my sister gave me a call. The aircraft was being piloted by Squadron Leader Swapnil Sakar Pandey. And he was killed, indeed.

I knew the guy as Golu. He was my brother. My first cousin. My aunt's only son.

Two years younger than me, Golu always always always wanted to be a fighter pilot with the Indian Air Force. He wanted to serve the country. He wanted to fight the enemy.

He wanted to fly those massive aircraft. I would always think hard why a multi-dimensional guy like him - somebody who could play six musical instruments and sing like a true blue rockstar; and paint, photograph and write with equal ease - would want to get into such a uni-dimensional job.

Fly, fly, fly, and then some more. Golu thought otherwise. And he clearly knew what he wanted. So a fighter pilot he did become the day he could.

Swapnil Sakar. Dream Fulfilled.

Till March 1, 2007. It was supposed to be a regular practice flight. Apparently, the plane developed a snag, as is now becoming a norm with the MiG-21s, immediately after the take off, with its tail catching fire.

Our man could have ejected himself and saved his life, but the aircraft would have then crash-landed in a populated area. In order to save all those lives, Squadron Leader Pandey maneuvered the machine towards the forest area, and while he did try to eject himself post that, evidently, it was too late.

He saved the lives of unknown people when he could have saved his own. He could have, in the process, also saved the lives of his parents, his wife of one year, his three sisters and all of us from his extended family.

But he chose to save people he didn't know.

I don't want to blame the Indian Air Force for continuing to fly the MiG-21s, despite so many young men losing their lives. I don't want to blame the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi for his rather cold and callous statement with reference to my aunt: "She understands that there are risks involved in military aviation. Sometimes things don't work out. I am sorry that she has lost her kid," I don't want to blame the Air Force authorities for not finding the black box of the aircraft yet, or at least not telling the world about it. I don't want to blame anybody for killing my brother.

I'm glad he is gone.

Despite my crafty attempts at social commentaries, I really am at a loss to understand how this whole thing works.

RDB propagates killing the ones who are responsible for killing our young men. I don't want that. That is a route for the revolutionaries. And I really don't know how it helps, anyways.
For me, the solace lies in knowing that we are better off without such nice human beings. We deserve a world sans good people.

There is no place for the likes of Golu amongst us. We don't deserve such unselfish, sensitive men. We don't want such saviours. We don't want any patriots.

We want regular people around us who don't care. Because we don't care.

Call it pessimism. Call it giving up. Call it acceptance. The news never made it to the headlines. Yet another one, right! While the kid killed himself to save others, I continued biting into my parathas, didn't I? So should you.

Forward this note to people you know, if you can. If this can lead to even an iota of movement anywhere - amongst people like us or the babus, the ministers, the Forces OR within me, or you - Squadron Leader Pandey's last flight may just achieve the heights it could not.
Golu is dead. Now please help me kill my cynicism, guys.

(Vaibhav Vishal is Director, Program Development with MTV Networks India Pvt. Ltd.)


Vivek said...

I think its absolutely pathetic how the Government, the ministry of Defence in particular can simply keep its eyes closed to these regular murders. I call these a murder because someone in the Political & Bureaucratic set up thinks its okay to take the risk of people losing their lives knowing well that the planes have proved to be unflyworthy. I am no aeronautic expert but If I can see the numbers adding up to give me a picture I cant see why the experts would differ. In case the question today is about India being unable to purchase new planes because of lack of funds then we need to question as to whether we need such a large airforce??? I have many friends in the airforce and the army and it shakes me to my core to think that the decision makers treat these lives so frivolously.

Ritu said...


True, each word reflects what is being done to our JAWANS inspite of their selfless service.

I am Ritu Jhingran, From Mumbai. Right now I am working on a documentary. I am looking for people like you and you aunt who have lost their loved one in Mig Crashes.

Please revert as your help can make a lot of difference to the documentary.

you can call me on +919323045144
or mail me on

thanking you n anticipation