‘Airborne to Chairborne’ fighter pilot passes away
Ananya Dutta,TNN | May 21, 2014
PUNE: Former Indian Air Force pilot M P Anil Kumar, who was paralyzed after a motorcycle accident and became an inspiration to many after his essay on how he overcame his disability was included in the English syllabus in Maharashtra, died of cancer here on Tuesday morning. He was 50.
”He always demonstrated a fighting spirit. When we heard that he had been diagnosed with cancer, we were really hopeful he would pull through this ordeal as well,” said Praphul Panikar, a close friend of Kumar’s.
The cremation will be held on Wednesday morning at Bopodi crematorium.
MP Anil Kumar had met with an accident while returning to the officer’s mess at Pathankot, when he drove into a road barrier, and broke his cervical spine. Those who rushed him to the local hospital probably didn’t support his head firmly, and so the base of his helmet pushed the fractured vertebrae into the cervical spinal cord, further complicating the situation.
Panikar had first come into contact with Kumar after his essay ‘Airborne to Chairborne’ was published in a newspaper. In the essay, Kumar described his life after the accident and his struggle to learn how to write again (by holding a pen with his mouth because he could not use his hands). It catapulted him to fame and also launched a writing career.
A personal account of the accident that occurred in June 1988, followed by his struggle during the course of his recovery, the essay candidly explored the young fighter pilot’s aspirations and the disappointment that followed. At the National Defence Academy (NDA), he had been adjudged the best Air Force cadet and later at the Air Force Academy he was declared the best in aerobatics.
”For about 10 years, the essay was included in the state board’s English syllabus. This made him very popular with school students, who would write to him or visit him at the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre at Khadki,” Panikar said, adding that Kumar made it a point to reply every letter he received.
Using his unique writing technique and eventually graduating to a computer with a special keyboard that he operated with a stylus, Kumar wrote several articles, particularly on cricket in the armed forces.
By choosing to stay at the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre, he was far away from his family, but over the years he had developed a robust circle of friends in the city.
”I came to know him through a friend of mine who was attending to him. From the very beginning, I was always struck by his very positive outlook. In my life, in moments when I have been feeling very low, I took a lot of mental strength from him,” said Varsha D’Souza.
Echoing D’Souza, Panikar said that Kumar always wanted to do something for others.
”I run a school for underprivileged children. Two years ago, when he heard that our school has a scheme to sponsor a child, he immediately signed up to sponsor the education of a girl. He met her regularly and took a keen interest in her progress and later sponsored another student,” Panikar said.
Read Anil’s Inspirational Note | Airborne to Chairborne
‘The Chairborne Warrior’ MP Anil Kumar’s Reflections On Life As We Know It