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Airborne To Chairborne - MP Anilkumar All my attempts to move my limbs ended futiely.

The pain in the neck was excruci ating and it intensified by the second. I was stumped for a moment but quickly r ecovered to realize the seriousness and significance of my inability to get up. I do not remember whether I screamed involuntarily. Then, in clean desperation o n that abominable night, my mind was in a medley of intense frustration, utmost dejection and extreme disappointment. For some timeless moments, I wished I were dead. On 28 June'88 at around 2300 hrs, whilst returning to the officers mess on my mo torcycle after night flying, I drove onto a road barrier just ahead of the techn ical area gate inside Air Force Station, Pathankot. The impact of the helmet on the wooden bar wrenched my neck and broke the cervical spine. Fifteen minutes af ter the accident, I was taken to the Station Sick Quarters in an unconscious sta te. While being carried, my head was left unsupported and the base of the helmet (rear side), which was resting against the nape of the neck pushed the fracture d vertebrae into the cervical spinal cord. (The casualty must be carried in a st retcher after immobilizing his/her neck with a cervical color) The resultant spi nal injury paralysed me completely below the neck. After overnight stay in Military Hospital (M.H) Pathankot I was transferred to A rmy Hospital, Delhi Cantt (AHDC). Neck surgery failed to mitigate my predicament . Though I had brief spells of consciousness during the fortnight hospitalizatio n in AHDC, I am unable to recollect my fight for survival. On July 12,1988, I wa s transferred to the Spinal Cord Injuries Centre, of MH Kirkee, Pune. Two weeks after admission, I gathered my wits and eagerly inquired about the pro gnosis. The medical officer looked up at the ceiling and motioned his hands skyw ards, perhaps he wanted me to adjure divine intervention. This charade instantly deflated my hopes but it lucidly conveyed the enormity and helplessness of the incurable nature of the incapacitation, inconstancies of life have always bemuse d me but not even the wildest nightmare presaged that one day I would fall prey to such a quirk of fate. The modicum of faith I had in providence got shattered when I failed to show even an iota of improvements. The cervical spinal injury (quadriplegia) necessitated me to lead a totally depe ndent life tethered to the bed and wheelchair. Now I am like a man fettered for life: unable to use my hands and legs, incontinent and spoon-fed. Ironically, th e most painful aspect of quadriplegia is the unpolluted painlessness! It is not mere loss of tactile inputs and outputs but absolute dependence on someone else to accomplish mundane necessities and domestic chores that yoked me; even for th ing like swabbing ears and swatting flies. Disuse atrophy had set in within couple of months and took its toll by altering the geometry of my torso and limbs. The mirror replicated the image of a human s keleton swathed in a layer of wizened skin. Two years stay in MH Kirkee taught m e how to battle with the numerous encumbrances and how to conquer the bouts of d epression. With a smile on the face I managed to dissemble the pang of the heart . The Indian Air Force (IAF) realized my uselessness and discharged me form serv ice on 12 th April 1990. The silly accident dealt the coup de grace to my aspira tions and career in the IAF. In August 1990, at the young age of 26, I got admit ted in Paraplegic Home, Kirkee, Pune as an inmate to begin the second phase of m y life afresh. I was born and brought up in a hamlet by name Chirayinkil, 35 kms north of Triva ndrum. At the age of 9, I entered Sainik School, Kazhakootam. An unobtrusive stu dent and a slow learner by nature, I had excelled consistently in both sports an d academics. Later, I was found worthy enough to be adjudged as the best Air For

All my efforts to nationalise personal catastrophes have always mystified and at times stupefied me. This modest achievement enabled me in reviving the chain of corr espondence and begetting new friends. I was commissioned into the IAF as a fighter pilot. To adapt to the new challenge posed by the debility I had t o unshackle myself from the self-imposed stupor. the person who kept on chivv ying to start mouth writing (earlier.ce Cadet of 65 th course of National Defence Academy (NDA) Khadakwasla and as th e best in Aerobatics of 134 pilots course of Air Force Academy. Therefore in September 1990 I d ecided to learn the art of writing by holding a pen in my mouth (because of dysf unctional hands). I began by scribbling (illegible) alphabets but was chagrined to find little progress even after 3 weeks' laborious efforts. I found my hand work to be a pie in th e sky but 4 to 5 months of assiduous efforts resulted in attaining a readable st yle of writing. In December 1984. My joy knew no bounds when I completed the few lines which embodied my first mouth written letter. Secundrabad. Then I decided to change tactic and wrote a letter to Sheela George. Initially. I had paid very little attention to her ex hortation). I had 700 hou rs of flying (including 500 hours of flying in a magnificent flaying machine cal led Mig 21) during my truncated career in the IAF. .