Many of us have dreamt of serving the country by joining the armed forces. However, for some, the path to this service is often filled with societal and systemic complications. Narrating one such story of trial, tribulations, and triumph, is a fighter pilot who goes by the name Aston Wun on social media. Speaking to Humans Of Bombay, the Indian Air Force officer said that he had realised early on that "being poor was a crime". In a series of Instagram posts, he is quoted as saying, “While growing up, I could count the number of days my sisters and I ate a full meal."
"Maa would wrap a cloth on our bellies to suppress our hunger pangs," he recalled. "To get one daughter married, Papa would have to sell off a chunk of his land. As time passed, Maa started pawning her jewellery.”
“I'd tell myself, ‘I was born in this village but I will not die here.' I wanted to get away from home somehow. Little did I know that in the years to come, the whole country would become my home,” he said.
Explaining how he realised he wanted to serve the nation, he said, “ I'd walk to the ground near my house and sit there, staring at the sky...One such evening, I saw three fighter planes cross the sky at lightning speed. Fascinated, I chased them as far as I could. I thought, ‘If I sat on one of those planes, I could fly far away.”
By the time he had completed Class 12, the officer was sure that flying for the country was his calling and soon found an NDA application to fill out. “But that day, Papa had a stroke...I had to quit my studies and started looking for work. Gradually, Papa got better and resumed farming.”
A timely visit from a cousin from Patna gave wings to the Air Force dreams again. “I persuaded him to take me back with him. Papa agreed on one condition–‘You have to prepare for engineering entrance tests.' Once there, I instead filled out my NDA form. Four months later, I gave my exams and cleared them. I was shortlisted to join the NDA as an Air Force cadet!”
However, the opposition from the family caused the aspiring fighter pilot to run away from home. “The Major in charge of admissions at NDA said to me, ‘Admissions are closed.' I pleaded, ‘Sir, main apne Papa ka duplicate sign acche se kar sakta hoon ( I can forge my father's signature).' Laughing he said, ‘I've only seen people run away from NDA. You're the first one to run away from home to get here!'” Soon, he convinced his father to support his decision with the help of the Major in charge of admissions.
The struggles did not end there. As a cadet, the officer had to face the challenge of the English language barrier. This was followed by an accident that cost him a semester. His motion sickness also came in the way of his flying practice and he was asked to stop flying. "I pleaded for one last chance– ‘It's either do or die,' I thought to myself & took off the plane. Believe it or not–I didn't feel sick! After the course, I was commissioned as a pilot!”
With the money he saved up over the years, he bought back the earrings his mother had pawned. "There came a day when we had nothing but Maa's earrings left to pawn - she cried a lot; those earrings belonged to her mother."
As an officer, he was also faced with the tragic death of his friend and roommate, for which he blamed himself as he had been unable to fly that day, and his roommate had taken his place. “Instead of me, my boss told my roommate to fly. Before leaving, he taunted me, ‘Tere chakkar me jaa raha hoon main aaj, aake bahut marunga tujhe (Thanks to you I have to go now, will come back and eat you up)!'–those were his last words. Within a few minutes of take off, his plane went missing; we had to look for his remains in the desert.”
Following this, the officer also lost his father to an accident which altered his outlook towards the world. The accident occurred as the officer was travelling home from a hospital with his mother and his father who had just recovered from an illness. "For 1.5 hours, I kept begging for a lift but no one helped. Many people came close to us just to click pictures, but when I asked them for help, they just went away. I begged, I cried… Papa breathed his last on my lap…When I performed Papa's last rites, I thought to myself– ‘Did my father deserve such a brutal death?' Every day, I risk my life out at the border, so that my fellow Indians can be safe at home and this is what I get in return?'”
However, when he witnessed a 10-year-old boy asking for a lift, he realised that his true calling was to help his countrymen. “Why should a bunch of drunkards decide what kind of person I should be? I took a U-turn–picked up the boy and dropped him to his destination.”
As a final piece of advice to aspiring cadets, he said, “...Serving the country at the border is not work, it's passion... Yaha dimag nahi lagate, sirf dil lagate hai (Here we operate from the heart, not head). So, now tell me– how many of you are in?”
The pilot's inspiring story has struck a chord with the Internet. Shared over a series of six posts, it has racked up thousands of likes and comments. "A true hero...it's because of people like you we are safe...respect!" wrote one Instagram user. "Sir, you're an inspiration," said another - a sentiment that was echoed by many.Click for more trending news