Coimbatore has more than 30 retired IAF officers

They have been part of the world’s fourth largest Air Force. Some of them are as old as the organisation and have not donned the blue uniform for many years. But as the Indian Air Force (IAF) turns 80 today, they too will celebrate, in the same Officers’ Mess that some of them served as young officers.

Coimbatore has more than 30 retired IAF officers, some who have been fortunate to witness the milestones of the service – its Silver Jubilee, Golden Jubilee, and Platinum Jubilee, and will take part in the 80th Air Force Day celebrations on Monday at Air Force Administrative College (AFAC).

These septuagenarians have been part of the annual Air Force Day celebrations at Air Force Station Sulur or AFAC, even after retirement. This, they consider a great honour and valuable opportunity as it helps them connect with the serving Air Force fraternity year after year even as they become older and older.

Air Commodore (Retd.) K. Rajagopal, who settled down to retired life in Coimbatore in 1994 after a memorable 32-year stint in the IAF, says that this is possible only for those who retire in places where there are Air Force stations. As members of the Officers’ Mess of these Air Force stations, they are entitled to the facilities of the Mess.

“Most of the Air Force stations invite retired officers for the Air Force Day celebrations and this gives us an opportunity to celebrate it just like serving officers. It helps us to be in touch with the latest in the service and also interact with the young officers,” adds this 73-year-old.

While some attend the celebrations either at AF Sulur or AFAC, there are some others who attend both.

Air Commodore (Retd.) M. Vania, ‘Shaurya Chakra’ and Vayu Sena medal awardee, attends the celebrations in AF Sulur and AFAC because they are usually scheduled on different days. This year too, the celebrations at Sulur were held on Saturday.

The 78-year-old retired Air Commodore, who prefers to say he ‘superannuated’ rather than ‘retired’ has been living in Coimbatore since 1982 after his last posting at AFAC. He joined the IAF in its Silver Jubilee year and superannuated when it celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1982. He fondly remembers attending the Platinum Jubilee celebrations held in Coimbatore in 2007.

He says that the retired lot who choose to live in places where there is no Air Force unit, do not get this opportunity.

Another veteran, who is as old the IAF, 80-year-old Air Vice Marshal T.K. Seshachari, also attends the Air Force Day celebrations without fail. With 33 years of service, this Vayu Sena and ‘Ati Visisht Seva’ medals holder, is happy about the opportunity that the Air Force units give him.

And, their camaraderie with the service is not restricted only to Air Force Day celebrations. They keep the spirit alive round the year through The Retired Defence Services’ Officers’ Club, which is 18 years old. With more than 80 members, it includes retired officers from the tri-services who meet once a month and spend time together.

Interestingly, there are also some widows who are members. Nalini Paul, widow of Wing Commander B.G. Paul, who passed away in 1989, was invited to join the Club in 2007. And, she says it gave her a new lease of life by bringing back memories of the ‘best 23 years of her life that she spent as an Air Force officer’s wife’.

“It is a nice way to stay connected. We meet friends, discuss children, grandchildren, and all this in the ambience of the Officers’ Mess of the Air Force, Army or Navy,” she says.

This is not all. The retired officers stay connected through reunions. Air Commodore Rajagopal’s batch that joined Air Force training in 1962 at AFAC, celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the commencement of the training in June 2011 here. Out of 76 in the batch, 17 were no more. As many as 29 batch mates from all over the world attended, with families. Air Commodore Rajagopal makes a special mention about how widows of four batch mates made it to the reunion.

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