P. Hyndavi was four years old when she lost her father in the Kargil conflict. Despite the loss, the first year BBA student yearns to become a pilot in the Indian Air Force.
“My dad was deeply patriotic and has even named me after ‘mother’ India. I want to walk in his path and serve the nation for which he gave his life,” Hyndavi says.
Her father, P.V.N. Ravi Prasad, a Flight Gunner in the IAF, was manning weapons in the ill-fated Mi-17 helicopter that was struck down by a Stinger missile near Tiger Hill in Kargil on May 28, 1999. Mr. Prasad and his three other colleagues perished in the incident.
But much to her dismay, her mother disapproves of her ambition as Hyndavi is her only child.
“We already lost one person from our family, and if Hyndavi also leaves me to go on duty, I will be left completely alone,” P. Anuradha, her mother says.
Being a helicopter crew member, Prasad was not new to risks. He narrowly missed a militant’s fire during an assignment in the North East in 1996, but his second brush with close fire proved fatal.
“My husband gave a call before going on the fateful sortie that day. He became emotional and was assuring me that it was his last assignment, and he will be relieved the same day. Later that day, I heard about his demise through TV news as the IAF authorities were reluctant to break the news directly to me,” she recounts, breaking down.
Prasad would always talk about the uncertainty surrounding his job and would say that one should steel oneself and move on in life despite any eventuality. For Prasad, maintaining balance and serving the nation despite the dangers involved, were of paramount importance.
“My daughter inherited her father’s traits, but I am afraid of what I will do in her absence,” Anuradha says.
After Prasad’s death, the IAF took full responsibility of her resettlement and allotted her a gas agency. “Being a housewife, I did not know anything about the paperwork involved. It was the Air Force officials who took care of all requirements including pension and gas agency allotment,” she explains, adding that government officials gave her full support.
“After the death of my husband, I was in our native place Rajahmundry for a few days, but couldn’t stay there for long due to the memories associated with the place. I requested then Defence Minister George Fernandes and Petroleum Minster Ram Naik to allot me the agency in Hyderabad instead,” she says.
Ever since she took up the gas agency, work pressures have kept her away from relapsing into the past.
Anuradha also says that family get-togethers have lost their appeal.
“My husband and brothers were very close, and we used to have a gala time together. After his demise get-togethers are not the same any more,” she laments.
“Some people say it is no big deal that people died in Kargil. I hit back, saying if we are able to do our daily businesses peacefully, it is because of their sacrifices. Walking into the jaws of death fully knowing the dangers is a big deal,” she maintains.
Prasad was awarded with the Vayu Sena Medal posthumously.