“An example for others who want to reach out to victims of war”

Excerpts from an interview with Farida Singh, daughter of Jehangir Engineer, who was piloting the Beechcraft when it was shot down by a Pakistan Air Force F-86 piloted by Qais M. Hussain.

Q. What were your immediate thoughts on receiving the request from common friends that he was seeking to get in touch with you/your family?

A. It was a great surprise to me. It came at a time, some months ago, when I had still to come to terms with the passing away of my younger brother. Uncharacteristically, I was a bit apprehensive because I knew that I had to relive one of the most painful episodes of my life.

Was it a difficult decision to make to receive the letter and how supportive was your family for you to arrive at the decision?

When I decided that I should extend my hand to Mr. Hussain, not long ago, it dawned on me that it was always my intention to do so. I felt that I should not wait any longer. I made the decision on my own as my husband, who was always supportive and would have left the decision to me, passed away in December 2004. Like their father, both my children (who live in the United States), would have done the same.

What were your feelings on reading its contents?

My response was spontaneous. The thought struck me that this was a most difficult letter for him to write. The gesture should not go in vain. Though from a great line of ‘warriors', (if you can term it so), there is not a trace of acrimony in me. It is inbred, in our family, to forgive. More than that, my parents had the ability to look deep within the intentions of people and taught us the value of getting to the core of an issue. An incident (a horrendous mistake) happened 46 years ago and a man had been living with that. He needed to explain and reach out to those who directly suffered due to his actions. It was an instant and natural response from my side. Also, maybe this can be an example to others like Mr. Hussain, who have for long wanted to reach out to the innocent victims of war.

Do you plan to meet the gentleman at a future date, as he sought to do so?

I am sure that the relatives of those who lost their lives in that plane would join me in saying that meeting Mr. Hussain at a future date is more than a possibility. It would be a good thing for everyone involved. The answer to your question is ‘yes.'

How old were you and your siblings when this incident took place? How did they feel?

I had just turned 19 when this happened. My sister was 21 and my brother only 16. My father was 49, my mother 45. I have posted as much as I could to my sister who lives in Canada, and is unfortunately legally blind. She will feel exactly as I do.

Can you also share some personal details like, what does your husband do? Does he have a services background?

Next to my father, my husband was the greatest person I ever knew. As mentioned earlier, he unfortunately passed on in December 2004, after months of a sudden illness. We were married 34 years. He was a Rajput, and I am a Parsi. He had had a short stint in the army before turning to flying as a career. He never met my father because we met in 1967, but had always hero-worshipped the Engineer brothers. The latter made a formidable foursome in the Royal Air Force (and of course the IAF). My father was in the RAF and went back to civilian flying after WWII.

My husband, Capt D.V. Singh (an instructor on the A320) retired a few months before his death as Director Air Safety, Indian Airlines. My father had also had a very distinguished career in Indian Airlines, leaving just a year before his death to become the Chief Pilot of the Maharashtra Government. A fatal decision, as you can see.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 11:36:08 PM |

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