Wing Commander Abhinandan. A war hero was born overnight. A man from within us received esteem respect and welcomed with open arms. Each one of us celebrated his homecoming, acknowledged his service and paid immense respect to his stoic family waiting in India.

Like many war heroes, with time, our highly celebrated IAF pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan sir will get lost behind the pages of some media reports and newspapers. Sad, but true!

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman

And in case you are wondering why “Sir”, that’s out of my sheer respect to the courage he showed for the nation.

He is not a hero but a well-brought-up human being.

After an insane dogfight with a PAF F-16, IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan sir’s aircraft MIG 21 Bison crashed in Pakistan. Abhinandan sir’s aircraft was shot down, which led him to eject out in Pakistan occupied Kashmir only to find himself falling in the hands of few Pakistani locals where he got bitten and ill-treated as the enemy of the nation.

But before it was too late, the Pakistani Army rescued him. Post which we witnessed continuous videos, showing his progress or should I say the effort by the Pakistani army to treat him as a PoW (Prisoner of War). After the persistent international pressure and “peace gesture” displayed by Pakistan, we heard the good news of his arrival.

Our PoW was returned to India on 1st March, around 9.15 pm (his expected time of arrival was another factor which made all the Indians restless and impatient). The entire episode in Pakistan forcibly tested Abhinandan sir’s patience and tolerance limit. Anyone in his shoes could have given up or panicked easily, but did he?

Not only did he preserve every piece of confidential information but created a bold image of Indian defense fighters in front of the world. Showing such “josh” is neither a joke nor easy. While browsing through the news, I knew there was more to Abhinandan sir than just the armed forces training. His family values and teachings must have played a significant contribution to his personality.

What can we all take back from his accidental experience?

We all can learn and take away some valuable life lessons from Abhinandan Sir’s 60 hours in Pakistan’s captivity. With the limited information in media and uploaded videos, I could gather some important learnings which we all can master.

1. React or Respond?

Imagine yourself in Abhinandan sir’s shoe and question yourself, had you fallen straight into the arms of the enemy nation, what would you do? How would you react? Would you panic? Or Would you entirely give up hope?

We may not be in Abhinandan sir’s shoe or even in the closest encounter, but life will always put us in front of obstacles that may pull us down. Regardless of the intensity of the obstacle, keeping our calm and responding to the situation appropriately is essential.

Very often in life, we face an unexpected crisis that leaves us devasted. We give up at that point. But the responsive minds take a grip of the situation and gather themselves together to stand again with a practical resolution.

Being responsive instead of reactive not only gives you a calm frame of mind but also makes you optimistic about handling the situation with the utmost patience and logic.

2. Staying calm and poised

It is easy to lose your cool and lash out at others, break things and create a complete mess of the situation. What is difficult is what Abhinandan sir chose to do!

What I take back from Abhinandan sir’s experience was staying calm and composed in the worst of situations in spite of being uncertain about his fate. Whether he returns to his homeland or not, he decided to behave with utmost poise and grace.

And see how things turned to his favor, persisting international pressure and his cooperation with the Pakistani Army paved his way out of Pakistan.

Yes, solutions are guaranteed only if you can think straight.

3. Choose between your life or country

What Abhinandan sir did is beyond words. He ate up all confidential documents, threw away other records in the water and maintained his statement “I am not supposed to tell you that” to counter the Pakistani interogations. He could have pleaded for his life, he could have asked for phone calls, give him another chance and what not, but he chose his country over his life.

Not many of us are capable of making such difficult choices. Maybe ask yourself, can you? Will you?

No one intends to know your answer, and nobody is here to judge you, but one good deed is all that the nation needs. Instead of posting irrelevant and irrational posts on social media demanding the not-so-easy “surgical strikes,” why not do our bit for the country? Why not stop loitering the surroundings? Why not stop eve teasing women for a change? Why not be our parents helping hands in their old age? Is that too much to ask?

4. Contain your excitement

The entire country rejoiced Abhinandan sir’s homecoming- some danced, others burnt crackers, few others shouted and screamed (including me!). But the person who crossed the Wagha-Attari border on 1st march seemed composed. He contained his excitement at every step. While the entire world witnessed Abhinandan sir’s steps towards India, this humble man had only a few words to say- “It is good to be back to my country.”

Excitement and being hopeful is excellent, however, one must never forget their stature and purpose towards the nation. As an IAF Pilot, Abhinandan sir maintained his grace and controlled his excitement.

We all have the right to dance and celebrate but never forget your more significant role in the world!

5. Ready to reign?

How many of us can stand tall and get back to our usual routine after a situation Abhinandan sir went through?

Many of us read about his desire to get back to his fighter plane cockpit as soon as possible. Even though he isn’t medically fit, has undergone several injuries and has been granted a break on medical grounds yet this man’s “JOSH” could not be broken.

We all go through ups and downs in our career, in our relationships and many areas of life. But what matters is the strength to go back to duty after every failure or downfall.

Never lose the courage to try again!

If he can, we all can!

Armed forces officers are highly trained and competent to survive in the worst of situations. No, I am not exaggerating! No doubt our defencemen work endlessly without meeting their families back home, but in spite of all the obstacles and hardships, they bring out the best for their motherland.

Who doesn’t face obstacles in their path but only a very few have the courage to fight back. Let’s learn from the heroes and never stop trying. Always remember, Abhinandan sir is not a superhero, he is a mere human being like us only with inspiringly good qualities.

Abhinandan Sir “thank you” for being the person you are and teaching valuable life lessons to all of us. May your story remain an inspiration for generations to come and create leaders to lead from the front.