When 32-year-old Indian Air Force (IAF) Squadron Leader Samir Abrol’s family reached Bengaluru, they had one question for the IAF officers who escorted them to Samir’s body: “How did he die?” Their answer was incorporated into a poem by Samir’s younger brother, Sushant, on Facebook:
“And as he fell from the sky onto the ground,
With broken bones; all but a black box was found
His ejection was safe but parachute caught fire
Shattered the family and all that he desired
Never had he breathed so heavy, as for the last time
While the bureaucracy enjoyed its corrupt cheese and wine
We give our warriors outdated machines to fight
They still deliver it with all their prowess and might”.
Samir and his co-pilot, Squadron Leader Siddharth Negi (31), were killed after their Mirage 2000 crashed during a testing sortie in Bengaluru’s old HAL Airport.
His brother, Sushant, a designer, said, “I didn’t want to sound politically correct with that poem. I think the media glorifies martyrs and that may not be a bad thing. But the real heroes are the ones testing the equipment before it is sent for missions. I do believe the authorities will find out how my brother died.”
The family expressed this trust after Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman visited them on Tuesday and assured a fair probe. For Samir’s family, he was a man of many shades: The boy who cracked major engineering exams, but still joined the National Defence Academy; a drummer who learnt how to play on YouTube; an avid reader, who loved solving mathematical problems.
Samir’s wife Garima, a physiotherapist, recalled how her husband used to drive her to every new posting, speak to every single neighbour, and loved watching the cartoon Dexter’s Laboratory. “He was brilliant. I once asked him what would have happened if he never made it to the NDA, and he replied, ‘IIT was always an option’,” she said.
His mother Sushma remembers being worried when Samir got into the NDA and did not study for his engineering exams. “He would sit with his book and look at the skies, telling me he wanted to fly. Once, he tried to drive a bike all the way to Leh but his father did not agree. I kept saying yes to everything he wanted, and now he is gone. I should have said no, my boy would have at least lived,” she said.
After graduating from the NDA, Samir underwent a one-year training at the Airforce Academy in Hyderabad. He finished top of his class and was selected for an 11-month training programme in the US, before returning to train on a Hawk MK-132 in Karnataka. He then joined the 7 Squadron team in Gwalior. Five years later, he started his instructional tenure after a six-month programme from a flight school in Chennai.
“They trusted him to fly the Mirage 2000 as he was brilliant and had the most experience,” said IAF Squadron Leader Hanumant, Samir’s colleague.
Sanjeev Abrol, Samir’s father, rued that he could not spend more time with his son since he joined the NDA: “There are so many stories of my son. But they are all in the past now… there will be no new stories.”