Exactly five years ago, the St. Vincent’s batch of 1976-78 decided to re-connect via WhatsApp. At least 75 former students came together to share childhood memories and bond at reunions.
Captain Deepak Sathe, who had joined St Vincent’s in Class XI, was always travelling, and was not active on social media groups, but he had promised some of his batch-mates that he would meet them in Pune post lockdown.
Now, the WhatsApp group is flooded with memories posted by his batch-mates, who are mourning the former Indian Air Force Wing Commander and pilot of the Air India Express plane, which crash-landed at Kozhikode airport on Friday night. Captain Sathe, 60, was one of the 18 people killed in the crash.
His batch-mates are planning to record their memories of him and send an email to the late Captain’s wife. “On behalf of the 1976-78 batch, one of us will call his wife and express our deepest condolences. This has been such a shock,” said Dr Hillary Rodrigues, from the St Vincent’s batch of 1976 and former president of Indian Medical Association in Pune. “We knew him in Standard XI. He was very quiet and well behaved… extremely passionate about his studies,” said Dr Rodrigues.
Among the posts shared on the group was one by his close friend Brigadier (retired) Kevin Mendonca.
Brigadier Mendonca, who was Sathe’s classmate at St Vincent’s School and his junior in the National Defence Academy, remembered Captain Sathe as jovial, enthusiastic and academically focussed. “He joined St Vincent’s in Class XI. Since he had a defence background, he was already determined to join the NDA. Since the prerequisite to join NDA at the time was Class XI, he appeared for the NDA entrance exam, got through and joined immediately on completion of the year. I joined after completing my Class XII and was one year junior to him in the academy. In the NDA too, he continued to be focussed and excelled in academics as well as sports. He was the NDA golf and squash captain. He also excelled in academics and in every term, he achieved a gold, silver or bronze torch,” he said.
Sathe had taken early retirement from the Indian Air Force in 2003 to become a commercial pilot. Brigadier Mendonca, who served in the Army Service Corps, retired in 2017. “We were not in touch while in service. But after I retired in 2017, he got in touch with me… after that, we kept in touch. Before the lockdown, we spoke to each other and he had told me that he would meet me when he visited Pune. Alas, destiny determined otherwise and it was not to be. The NDA’s motto is ‘Service Before Self’. I believe that he stood true to the academy motto until his last breath. He will be greatly missed,” said Brigadier Mendonca.
The NDA journal had also spoken highly about Sathe “A decent Battalion cadet captain who was good at anything he tried… Academy golf and squash captain, specialised in fall-ins as a Sgt,” the NDA journal had said.
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