On November 14, the Indian Air Force fulfilled the dream of 14-year-old Chandan who was suffering from cancer by giving him the experience of flying a fighter jet in a Jaguar simulator. On Wednesday evening, Chandan passed away at Delhi’s AIIMS hospital. He had a model of Tejas fighter next to him on his bed. The last thing his caretakers remember him asking for was for his photograph with a fighter jet.
“Master Chandan, who had been battling with cancer for some time is no more amongst us. It is a sad coincidence that he left us on World Cancer Day… Chandan was a brave boy and a fighter, in that he was very keen to live his dream of being a fighter pilot, despite probably being aware of his ailment. We were fortunate to have been associated with him and be a part of his dream, albeit for a short time. His cheerfulness and deep desire to follow his dream inspired us all,” a condolence message by Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha read on Thursday. Chandan was cremated at Samastipur in Bihar on Thursday evening.
On January 3, 2013, during a blanket distribution drive Uday Foundation, an organisation working for cancer patients, spotted Chandan and his father on a footpath near AIIMS. His father Girish Mandal was a ration-shop owner in Samastipur, Bihar, and his mother a housewife. In two years, Chandan underwent as many as 22 sessions of chemotherapy, always hopeful that he would grow up and become a fighter pilot.
“He used to visit our centre regularly. When asked what would he like to become when he grew up, he would say ‘fighter pilot’,” Rahul Verma, founder of Uday Foundation said. In November, IAF gave Chandan his wings, stitched a small uniform for the 14-year-old and made him a Flying Lieutenant. Flt Lt Chandan was given a first-hand experience of flying a fighter aircraft in a simulator at Ambala airbase. His photograph in the fighter jet, the uniform and the Tejas model now remain memories that will be displayed in the prayer meeting in New Delhi on Sunday.
His condition had been worsening day-by-day. “A month ago, he stopped responding to the medicines. He was on morphine for the past seven days… But every time I mentioned about the experience of flying a fighter jet, he had a smile on his face,” Verma said.