Unsung Heroes!!

Pilot who died in Uttarakhand put pilgrims ahead of himself

K Praveen, 27, a flight lieutenant from Madurai knew it was a daunting task. But, all he wanted was to rescue the people who were facing an even worse challenge in their lives. What kept the young Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot going against all odds at Uttarakhand was his sense of duty and the gratifying smile of the rescued pilgrims.

"There are no roads, no proper food and punishing weather here. But, we are happy when people thank us after we rescue them. We want to rescue all the people stranded here," he had told his mother on Tuesday morning. But, barely four hours later, the helicopter he was flying crashed, snuffing out Praveen's life and 19 others.

Flying was a passion for Praveen, a topper of his batch in BE Mechatronics department in Thiagarajar College of Engineering. Soon after he completed his engineering, Praveen worked for two months at an IT company, but soon wrote the combined defence examination. "He turned out to be meritorious in the exam and was offered to join any of the defence forces. He chose air force," said his uncle V Krishnan, an ex-army man.

Death of a person is always an unbearable loss to his or her family members, but the demise of Praveen has dealt a devastating blow for his mother Manjula, 52, who has toiled as a single mother for 27 years to raise her son after she legally separated from her husband.

"She has long stopped crying, but is refusing to speak to anyone," said Krishnan. An office superintendent in the Southern Railway, Manjula had all her hope of future pinned on Praveen. Manjula was keen on getting her son married soon and was seeking alliances for him. "No one could console her. Everything in her life revolved around Praveen," says another relative. Manjula's aged parents N Chinnasamy, 85 and Seetha, 80, are also devastated. "We don't know whom to console. They have not taken food ever since they got the news of Praveen's death on Tuesday night," said the relative.

"He had participated in several rescue missions in the last five years of his service. But he would not share the difficulties at all. Even this time, he never dwelt much on the difficulties the armed forces were facing. He went to Uttarakhand four days back, but whenever he calls us he would narrate only the plight of the people there," Vipin, his cousin said.

"I am awaiting engineering counselling on July 14. He promised to come home to guide me chose the right course and college. But he never said that he would come in this state," Vipin said breaking into tears.


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