Radha had just lost her father in December 2020. It had almost been forty days since he was gone. The pillar of strength who always sheltered her, pampered and loved the most. The void was irreparable but she was moving on, doing better because she also had Rishubh, her aviator. Lt Col Rishubh Sharma a bright, brilliant Indian Army Aviation officer who flew India’s most advanced combat helicopters Rudra ALH. The first generation of Rudra pilots who was always supposed to lead from the front along with his attack helicopter in case of war. And boy! Did not he like it?
He was not just a hero but a superhero, his son Parth considered him at par with superman because he knew his dad could fly and blast the enemies of the nation. Lt Col Rishubh was an artillery officer originally, one who was Indian Army’s most ambitious TES entry where qualifying marks to appear in the exam goes as high as 90% but he was brilliant since his childhood. The only son of his parents was pride of the family. Everyone always knew that Rishubh was never meant for smaller things in life. Immediately after 12th he qualified engineering, medical, hotel management and Army. He could have opted anything, and thought about an easy life, more money but the idea of adorning the uniform and serving the nation sounded most exciting to him.
He joined Army with igniting passion to serve the nation, to actually fight and win wars for his nation and save people in crisis. So, he joined Army Aviation and found that it was his true calling. He would fly Cheeta helicopters initially and in his long illustrious flying career he had record number of flying hours where not just he served the nation and also people during floods and droughts or helped evacuating injured soldiers, or allowed grieving family to meet a killed in action comrade timely but he also had the privilege of meeting dignitaries of this nation. His work schedule knew no timings, day and night did not exist for him. He was a superhero and his job knew no bounds.
The Army aviators act as backbone of Army. They are omnipresent. From high altitude mountains to field areas to desserts to waters from supplying ration to evacuating comrades to receiving their dead bodies to rescue civilians to deploy a team of Special Forces in utmost confidentiality The Army aviators are never at rest. And Lt Col Rishubh was proud of the fact.
He was brilliant, he topped all the courses, was among the top selected pilots to fly Rudra Attack helicopters. The twin engine, most advanced combat helicopters which are India’s pride were his absolute love. He was the supervisor aviator who not only flew the lethal Heptrs but also trained the next generation of lethal aviators prepared to lead Army Aviation squadrons into battlefield as first line of defense. A nightmare for enemies!
With his wife Radha and son Parth, the flight commander lt Col Rishubh Sharma felt as if life was complete. But recently his wife had lost his father, so he called his own parents at his place on 25 January 2021 so that Radha could lighten up. It was coldest day of the year and the already chilly and harsh weather was bone freezing when he saw his wife washing utensils in the kitchen. There were covid restrictions in the cantonment so no maids were allowed. His wife did all the household work but Rishubh helped her as much as he could. The couple were much in love. It was an arranged marriage but love at first sight. So before leaving for sortie in the evening at around 5.30 PM he told his wife Radha
“You should take rest Radha. Maa- Papa had come so your workload had increased. You look tired. Now you are washing utensils. Please go take rest. I am leaving for a sortie but I will be back in an hour and I will wash all the utensils. You please rest.”
Radha mocked him. She knew Rishubh doted on her so she teased him “ Yes, ofcourse now that your parents have come. You will surely wash utensils and show how much I make you slog.”
Rishubh laughed too and said “If you washed any utensils, I will not talk to you. I will come back and wash it all. I am getting late. We have a night time operation. So right now I am leaving you.”
Radha mocked him again “You forget you are the flight commander. The flights will start or not it is really in your hands. Postpone it and don’t go today. It is very cold and see Maa- Papa has come.“
Rishubh said ,” Radha, I can but what examples would I put across my youngsters that I am not coming because my parents have come or because it is the coldest day today? No! Nation comes first and always but I promise wifey to wash all the utensils once I come back and dare you touch even one of those. I wont talk to you. Bye”
And he left, never to come back. Radha never knew that it was the last time that she was ever talking to him.
At 7.30 PM their CO and his wife first arrived then people started pouring in. She was dazed. Risubh was an excellent pilot. he had flew single engine Cheetha and Rudra on the other hands were twin engine and safer aircraft. She always thought the worst was over and nothing ever could go wrong while his hero flew the machine he loved so much and trained so well. So she thought they ahd come to console them about her father but it was when the CO sit at her feet and his wife started sobbing hysterically that Radha knew something wrong had happened.
Her world changed forever. Lt Col Rishubh Sharma the ace pilot, an asset in every true sense had made supreme sacrifice in the Rudra helicopter crash on 25th January 2021. The crash was heroic in every true sense one of its kind because the co pilot had survived and no single casualty was reported from the crash. The ATC recordings later in the court of enquiry highlighted how Lt Col Risubh Sharma could have easily saved his life when his helicopter underwent a technical snag but instead of using the parachute and abandoning the Rudra he ensured to do his last operation with utmost devotion and flew it away from the residential areas so that no other family get destroyed and he was absolutely calm while doing so, completely focused on his last operation.
The soldiers present at the last spot confirmed how both the pilot and co pilot both have survived after the crash but it was on insistence of flight commander Lt Col Sharma that the co pilot his junior should be evacuated first miraculously saved his life. The co pilot’s parent still owe their son’s second life to lt Col Sharma.
Imagine the selflessness of a Lt Col Rishubh Sharma during his last hours that he did not think about his wife and son but his men and people first. That was his one true love. No love is greater than the love of the nation for a soldier. Duty comes first and always. And we are always debted for that.
How painful and proud the wife must have felt that her husband went like a true hero. Till his last breath he was concerned about safety of his men. How rare people like him are.
His 5 year old son Parth who was fondly named after Arjun by his father Lt Col Sharma, a deeply spiritual man who recited Ramayana and Mahabharata, mediated and worked in gaushalas in his free time, is told that his father has gone for a space mission. At their dining out he was given a Rudra miniature memento which Parth knew so well because his father flew one. Radha plans to tell him soon. Now that he has grown up a little.
Us, as nation can never be pay the debts to women like Radha who pay the price of freedom and sovereignty that our great nation enjoys. A nation is nothing but just the reflection its citizens. The greatness of our country comes from brave son and daughters like Lt Col Rishubh Sharma and Mrs Radha Sharma who gave their all to nation. I hope you will understand this and don’t take your freedom for granted.
You can read awe-inspiring courageous stories of 6 Veer Naris just like Radha in the book ‘The Force Behind The Forces’ Do read and understand the risk and sacrifices that military families make for the nation and be the part of the cause.