Chennai: As the video of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman calmly sipping tea and answering the Pakistan army official’s questions with astonishing poise went viral, crowds moved by his valour descended upon his father’s house here to express their solidarity with the anguished family. Among them was Kunthanathan who had arrived at Jalvayu Vihar at Madambakkam where his aunt’s son – retired Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman, father of Abhinandan resides.
But just as the others, including mediapersons, had been kept beyond the closed gates of the Vihar, the gallant pilot’s uncle too was not permitted entry into Varthaman’s house. The military establishment had decided to keep the family insulated from unwelcome visitors, dropping in for ‘sharing concern and offering prayers’ but ending up adding to the family’s anxiety.
The Air Marshal, reportedly “harassed by media” issued an appeal to please be left alone.
He had nothing to say now, he stated as the gates to his defence colony were shut and the security personnel made sure none got through, unauthorised.
“I had come to share my concerns with Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman who is my aunty’s son. But I was prevented from entering the house,” a crestfallen Kunthanathan told journalists outside the Vihar gates.
His relative said Abhinandan’s ancestral roots are in Thirupanamoor village which is 15 km from Kancheepuram. He is married and has two children, said the relative.
In the video shared by Pakistan, an unfazed Abhinandan, is heard saying that he is Wing Commander. He politely refuses to reveal anything more than his name, service number, profession and religion. Speaking to his captors with extraordinary composure, he says in a clear voice: “I’m sorry sir...that’s all I’m supposed to tell you,” when a gruff demand sought more details.
One of the captors asked “I hope you have been treated well with us?” To this, Wg Cmdr Abhinandan replied, “Yes, I have. I would like to put this on record and I will not change my statement if I go back to my country also. The officers of the Pakistani army have looked after me very well and they are thorough gentlemen – starting from the Captain who rescued me from the mob, and from his soldiers and thereafter the officers through the unit, which I was taken too. I am very impressed. This is what I would expect my army to behave as and I am very impressed by the Pakistani army.”
“Oh wonderful. So Wing Commander which place you hail from India?” the host’s voice asked. “I am not supposed to tell you this. I am sorry. I am from down south,” Abhinandan answered sipping the tea. He also admitted that he was married.
“I hope you like the tea?” the host asked.
“The tea is fantastic. Thank you.”
Then came another probing question. “Can I go to certain specifics? Which aircraft you fly?”
Wg Cmdr Abhi replied calmly, “I am not supposed to tell you this. But I am sure you found the wreckage.”
And what was his mission? Again, the captive was stunningly composed in his response. “I am sorry, I am not supposed to tell you this.”
Wing Commander Abhinandan studied in Sainik school in Amaravathinagar, at Udumalpet. He underwent rigorous training as a fighter pilot at the IAF Tambaram and was inducted as an officer in 2004. His wife and daughter live in Jodhpur from where he flew the combat aircraft to join the mission to decimate the Jaish-e-Mohammad training camps in Pakistan.
On Feb. 26, the IAF bombarded Pakistan’s Balakot, Chakothi and Muzaffarabad terror launch pads across LoC.