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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Remembering a friend - Flt Cdt Sparsh Rana (1983 - 2005)

(Year - 1994) It was a plesant morning, the breeze cool enough to make me feel better. After the heat of Chandigarh, Dagshai was a pleasant change. However, this feeling was not going to last very long as I was joining my first hostel - Army Public School,Dagshai. Like every other boarding school, the seniors were waiting for their new 'bakras'! So after my dad left, we were a part of the jungle!

I was assigned to Tagore House. The first few days went off peacefully as they were our honeymoon days. When the 'orientation' started, life was never to be the same again. It was during this time that I met Sparsh Rana, a batchmate and hostelmate and we became good friends. Sparsh was good at horse riding and he would take me to the practice arena behind the Acad block and I used to enjoy seeing him go about his riding classes. Whenever I had cricket matches, he would come over to see my matches.

The sports field of APS Dagshai has the unique distinction of having a helipad in the centre. It was not unusual for IAF and Indian Army Helicopters to land there. We all used to be very fascinated seeing the choppers fly past almost on a daily basis. The thought of flying these machines was scary and exhilirating at the same time! For many of us, it was to remain a dream. However, Sparsh did what it took to realize his dream of flying ... 7 years later, he joined the National Defence Academy, Khadkwasla in Pune.

Circumstances made me leave Dagshai after spending only one year there. I left the school in tears, bidding farewell to all my friends, hoping that we would meet again sometime. In 1997, my father (who is in the Army) got posted to Delhi. The obvious choice of school for me was APS,Dhaula Kuan. I had no idea what was in store for me there.

The first few days were tough for me. It had been difficult to adjust to the new surroundings and the sheer size of the Academic block had left me bewildered! I was returning from the Physics lab when I bumped into somebody. The experiment had not been that good and I was in no mood for a conversation. But when the other guy caught hold of me, I turned around in anger, only to see a face I could not beleive was in front of me - It was Sparsh. We hugged like two brothers meeting after a lifetime. This reunion was very special and we shared some good times at APS before graduating in 2001.

He joined NDA as an IAF Cadet, while I joined Army Institute of Technology, Pune for my Engineering studies. Years flew past us and we both got busy with our acads/training. I somehow lost contact with Sparsh and we never spoke to each other until the day before his Ceremonial Passing Out Parade at NDA. He was super-excited to hear from me. He invited me over for the parade, and I was desperate to go but I had to change my plans at the last moment because of my University Exams. I apologized to him and said that if I ever got a chance, I will definitely come over to see him at an IAF base. My last words to him were,"Yaar, u have to fly Sukhois...do it for me coz my eyesight won't allow me to join IAF, so u do it for me....i want to fulfill my dream through you."

I still remember what he said to me the last time we spoke, "I have lots of dreams to fulfill yaar! I will go very high in life". He went very high indeed...

I was busy with my last semester of Engineering. 2nd March 2005 had been a very tiring day. I slept early that day. I don't know for how long I slept, but I had a very bad dream. I saw Sparsh sitting in the cockpit of some plane and it was out of control. The plane hit the ground and I heard his last shout, and the next moment, I was up on my bed....I was about 4:30 AM on 3rd March. I dismissed it as rubbish and went off to sleep. I even joked about it in college. My friends were pulling my leg by saying, "Please don't have such dreams for me yaar!". We all chuckled, and carried on with our work.

On the morning of 5th March 2005, I had just walked out of the bathroom when my mom came to me and asked me for the name of my friend from NDA. I asked, "What happened ma?". She said, "Just tell beta", her voice shaky. "Sparsh Rana mom", I said. She silently came to me and hugged me, and said in my ear, "Beta, he died in a crash yesterday. It was just his second solo sortie".

I did not know what had hit me, but I went blank for a moment. I was left speechless, coz u don't always foresee your friend's death. I left for college early. By the time I reached Vishrantwadi (a village close to my college), I was unable to drive because of tears in my eyes...and I took the detour for Air Force Station, Lohegaon in Pune. I parked my bike next to the runway and kept staring at the parked aircraft, the base, the men working there, with my mind not in a position to comprehend anything. In a way, I just sat there motionless for I don't know how long. Suddenly, it was as if something inside me made me get onto my bike and start riding to college ... Along the way, I stopped next to an IAF advertisment billboard that said - "BE AN AIR WARRIOR".....and saluted it in Sparsh's memory.

Adios my dear friend, I will miss you.

Flt Cdt Sparsh Rana died in an HPT-32 crash on March 4th, 2005 during his 2nd solo sortie. A news report about the incident can be found here. This memoir was written in 2005.


The District Collector of Medak Mr. A. K. Singhal looks at the rubble of the crashed HPT 32 Deepak at Mamidigutta near Pambanda village in Shivampet mandal of Medak district in Andhra Pradesh on March 04, 2005. The single pilot training aircraft of Indian Airforce Academy crashed around 11.30 am killing the trainee pilot Sparsh Rana on the spot. Photo: A. Roy Chowdhury

Police and Indian Air Force officer keeping vigil at the crash site of HPT 32 Deepak trainer aircraft at Mamidigutta near Pambanda village in Shivampet mandal of Medak district in Andhra Pradesh on March, 04, 2005. The single pilot trainer aircraft of Indian Air Force Academy crashed around 11.30 am killing the trainee pilot Sparsh Rana. Photo: A. Roy Chowdhury

Overall view of the memorial column. The forward facing panel at the base carries the inscription as given in the main text. The rest of the panels bears the names of the flight crew.

The south side panel, to the rear of the memorial, carries five names. The last name added is of Flt Cdt Sparsh Rana, who was lost in a HPT-32 accident in March 2005.

Sparsh and I in APS Dhaula Kuan (2001 Teacher's Day)


  1. hi there...i'm madhu and am an alumni of TAPS too.i dunno if u know me but i was a year junior to u. i read ur article n couldn't help but fight back tears thinking of whatever little memories i have of sparsh. he was my best friend's brother then, but is a martyr to me today. i heard the sad news in 2006, but had lost touch with deepshikha by then n couldn't find her whereabouts. i really tried to track her down, n still do every now n then, but to no avail. i'm writing to u in the hope that u may be able to give me a way to contact sparsh's parents/sister. i will be grateful. thank you n take care... :)

  2. hi maddy ... send me an email at roger.ramaswamy@gmail.com and i'll give you the contact info of someone who might have his parents' and sister's contact info...

  3. hello, i dnt knw wat 2 say. i dnt hv any words. here i m just trying 2 get smthing 2 u guys... thats all.........

  4. HI dear,,I salute Flt Cadet Sparsh Rana and salute u as well to gain the courage to write this blog.And yes Sparsh will not feel good seeing u unhappy,,Rather he got a new Life to fulfill the dreams He wanted to reach at...He is present in this world ..not as Sparsh but as another Great Son of this country..Jai Hind..Jai Bharat

  5. Seven years... R.I.P. Sparsh

    (I am his coursemate at NDA and AFA)

  6. Dear Roger,

    Sparsh was a special person. I met him at a wedding, back in 2003/2004.

    He was this jovial and chivalrous young man. I was a 14 year old girl who was absolutely swept off her feet.

    He will always be alive in my memory. It was absolutely hear wrenching to hear of his demise. He was one of those people, who have this crazy positive energy around them. I clearly remember, everyone at the wedding was drawn to him.

    I write to pay my respects to this wonderful gentleman.

    It really is true, God takes away the best among us and keeps them for himself.