Remembering Kukke Suresh

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Like last time, the telephone call came from my son Subir.   Like the last time, the news he conveyed was sad.     ‘Daadi Shastri has passed away’.  ‘Daadi Shastri’ for Subir meant the mother of Kukke Suresh and Grand mother of ‘Bubba’ Aishwaria.    She was in her nineties and ailing.   Such passing is inevitable but that does not make any such happening any less sad.   It also revives the memories of other such sad moments:  like the last time.

The last time was in September 2006.   My wife Leena and I were in Chennai when Subir had called up to inform us that Usha was no more.   Usha was Kukke’s widow.   We had known her for just about thirty-seven years.    In the Air Force the bonds that you grow with the men you work with and their near and dear ones are no less than familiy relationships; sometimes they are even stronger. Kukke, and through him Usha, were two such persons who had grown into our family. The news of her release from life brought us some relief.    Spread of cancer in her mouth was causing her enormous pain and there was no solution in sight.    We had visited her for the last time after Diwali of the previous year.    It was a painful experience watching her battle unequally with physical pain and emotional emptiness.    Kukke had left her and gone, also because of cancer, just over a year earlier.   With Kukke’s passing, and with the onset of cancer on her own body, Usha had become bitter with life.   .

I had met Kukke for the first time on 31stMarch 1968.   He was one of the few officers who had arrived and signed-in in the re-formed 47 Squadron at Chandigarh before I had arrived to assume its command.    He had just finished his conversion to MiG 21 aircraft and was half-way through his operational training at that stage.  My first impression of Kukke was very favourable.   Tall, fair, with a smile on his face, and a pair of bright light-grey eyes sparkling and dancing as if in mischief; he was instantly lovable.   Within a day or two I discovered that he was also bright and reliable.   He would shoulder any task given and would discharge it well.   I grew to depend on him in the task of reforming the squadron with new equipment.   I also decided to accelerate his flying training so that he could shoulder the responsibilities of a middle seniority leader effectively.

By mid-may of 1968, Leena came and joined me in Chandigarh and soon my house became the social hub of the unit.   Almost every evening there was a gathering of the unit boys and their wives at home, drinking coffee (there being no alcohol at home) and listening to music. My little spool to spool Grundig was a small gadget, but my collection of music was not small.  As the days progressed, I discovered another nice little facet of Kukke that I had not noticed earlier.   Kukke was a social glue.   He had this wonderful ability of being liked by all.   It so turned out that Leena and Kukke were approximately of the same age, and they became closest of friends.   I often wondered which job Kukke performed better, being my adjutant or being the social secretary to my wife!   I think he managed both the jobs with great élan.

Days rolled by.   We flew a lot, trained hard and partied harder.    The Archers became a well knit group and made their presence felt socially on the station.    By the end of the year, while the unit was closing on to a ‘fully operational’ status, we were ordered to relocate from Chandigarh to Hindon.   Kukke and Vasudeva, the two senior most flight lieutenants in the unit, had become operational by day.   I was keen to get their night operational certification done, but that was proving to be a bit elusive due to administrative problems on the station.   Ultimately I did manage to get their night syllabus through with a bit of trickery, but that is another story.

We moved to Hindon in February 1969.   Leena had gone to Kolkata in December for her confinement, so I had moved to the new station on my own.   She rejoined me with my new born son by the middle of March.    A few weeks after Leena came back, Kukke came to me with a bit of news.   His parents were planning a trip north and would like to visit him for a few days.   Could that be arranged?      Leena was keen that I host them at home, but Kukke was not sure that his parents would be comfortable to accept such an arrangement as they did not know us at all.   I inquired about the dates, spoke to the President of the Mess Committee (PMC) and arranged for their stay in the officer’s mess.

Kukke’s parents arrived in due course of time and were quite pleased with the arrangements they found at Hindon.    Kukke’s father, Mr Shastry, was a senior Police Officer of Karnataka.   He was fairly close to the age of retirement;   perhaps 1969 would have been the last time he would avail a leisurely vacation on his leave travel concessions.   The Shastry family was in a happy frame of mind when they arrived at Hindon at the start of their holiday travels.    They came home to call on us and we got along very well.    Mrs Shastry spent a long time with Leena both in our house and on the station as she was taken around the Air Force Station.   Naturally, amongst the many things they talked about, they also talked about Kukke; the mother was very keen to see him married and settled and my wife agreed with her visitor’s sentiment.   Further discussion on the subject revealed that they actually had a girl in mind, but Kukke was refusing to let the matter proceed; he would not even meet the girl even though she was staying not very far away.   Her father, Mr KN Rao, worked in the sugar industry and they were located at Saharanpur, pretty close to Hindon.  As a proof that the proposal was really alive,  Mr and Mrs KN Rao and his Sister in Law Mrs KV Rao came over and called on the Shastrys while they were in Hindon.   Leena and Mrs Rao, over their sessions of talk, then hatched a plan.    The Shastrys had planned a few touristic visits in the north.   It was decided that after they were through with their sight-seeing, they would once again stop by at Hindon.    A small squadron get together would be arranged for them to meet all the squadron boys.   Mr KN Rao and his wife and daughter would be invited to join the party.   We would let the matter proceed under it’s own steam there after.    Kukke was not let into this nefarious plan beyond the information that his parents would stop by a second time after their tour.

The plan thus hatched was put into operation.   Mr and Mrs Rao and their daughter Usha accepted the invitation to visit the Archers.   A get together was arranged under Leena’s care.  We found Mr Kurpad Nanjunda Rao and Mrs Jayalakshmi Rao to be delightful people.   My father’s younger brother Sri Susil Sen (my Mejo Kaka) was a chemist in the sugar industry; I was no stranger to that environment.   We had a lot to talk about.  All went well till the time of the function when one of the boys got to know about the motive behind the party and leaked the info to Kukke.   Kukke got very angry and decided to skip the get together.   For a little while there was a bit of chaos.  I had to get into the act and convince Kukke that the event could also be viewed simply as a Squadron get-together and the visitors could be treated simply as the unit’s guests.   Kukke was mollified and the party went through as planned.    Kukke and Usha met each other as a part of the get-together without any other overtones.  As soon as the party was over, however, Kukke came and saw me.   He was mentally not ready to get married as yet.   He had nothing against the girl being proposed.  However, since he was not presently ready to marry any one, he was feeling embarrassed for the girl.

I found nothing wrong or improper in Kukke’s stance and was ready to support him.   However, the ladies were not to be dissuaded so easily.    I then introduced another point of view that made them ponder and hesitate.   It was like this:   for some time before this instant, I had been dabbling with a bit of palmistry.    Not that I believed in it with any conviction.   However, there was a time in my childhood when palmistry was studied seriously by my parents.    I had had the opportunity of going through the available literature of that discipline and I was indecisive about the accuracy of predictions based on lines on ones palms.    However, I had seen some amazing predictions come true even in my own life and I could not dismiss the tradition out of hand.   In the process, I had inspected the palms of all my boys and it was a fact that the life line on Kukke’s palm stopped at about the age of thirty.    It was some thing that had disturbed me even though I had kept quiet about it.    I now shared my disquiet with Leena and told her that in view of Kukke’s reluctance to get married and the lines on his palm, we need not lend our support for a forced relationship.   Leena was convinced with my arguments and the story ended there, or so we thought.

By the end of 1970 I moved out from Number 47 squadron and went to the Staff College as a directing staff.    Kukke also left the squadron soon after me in April 1971 and went to the Hunter OTU (Operational Training Unut) in Jamnagar.   Exactly a year after I left the Archers, the war of 1971 came about.   Jaisalmere in Rajasthan housed a Care and Maintenance Unit(C&MU) of the Air Force which looked after its administration.   During the run-up to the war, my dear friend and course-mate MS (Minhi) Bawa was pulled out of his job as the Chief Instructor at the Armament Training Wing Jamnagar and was put in command of the C&MU there.   Jaisalmere is very close to the border with Pakistan.   It was vulnerable to air strikes.   Minhi obtained a detachment of Hunter aircraft from Jamnagar to provide him some sort of air defence.   Kukke came to Jaisalmere as a part of this Hunter detachment in November 1971.   Born on 12th December 1941, Kukke was then almost exactly 30 years old on 5th December 1971 when the C&MU at Jaisalmere got embroiled in the famous battle of Logewalla!

The air battle over Longewalla is a classic in air operations that cannot be encapsulated in a paragraph.   I can only say that in the history of air land warfare there is no other example where an isolated company outpost of infantry is attacked by two regiments of armour and that attack is first halted and then routed by a handful of fighter aircraft from the air.   My dear Kukke was one of those fighter pilots who helped achieve this wonder.

For Air Force Station Jaisalmere the drama started to unfold with a telephone call from the Army to the base commander.   It was past midnight of 4th/5th December 1971.   An armoured threat had developed on a post at Longewala.   There was a report that a probe by a section of tanks was seen near Ramgarh.   If this thrust materialized then the Army had no forces to stop Jaisalmere from being overrun within the next few hours.   Wing Commander Minhi Bawa, the Base Commander, was advised to evacuate the airfield if he so desired.  Defending the base against an armoured attack was considered untenable.     My friend Minhi was of course made of a different stuff.   Instead of evacuating the base, he responded with extreme aggression.   All the aircraft on air defence role were stood down and were re configured for anti-tank role.  His choice of weapons was limited.   The only armament available was T-10 rockets.   All the available aircraft were fitted with rocket rails in the middle of the night.   Rockets were loaded on the aircraft.   At day break the aircraft were launched in pairs to find the tanks and destroy them.   Near Longewalla the terrain was just open desert.    The Pakistani armour waiting outside the post for their attack at daybreak was just sitting ducks.    Unfortunately, it was soon realized that it was not easy to hit a moving tank or APC with a T-10 rocket.    The accuracy of the weapon was inadequate.    The Hunter boys also noticed that in their wisdom the Pakistanis had strapped additional fuel barrels on the rear of each tank or APC, and these fuel drums were not bullet proof.    The pilots were also delighted to find that there was no air cover for the tanks.   The Pakistan Air Force was totally absent from the battle field.   The pilots quickly changed their tactics.   Instead of rockets they now started using only their guns and aimed at the strapped-on fuel drums.   The guns were far more accurate even against a manoeuvring tank.   It was a massacre for the tanks.   To make sure of their kills, the Hunters were coming really close to the tanks with their guns blazing.    Bullets punctured the fuel drums and the tanks caught fire. The tank crew quickly abandoned their mounts where ever they could.

In one such attack on the morning of 5th December, as Kukke was diving at a tank with his guns blazing, the tank crew raised their main gun towards the aircraft and fired.   Kukke had not expected this.   The gun shell did not hit the aircraft, but Kukke faced a momentary loss of control.  He was distracted for a moment.   The distraction caused him a delay in his pull-out from the dive by a fraction of a second;   his aircraft grazed the top of a sand dune just behind the tank he had attacked.   The bottom of the tail of the aircraft was bashed in and a four-foot section of his jet pipe was lost.  But wonder of wonders, the engine of the aircraft kept on running and the aircraft kept on flying albeit at a much reduced speed.    The Hunter was obviously a tough bird.

He managed to come back to Jaisalmere and land.    The death that the lines on his palm had predicted was just about averted.     Kukke’s logbook carries a wry comment for this sortie over Longewalla that shows how very modest and self effacing he was in his service life: in his neat hand it says GOD SAVED ME. His dogged determination is well demonstrated by the fact that even after this very close brush with death he kept on flying operational sorties till the end of the war.   He flew twice on the 6th, once on the 7th, and then twice on each day on 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th and 13th.   On the 13th while on an offensive strike over Talhar airfield he was challenged by Pakistani aircraft and he shot down one Pakistani Sabre in the process.   His last operational sortie was flown on the 15th of December 1971.  As a result of his operational achievements in 1971 he was decorated with a Vir Chakra.

Kukke was a tall man.   Many years of extensive flying strapped to an ejection seat of a fighter aircraft had already caused some injuries to his spine that he was carrying when he had arrived at Jaisalmere in 1971, but after 1971, his back really started troubling him.   By April 1972 he moved back to the MiG21 fleet and served a tenure each with 45 and 108 squadrons.  Then in 1974 he moved over to the aircrew examining board (AEB) as an instrument rating examiner.  His physical condition had however become worrisome.   After his tour of duty with the AEB, Kukke was introduced to a new facet of aviation that was in time to become his new passion: Flight Safety.  He was sent for a short course on Flight Safety the USA and was appointed as the deputy Command Flight Safety Officer on his return.

With passage of time and with these happenings behind him, Kukke’s attitude to life  changed.   He now wanted to get married and settle down. By then he had been picked up by the Chief of theAir Staff to be his ADC.

Kukke was an honest man to the core.    When he decided that he was willing to get married, he remembered that some seven years earlier his parents had suggested a matrimonial match for him, a match that he had rejected solely because he was not ready to get married.   He was not happy about the fact that his rejection might have hurt the feelings of the lady concerned.   Now, when he was ready to marry, the first thing he wanted to know was whether the lady in question was still unmarried.   It just was so that Usha was still a single girl.  So, after about seven years after they had met at my house, Kukke and Usha got married on 20th May 1976. I was then commanding the Flying Instructors School.   My private life as well as my Service life was going through stressful times.    Leena was in Delhi with two of the children while I was looking after the FIS as well as the other three children of mine.   We could not attend his marriage.

From the post of ADC to the CAS, Kukke went back to flying as a flight commander to 7 Squadron and then with his promotion to the rank of Wing Commander he picked up the command of 26 Squadron flying MiG21 BIS.

The decade 1976-86 was very hectic for me.    I had some of the most challenging appointments of my Service life.    I enjoyed my jobs and had a lot of work satisfaction but I made some of my bosses unhappy.   I even manage to earn the ire the PMO on one occasion.   I retired in August 1986.    During this decade, my contact with Kukke was rather irregular.  At the end of his tenure as a Squadron Commander Kukke was moved to a desk job at the Headquarters of the Training Command at Bangalore by 1980, once again in the field of flight safety.

During his tenure with the Training Command Kukke’s problem with his spine intensified. He was advised to stop flying altogether.  It was a tough decision to make for a pilot who loved flying and was acknowledged to be good at his job.  The doctors were insistent in their demand that he stops flying.    Kukke lost his flying category.    He was then offered a transfer to the HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) in their department of flight and operational safety.   Kukke accepted the offer and joined HAL in 1984.

Off and on when I would visit Bangalore during 80 to 86, we would meet for a few minutes.   Similarly when Kukke visited Delhi in the period 77 to 82 and I was there either at the Air HQ or at the MOD, he would drop in and see me for a few moments.    We had very little interaction at work, but our social and emotional bonds remained strong and active.   In 1978 Kukke and Usha had a child, a pretty girl named Aishwariya, and Kukke grew to become extremely proud of his daughter.    I remember of one occasion after I had retired when I visited Bangalore for a short while.   I was very pressed for time and Kukke was very busy at HAL, but he insisted on taking me home for a few minutes so that he could show me how the daughter was growing up.   By then Aishwariya had started playing tennis and was vying for a position at the state junior level team;   Kukke just could not stop talking about her.

Professionally Kukke did well even in his second career with the HAL where he served for about 17 years.    He held his position efficiently and rose to the rank of a General Manager in that organization.    He retired from HAL in 2001 and settled down in Bangalore in a beautiful newly built house that Usha designed and put together.   Ultimately lung cancer caught up with him.   In January 2004 Kukke passed away.   I was then in NOIDA and got to know about the sad demise through an obituary posted on the internet forum Bharat-Rakshak by his cousin Dr. Shiv Shastry.  Usha, the lonely soul, followed him in less than three years falling a victim to the same dreaded disease cancer on 19th September 2006.

Another 19th September has just gone by.   I pray to the almighty for everlasting peace and moksh for both Kukke and Usha.

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21 responses »

  1. Kuki was special to us. As a bachelor, whenever I visited Hindon, I stayed with him. We were together at OTU Jamnagar during 1971. I maintained contact with him on and off till we met again for the ‘Siver Jubilee’ celebs of ‘Battle of Longewala” at Jaiselmer during 1996.

    In the earlier days, we really thought that he would become CAS in the future. He had the right age and qualifications coupled with OLQ.

    Sir you are right in saying that T10 rockets were not very accurate. But then the first attack on the lead tank was achieved with 4 x T10 fired in salvo by yours truly. Yes, the guns were also very effective.

    Kuki could not believe that his a/c had touched the sand dune!! He came to know of this during his after landing walk around, with teltale sand under the tail pipe.

    122 Sqn ( OTU ) never lost an a/c iduring jaiselmer ops in spite of damages. Hunters proved their reliability. The min experience level of staff pilots was 8 yrs. We never lost a pilot either.

    Well done Kuki. you kept your cool.

    DK

    • Dear TKS Sir/Gp Capt DK Dass Sir,

      I am trying to obtain contact details (address/telephone/email) of (then) Pilot Officer D Bose (M in D), who was also a part of this battle.

      Will you be kind enough to point me in the right direction.

      Regard,

      Mukesh Sharma

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  3. Dear Sir,
    Thank you very much for sharing your memories. I have been following your blog mainly for two reasons:
    1.One of my cousins was a naval aviator. He died in a plane crash barely within a year of getting his commission. I was 12 years old at that time and I had decided to become a pilot like him. I got glasses when I was in 12th grade, which resulted in me becoming ineligible for flying cadre. I changed my plans of joining military after I flunked SSB interview. However, my fascination for armed forces in general and aviation in particular never died.
    2.My experience in civic life in India very much resonates with your experience that you shared in the past. One need not have to wait for opportunities to be a corrupt, but these opportunities keep knocking on your door and if you resist, you get kicked out from the main stream. I quit my well paying government job and immigrated to US.
    I have two questions in regards to your current post and in general:
    1.Even after breaking the tail pipe, how the aircraft managed to stay airborne? Can you provide some insight into what might be the probable cause?
    2.Some of the big airplanes like SU-30 are two-seater planes. What are the benefits of two-seater planes over single seat planes? What roles are performed by each pilot in a two-seater aircraft?
    Thanks,
    Ranjit

    • Dear Ranjit

      Welcome to the blog. It seems to me that you have misunderstood my stand on corruption. I firmly believe that while opportunity for corruption abounds, it is simple not to be corrupt personally. One just needs to have the courage of conviction to remain uncorrupted.

      Regarding your first question, the nature of damage was such that the structural integrity of the air frame was not disturbed. The loss of a portion of the tail pipe caused some loss of thrust, but minimum required for safe flying was still available. (You might like to read the article written by Kukke Suresh himself in Bharat-Rakshak.com.)

      Your second question would need a long answer outside the scope of this blog. However, in short, the quantum of operational tasks for aircrew dictates whether one or more aircrew are required to operate a particular type of aircraft.

  4. Sir,
    Returned to your blog after a hiatus. Had heard(read) about about Wg,Cdr. K.Suresh on Bharat Rakshak. Your account helped to know him a little better. Thank you for that.

    • Hello Pradeep: Happy to see you back on the blog. About Suresh, there is one thing that I have not specifically mentioned in my post; his ability to demonstrate his excellent skills of flying through low level aerobatic shows. He had become an accomplished aerobat on the MiG 21 pretty early. He was stand-by to Harsaran Gill on the demonstration for Marshal Kutakov at Adampur. (See my post ‘A Tense Hour’). Thereafter, he became the chosen pilot for many a public demonstration of low level aerobatics on the MiG 21 including a show over Tilpat. I must stop overloading this comment section now because it is difficult for me to stop talking about Kukke once I start.

      • Sir,
        It has always a delight to read your writings- and not just the time in uniform, but going back in time to your childhood, because you described a time and place that i have been curious about.
        After reading your piece about Wg. Cdr. Suresh, i re-read a very well explained article that he had written about the ‘problems’ that afflicted the MiG-21 aircraft (when public sentiment was rather negative); he painstakingly attempted to explain the facts therein. i always carried the impression that he was meticulous in his work, without flamboyance. Your account helped validate that.

  5. Sir,
    Your writing about Wingco Suresh bought back a flood of memories.

    I first met Wg Cdr Suresh at Udhampur. My father (Gp Capt HMPS Pannu) was commanding Udhampur at the time (in fact he had to do dual duty as FBSU commander as well – since Wg Cdr Sahni, the CO of the FBSU, had a medical problem). The year was 1979, and I was 13 – already crazy about airplanes.

    26 Sqn with Mig-21s had deployed for an exercise at Udhampur (along with a Gnat squadron). Our residence was on top of a hill overlooking the runway at Udhampur. For a young boy crazy about airplanes, this was heaven, I could watch all the action from home! I was at school though when the most spectacular sight happened, a Gnat caught fire over the runway, it was the flight commander in his red Gnat that I had seen flying many times before. He ejected and treated everyone (but me!) to the sight of a pilot descending by parachute. Dad was the first to reach him in his jeep.

    In this charged atmosphere, Kukke uncle came home for a visit. I was most impressed because he stood out as an officer and a gentleman even among the other pilots I hero worshipped. He also was kind to an overenthusiastic young boy, and answered all my feverish questions about flying without being condescending.

    Later it was our good luck to be the Suresh’s neigbours in Bangalore. We had adjacent houses in the Training Command HQ at Hebbal. I met Usha aunty there as well – she lent a keen ear to me about my dreams and aspirations about being an Air Force pilot. I had applied to NDA at the time (despite Dad not really wanting me to!) and was selected. I think I must have chewed aunty’s ears off talking about what I was doing, going to do etc.

    I also met a powerhouse 4 year old girl who for unknown reasons decided that I was (at 16) her close friend! Bubba would come over and ask for me all the time, much to the amusement of my parents!

    Kukke uncle had his back affliction at the time and could only walk stiffly. He was so modest that I had no idea he had taken part in the Longewala battle and shot down a Sabre. I knew that he was a highly regarded officer and fighter pilot and but for his medical condition would have been Chief. I got to know how Matra Magic missiles operated, how air combat was taught in the IAF and a million other things from Kukke uncle.

    But as happens in the IAF, we all got scattered to the four winds and we carried on with our lives. I met him for the last time on MG Road at a bookshop with Gp Capt IS Sandhu (ASTE CTP at the time and another officer and gentleman) with whom I was staying to complete my term at college. He said to uncle Sandhu that I was a “keen young man” – words that I treasure to this day.

    Through the internet I got in touch with him again, and used to regularly exchange e-mails with him. I wrote to him about my first aerobatic lessons in my last e-mail exchange with him. I didn’t know it at the time but he obviously knew his time on earth was short. His last e-mail had encouraging words about hoping that I would attain all my dreams. It was a really sad day when I came to know of his passing.

    I considered myself lucky that I was able to visit Bangalore and meet with Usha aunty in 2005 at their home and share some memories. What especially stood out was her admiration for his stoicism even when he was weakened and on his last legs. A man of great will but gentle visage. Little did I know that I would not see Usha aunty again either.

    I am lucky that I am in touch with Bubba (Aishwarya to others, but she will always be Bubba to me like I will be “Baba” to her!) – not as much as I would like but we have now met in person 3 or 4 times.

    Wing Commander Kukke Suresh was the epitome of an officer and gentleman – and was definitely one of my role models.

    Regards
    Anandeep Pannu

  6. A tall body unfolding itself out of a short car-a smile on top of that tall body beneath twinkling eyes and a shock of dark hair! That is how I remember Uncle Kuke! He was never too busy or too tired or too important to refuse podgy, loud and probably extremely messy five-six year olds hang on to his uniformed legs(about as high as we could reach) or to swing us on to his shoulders from where I felt I could really see ‘the whoooooole world’! Unfortunately, as Baba said, our interactions with him dwindled as time passed and while Baba had the opportunity time and again to catch up on official trips and otherwise, I never did manage to do so, and as a result have never been able to align the picture of the ailing and infirm person he might have become with the tall young brunette viking I remember him as!
    Life has a funny way of bringing people into your orbit, whisking your lives together willy nilly, then using various separators to disengage you, while at the same time making sure you carry enough of that memory to last you a lifetime! Aunty Usha and Uncle Kuke were meant to be together-the whisking worked better than the separator!!! So too was the case with Baba, Ma and the two of them-no separating could keep them apart! I am glad now that Bubba and her husband are an equally welcome part of our family-faint but not forgotten memories now have a chance to attach themselves to new roots of the same banyan tree!

  7. I remember once watching a youtube program with MS Bawa and someone asked him whom he thought was the best Pilot in IAF during Longewala Ops and his prompt response was Kukke Suresh without a hesitation.

  8. Hello! I was sent this link by one of my cousins’ who had just heard about Usha’s passing away. Usha was my cousin (her father and my father were brothers) and although we never met as often in recent year, we were pretty close when we were kids. It was sad to hear about both her and Suresh passing away – I have been in touch with Aishwarya since then and heard about her getting married. We all send her our blessings.

    My name is Hema and I am Mrs. Vijaya Rao’s (Mrs. KV Rao in your story above) daughter. I remember Suresh from way before he was married when we lived in Chandigarh (I was about 7 yrs old). My very social Mom used to give these parties, and I still recall Suresh was one of the most popular people in the party! All those young Punjabi girls (to whom my Mom was a favorite Aunty) always wanted to know if Suresh was going to be at the party. My father, Maj KV Rao and his brother Air Cmdr CR Kurpad were both VERY fond of Suresh. And he was alwasy so respectful of them whenever he met them or came home. And I do know that my mom was involved in his meeting and getting married to Usha but how it came aobut is now clear from your story!

    Thank you for taking me down memory lane – we loved Suresh dearly in our family.

  9. Thank you so much for such an informative piece on Kukee Suresh.I had the great pleasure of being co located at Adampur with him in 1973 though we were in different squadrons.He was a Sqn..Ldr. and a Senior member of the Officers Mess as a Single officer!I was a young flight lieutenant.
    I don’t want to say too much of my association, joyful as it no doubt was, for it is also tinged with sadness. One of the things I looked forward to when I resettled in Bangalore recently was an occasional meeting with the man who so deeply influenced me as an Officer and pilot.I came to know of his demise a few months ago.
    Thank you Kukee Suresh. I was indeed fortunate to have been exposed to you. Evenings at the bar where you patiently listened to our aspirations, stories and our fears.You usually spoke little but how well you could keep the conversation flowing! And who can forget the mischievous twinkle in your eyes? You had been there,done that but you could still keep a poker face at our occasional yarn! The two flights in the trainer with you seems like they were flown yesterday, though that was 40 years ago.I am sure you are now in a very special place reserved for very special men.

  10. I was barely 11 when Sqdn Ldr Travor Keelor’s photograph splashed when he shot down a Sabre in Chhamb on 3rd Sep’65.
    After that as a teenager, I was near fanatic to follow the airforce and emulate my role models, a dream which never came true.
    In 71, I keenly followed the air operations in which an entire Gorkha battalion was dropped in Sylhet in heliborne operations by Grp captain Chandan Singh and the heroics of Flg offr Sekhon when he single handedly dealt with 4 intruding Sabres over Srinagar.
    Then came the battle of Longewala and the spectacular show by Mr Bawa and his band of hunter boys. I must have seen that movie Border atleast half a dozen times esp those scenes in which hunters are shown taking off early dawn.
    Very well written Sir. Everything was made so lively and closest one could feel to real life action thru your blogs.
    Many thanks…

  11. Tikoo sir. Shiv here – Suresh’s cousin. I revisted this page after many months because a friend who saw it called me about it. Your post brought memories flooding back – reinforced strongly by that comment by Swagat Sen Pillai who wrote “A tall body unfolding itself out of a short car-a smile on top of that tall body beneath twinkling eyes and a shock of dark hair”. How apt, and eerie that a dear one from the past comes alive from written words.

    The action in Longewala was unknown to the public until after the war, but I recall that I was the first at home to read the news of Suresh’s Sabre kill over Talhar on 11th December . I ran all around my grandfather’s house in Puttanna road, Bangalore annoncing the news and an uncle of mine seemed slightly disappointed that he had missed the news.

    Suresh’s visits to our home in Poona were always special, and his sonorous deep baritone rings in my ears as I write this. Sleep well Suresh.

  12. Pingback: Remembering | glassbeadsmudpuddles

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