"Lt Abhinav Nagori was a friend I will miss terribly. He was one soul I could call anytime for any help. He was a very cheerful guy, who could fix your mood anytime," recalled one of his course mates, now working with the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Lt Nagori was the co-pilot of the ill-fated Navy Dornier that crashed around 20 nautical miles southwest of Goa recently.
He along with Lt Shekhawat, an observer, died in the crash, while the pilot Commander Nikhil Joshi miraculously survived the crash rescued by a fisherman, who spotted his unconscious body drifting away in the sea.
Friends from college days and those in the Services recollected the fond memories they had of Lt Nagori, who was a very helpful and friendly officer to many.
Hailing from Udaipur, Lt Abhinav was commissioned in the Navy in July 2012. He had stints at the Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala (INA) in Kerala, Air Force Station (AFS), Yelahanka in Karnataka and Air Force Academy (AFA), Dundigal near Hyderabad.
He had an officer-like thinking all the way
According to his course mate now with the IAF, Lt Abhinav always approached the challenges wearing an officer's cap much before he was commissioned.
"When given any task he would make a face and act like he could never do it. But, he surprised his seniors with solutions far superior than them. He always had an innovative approach towards life," recalled one of his friends, who had flying training together.
Lt Nagori's dream was to get married to a good girl and get his parents with him to live happily. "He missed his parents a lot," his friend added.
At AFA Hyderabad, once Lt Abhinav willingly lied to his seniors so that he could take all the punishment on behalf of his colleagues. "We were getting picked for the incomplete Blue Books and Lt Nagori lied to an officer that it was his instruction to complete them on the next date. He took all punishments with a smile," said his friend.
A musical wake-up call to his friends playing guitar
Himanshu Jain from Delhi, a room-mate of Lt Nagori said his pilot friend was an exceptionally-talented student who would never say no to any challenging circumstances thrown at him.
"He never shied away from dreaming big; he was always certain of what he wanted to achieve and that kept him motivated 24x7. He aspired to be an engineer who would be known for his innovations and contribution to society. He never craved for offer letters from big MNCs, like most of us did. He would make robots by himself, learn the guitar without any tutor and cook his own food," recalled Himanshu, now working in an MNC.
According to Himanshu, Lt Nagori would often give wake-up calls to all his friends in the hostel by playing his guitar.
"It was very annoying to wake up so early, but his soulful and musical way of waking us up helped a lot, or else we would have missed many classes," said Himanshu.
Lt Nagori did his engineering from SJB Institute of Technology in Bengaluru and he was from the 2008 batch. His friends say that the moment he got an opportunity to join the Indian Navy, he was confident that his moment of reckoning had come.
"He was in love with the Navy. Last time I had a chat with him, he told me about his new bicycle and his squash sessions. He also told me that he has completely turned out to be a fitness freak," said Himanshu.
"I will miss him all through my life. May his soul, rest in peace. Someday, I am sure to catch up with him on the other side of the fence," he added.
He always had a dream of serving the nation
Chandan Nagraj, now working with an MNC in Bengaluru, says that Lt Nagori used to mingle with people very easily.
"He was a sensible person and knew how to behave according to the situation. The unforgettable moment for him and to all of us was him clearing the SSC and getting selected for the Indian Navy," said Chandan, one of his close friends.
Lt Nagori was fond of music and often tried to experiment some innovative numbers on his guitar.
"One day he took me to his flat and introduced me to his parents via Skype. He told his parents that I was a very close friend, and a local chap who always helped him. He was good at sports, very adventurous and had a dream of serving the nation. He will stay in our hearts forever," recalled Chandan
Anshul Saxena, now working as a civil engineer in Bengaluru, was junior to Lt Abhinav, but recalls about a conversation he had before the tragic accident.
"On March 25 afternoon we had a chat over the phone and he wanted us to be there in Goa. We were all planning to be with him during the first week of April. I am shattered now," said Anshul.
He was a very jovial guy and very passionate about life
Kumar Siddarth is one of Lt Abhinav's friends, who took all the pains to help this Correspondent in getting more inputs for this report. Siddarth says that robotics, music and Navy were Lt Nagori's passion in life.
"He was a very jovial guy. I remember when the Indian Navy officials came to our campus for recruitment. He was sure that he would make it and indeed he cleared all the rounds. He was very passionate about Indian defence," said Siddarth, hailing from Delhi and preparing for the Civil Services exams.
R.I.P. Lt Abhinav Nagori.
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)