"Till then, I had seen planes only on television. I am very happy. But, I have more dreams now... ," Chandan told OneIndia during an exclusive interview. He even had a one-to-one session with the IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha.
Chandan's plane passion refuses to die. He knows he is hit by the deadly cancer. His doctors and parents haven't told him about his very slim chances of survival. "May be three months more... God-willing little more," says Rahul Verma, Founder of Uday Foundation, who has been supporting Chandan and his family for the last couple of years.
Shuttling between All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi and his temporary place of stay being arranged by the Uday Foundation, Chandan refuses to give up. "He is the real fighter," says Rahul.
A studious child
Chandan's father Girish Mandal (39) ran a small-time business in Smasthipur district of Bihar. In the last couple of years, the family has moved to New Delhi for Chandan's treatment at AIIMS. "He is extremely good at studies. His results were really good. He never missed any of his homework and his Masterji was always happy with Chandan, who did his schooling till 7th Standard," says Mandal.
After planes, Chandan is fond of computers and he is even a good hand at the game of carrom. "This Diwali my father bought me a new phone. I think he paid Rs 4,000 for the phone. I love it and it gives me good company," Chandan told OneIndia over phone from Delhi.
The entire interview was done in Hindi and on a conference call mode, with Chandan's father and Rahul Verma joining in. "He was excited when we told that a writer covering planes and ships will be calling him from Bangalore. He wanted to quickly complete his treatment and talk about planes," says Rahul Verma.
Surviving on pain killers
A look at Chandan's medical report can be disturbing. The family says the doctors have tried their best. Chandan is administered heavy dose of pain killers, including Morphine tablets. His entire body is hit by cancer, which is now in a very advanced stage.
Every alternate day, Chandan visits AIIMS and undergoes chemotherapy among other treatments. "The doctors are now keeping the boy out of pain and I think they have exhausted all modes of treatment. His days might be numbered, but every moment of his life matters to us. I am thankful to IAF for taking my kid to a plane. I have never seen him so happy," says Mandal.
Uday Foundation's role
Rahul Verma of Uday Foundation says that Chandan and his family were spotted outside AIIMS couple of years back. "It is the case with many poor families in Delhi. They stay outside the hospitals. We did manage to raise some funds for Chandan. In India we do not give any dignity for the poor people. Chandan's father couldn't return to work in the village due to the boy's illness," says Rahul, who was instrumental in reaching out to the IAF.
Today, Mandal works as a volunteer with the Uday Foundation and in return he gets some support to take care of Chandan's medical needs. "The Foundation is a volunteer-based NGO and conducts a series of programmes for the healthcare of children. We also run activities for children in hospitals," says Rahul.
Air warriors are proud of the boy
Speaking to OneIndia, Wg Cdr S S Birdi, IAF Official Spokesperson, said that air warriors take lot of pride in fulfilling the wishes of Chandan. "It was a very special day for all of us in IAF when we could do something to make Chandan's wishes come true. The IAF Chief himself was very moved by Chandan's fighting spirit. In many ways Chandan is the true fighter.
The boy was extremely happy after being with us. We are united in our prayers that he overcomes the illness at the earliest. Chandan has touched our hearts," Birdi said.
I want plane model, says Chandan
Chandan now wants to have some models so that he is always in touch with flying machines. "After watching planes fly on TV and later seeing them at very close range was a great feeling. I have lots of pilot friends now. Now, I will also become a real pilot one day. I want some plane toys (models) so that I can be always see them. I want to sleep next to them and carry them to the hospital so that I don't get bored, "says Chandan.
The interview was wound up with an assurance to Chandan that plane models will be soon land in Delhi and delivered to him.
Can you chip in?
Chandan's family needs financial assistance and you may contribute towards the cause of boy's treatment. His bank details are below:
Master Chandan Kumar, Account No. 600510110003936 (Savings Account), Bank of India, Hauz Khas Branch, A-21, Green Park Main, New Delhi, PIN: 110 016, IFSC Code: BKID0006005 (For online transactions).
[The photos used in this report are copyrighted property of Uday Foundation. They are being published with permission.]
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)