Year Ender 2019: How Abhinandan Varthaman's bravery won a billion hearts
New Delhi, Dec 27: Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman became a household name during the 2019 Indo-Pakistan standoff early this year and he overwhelmed the whole nation with his courage in the face of enemy captivity.
How it all happened
Tension mounted between India and Pakistan after a suicide bombing at Pulwama that killed over 40 CRPF personnel on February 14.
In retaliation, India carried out a pre-dawn airstrike on a JeM terror camp in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A day later, Pak jets entered Indian airspace near LoC and dropped bombs in the Indian territory.
Pakistan held Varthaman after fighter jets of both nations engaged in an air battle following an unsuccessful attempt to target Indian military installations in retaliatory strikes.
How Abhinandan won a billion hearts
Perhaps it was his composure and dignity as he stood infront of the enemies that won million hearts and he was hailed as nation's hero on return.
When captured, the brave pilot rushed to a nearby pond, tearing maps and submerging them in the water.
He swallowed some key documents but did not let them fall into the hands of the Pakistanis.
The daring IAF pilot kept his composure and held his head high through his interrogation, refusing to give his family details, area he hails from, information on his squadron or the planes he was trained to fly.
His gesture displayed the true spirit of a soldier.
A legacy of bravery
He has carried a legacy of serving the nation, as his father, Retd Air Marshal S Varthaman was a highly decorated officer.
His family has served the Indian Air Force for generations since the second World War and his father besides being an ace pilot was a consultant for Mani Ratnam's film "Kaatru Veliyidai".
Apart from his bravado apart, Varthaman's stylised beard a mix of a thin mutton chop beard, a classic gunslinger or a Franz Josef was the talk of the town.
Also, Varthaman was the most searched person on Google from February 24th to March 2, 2019 . Varthaman was conferred the Vir Chakra gallantry award in August 2019, in an honour to his heroic deeds.