Author: Sunil Kumar Banerjee

Musings on Martyrdom: Ibaadat sey Shahdat!

The Cellular Jail, in Port Blair, completed in 1906, is a National Memorial and a place of pilgrimage for all freedom loving people. Many today would be proud to know that it was in these infamous “cells” great sons of India preferred to perish unknown and unsung, to court a ghastlier form of slow death in fighting for […]

Udta Punjab: Rising like a Phoenix from its Fractured Past!

Punjab had won it’s its statehood some years after India’s Independence but this had not entirely satisfied the Sikh majority. The Green Revolution of the sixties had given the Jat Sikhs and the landowners the first taste of rapid growth and modernisation. A small but important section had climbed up the social ladder and soon spread out to Europe, USA, […]

Akashganga: They also Serve, who Just Stand and Wait – XV

Behind the risk of life and limb stood the woman by his man. Running from sick quarters to banks and schools, buying groceries riding cycles or by walk, receiving and seeing off loved relatives all by themselves, while her loved man was away is a quality taken for granted and an unwritten part of the wife’s job description. […]

Akashganga: Daffodils in the Sky and Butterflies in the Belly – XIV

Akashganga never had it so good. Enthused and awed by the sense of spectacle, for the first time in the history of the Air Force, a full load of 37 skydivers in spanking new and fancy dungarees jumped to join an assembled parade contingent on ground consisting of nine Squadrons of three flights each of about a thousand […]

Akashganga: Trails of Stardust and Swirling Black Holes – XIII

Members of Akashganga moved on to multi-tasking and become a lean mean fighting machine. Sport and military parachuting complemented each other. But, behind all of these unique achievements paradoxically, an equally important conflict raged on. The ‘sporty’ blitzkrieg led by the imaginative daring of Thapar, a veritable ‘one-man- Army’ from the House of Adventure was a frontal, daylight assault […]

Akashganga: The Old Maketh way for the New- XII

The Adventure Foundation had no skydiving equipment like parachutes, riggers, trainers or a training infrastructure. The shrewd Thapar used his niche knowledge to influence the unscrupulous but powerful Dolly Yadav. The latter used his connections and prevailed upon the Operational Headquarters (Transport& Maritime) at Delhi to compel CI PTS to share its invaluable resources of select Dhartiputras (PJI’s), parachutes […]

Akashganga: The D-Day and Lift-off – XI

The An-32 got airborne with 37 Dhartiputras on board for the inaugural jump of Akashganga. Chugh was the Devaputra, who did the honours in getting this fortunate bunch aloft over Malpura Dropping Zone, Agra, at a speed of about 220kms per hour to a height varying from 1250 ft. ground level to 6000 ft. to spray the rather […]

Akashganga: A new Star in the Galaxy – X

Gomes worked silently to convert into reality the ambitions and aspirations of the illustrious predecessors – to make an Air force Skydiving Display Team. The go-ahead strangely came from the fledgling Air Force Adventure Foundation. Ten names befitting for the proposed team were asked for. Indradhanush, Meghdoot, Rainbows, Dhoomketu, Dancing Butterflies, Ashwamegh were some of the ones. Banjo […]

Akashganga: The Unsung Backroom Jumping Jacks – IX

Into the melting pot of trial and tribulations at ADR&DE the baby-faced but stylish, dexterous and skillful Ajoo, our very own whiz kid brought his medicine chest of magazines and manuals, of rigging lines, fabric pieces, to repair and restore the bruise and boils of the hurt canopies. There was no formal training or education in the […]

Akashganga: From Rounds to Squares, a Mann-Date! – VIII

After the solid cloth round canopies had been modified with low porosity, turn and drive slots, an apex with additional steering lines for better stability and forward drive in the sixties came the ‘parawing’ parachute designed for maximum lift as opposed to maximum drag. This device was primarily used in sport parachuting during the 1970s. The parawing was […]

Akashganga: Of Devas and the Dhartiputras – VII

From Scorchers to Scorpions and to Silver Streaks, it was a long journey for the Indian Air Force (IAF) aerobatic team.  In 1981, it was mooted that for the celebration of the IAF’s Golden Jubilee, a nine ac team would go around the country demonstrating throughout the ac team was worked up using 20 sqn. (Lightning’s) as a platform. In keeping with the […]

Akashganga: An Idea Whose Time had come! – VI

Even before PTS had started, Shamsher with his imaginative and resourceful handling made organised performances or demonstrations in skydiving in some areas of the country. Interestingly, some PJI officers had made a few jumps too with his outfit and provided some rudiments of free-fall training. This week-end adventure of the PJI’s was short lived. Dicky would have none […]

Akashganga: Birth Pangs and Anxieties of Adolescence – V

Free Fall Training was temporarily a victim of “Stop-Go- Stop” hiccups. In order to counter the doubts on its efficacy, a re-examination and review of the free fall techniques learnt, acquired and adopted – especially how to ensure accurate releases in the sky was conducted. The mystery of the wind and the importance of the met-man and the […]

Akashganga: Do You Have it in You? – IV

  Freefall had moved on from the ungainly and rather rigid spread-eagle position to “stable frog position” and onto body-acrobatics in the air. Skydivers were not so often to be seen on tree tops or thatched huts anymore. They were able to steer canopies with commendable skill backed up by a calculated release from computed points from […]

Akashganga: The Legend of the Fall-III

Having graduated and donned the Para Jump Instructors (PJI) brevets, they were trusted with the lives of all those brave paratroopers with maroon berets mostly of the Indian Army, who would grace the corridors of Paratroopers Training School (PTS).They were the gurus of Kaliyuga. Airborne training initiates and sustains a high standard of proficiency through repetition and time-proven techniques. The ability […]

Akashganga: PTS, the Home of Courage, Skill and Strength -II

  The Indian Army mostly composed of the “maroon berets” or Paratroopers perform the operational role with the help of a large number of the aerial platforms like the transport planes, drones, gliders, helicopters and Para Jump Instructors (PJI’s) and Safety Equipment Workers (Riggers), mostly owned and operated by the Indian Air Force. Amongst other things, the latter goes […]

Akashganga: Cosmogony and Mythology – I

The birth and creation of Akashganga: The Indian Air Force Skydiving Team is a long story of about forty years in the annals of sport parachuting. To the uninitiated the story of military paratrooping shall reveal the hidden seeds of the birth of sport parachuting in the subsequent episodes. Sunil always wanted to put pen to paper to […]

The Wages of Fear

Fear wore many masks and played hide and seek with Sunil. It was de rigueur. Sometimes he was simply scared without knowing why or when looking out from the open doors of the aeroplane high above. At other times, on ground he felt weak kneed thinking of all that could happen. Parachute not opening, failing to deploy the […]