Thiruvananthapuram: All roads from the Kerala border at Walayar along the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu since Saturday December 11 morning led to the house of Junior Warrant Officer A. Pradip at Trissur, who was on the ill-fated IAF Mi-17 helicopter that crashed on Wednesday near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu killing 13, including India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and others, of the 14 on board.
On Saturday morning, Pradip’s last journey from Sulur, where he worked, began with numerous vehicles accompanying the vehicle carrying the body of the departed soldier.
Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan and Trissur Lok Sabha member T.N. Prathapan accompanied the body and at the Kerala border, three Kerala Cabinet Ministers — K. Radhakrishnan, K. Rajan and K. Krishnankutty, received the body.
From there, thousands of people waited at the roadside from Palakkad to Trissur to bid goodbye to Pradip.
Then the body was placed at the school at Puthoor in Trissur, for an hour where Pradip studied. His friends and the local residents came to that school, and bid him goodbye.
“He was a simple man with no air… never did he say that he used to move around with the high and mighty, as his job was such that and that was how he boarded the ill-fated flight with the CDS. He used to speak very little about his job, but was always at the front whenever he came for leave to be with his friends, family and the local populace,” said one of his grieving classmates, who was spotted at the school.
From the school, the body was taken over by a group of 70 Air Force officials and the vehicle then moved to Pradip’s house, located 3 km from the school.
Scenes were uncontrollable when the body reached his house, as his ailing father who is on breathing support was informed only a few hours before that his son has passed away.
“He took it bravely, while Pradip’s mother was uncontrollable, so was his wife. A team of doctors was present at the house as no one knew how he (his father) would react to the death of his son,” said a relative of Pradip.
The last rites were held at his home with full military honours. The Kerala government also gave him a full state funeral.
The pyre was set up behind his house.
Pradip’s father was a casual labourer and after he joined the IAF in 2002, his father stopped working as Pradip did not want his father to toil hard.
Pradip was here for two weeks with his father who was hospitalised. And just 4 days before his last journey, he left for Sulur after his father was discharged from the hospital.
His mother was a member of the local workforce in the National Rural Employment Guarantee programme.
In 2002, Pradip joined the IAF as a weapons-fitter and then became an Air Crew which enabled him to travel across the length and breadth of the country.
When Kerala witnessed the worst floods in a century he opted to join the helicopter squad which was engaged in rescue works at various locations in the state and for this efforts he was commended by the President of India.