EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE
MUMBAI, AUG 7: When he was 12, he fought with “The Greatest” boxer, Muhammed Ali in an exhibition bout. Twenty years on, Squadron Leader Farhat Siddique displayed the same guts when he first took on the enemy in Operation Vijay and later, when he took the special mission to trace a stranded German tourist in the hills of Himachal Pradesh. Siddiqui’s helicopter crashed somewhere between Kulu and Manali, killing him and his co-pilot S Pandey.
Squadron Leader Siddiqui took off from his base at Sarangpur on August 4 on what was to be his last flight. The Indian Air Force Chetak helicopter which he had specialised in over the years developed a technical snag and crashed.Thirty-three-year-old Farhat had just returned to his base at Sarangpur near New Delhi from Kargil after taking part in `Operation Vijay’. However, he was assigned the special task of rescuing a German tourist believed to have been stranded somewhere in the Kulu region of Himachal Pradesh.
“We were a bit relieved when the Kargil conflict wasover. Little did we realise that death was awaiting him anyhow,”said younger brother Arshad.“The death was due to technical snags developed in the helicopter,”said Farhat’s wife Madhulika.
A student of St John School at Goregaon and Mithibhai College, Farhat, besides being good at studies, excelled in sports. He was a very good boxer and was a Western India boxing champion for three years before joining the National Defence Academy near Pune and was commissioned as a helicopter pilot 13 years ago.
“Farhat was always willing to take risks, whether it was in a boxing ring or helping people. He always went out of his way to help somebody in need since his very early days,”recalled younger brother Arshad. According to sister Asma, Farhat had last visited their Goregaon residence two months ago to see his ailing mother Axra Mariam, who is the principal of St Anne School. He called about four days before the fateful accident to say that he would be visiting Mumbai as soon as things were normal, said Asma.Son of a retired BEST officer, Farhat leaves behind a wife and two daughters Sana (6) and Lubna (3). His parents originally hail from Lucknow.
Meanwhile, a pall of gloom has descended over the BEST Cooperative Society housing complex at Goregaon (west). Residents of the colony are turning up in large numbers to pay homage to the pilot who laid down his life trying to save a man in distress.
Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.