Ancient Aviator Anecdote

Life on the Edge

Author: Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Cecil Parker, MVC

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Seven decades ago the ancient aviators of today were young lads, many of whom were fascinated with the idea of flight and dreamt of becoming pilots some day. Pre-Independence, very few Indians were in the profession of aviation. In those days most parents considered ‘flying’ as a dangerous occupation that kept one living on the edge. However, unforeseen events often influence mind-sets and a sudden medical crises in our family brought about a re-think on the part of my father and co-incidental consequences for me.

In 1946, as a young teen-aged school boarder, I came home for the summer holidays running a low fever. As the temperature kept rising and I went off food, our family doctor recommended immediate hospitalization. I was admitted into the PG hospital in Calcutta/Kolkata where my condition continued to worsen. I grew listless and responded to no treatment. My condition got critical and the hospital prepared my parents for the worst; in fact, I was measured for a coffin.

Suddenly my fever broke, I opened my eyes and felt weak but better, I had no idea that 22 days had elapsed but I slowly regained strength sat up in bed and kept down fluids. A very cheerful doctor, along with the ward nurse, visited me frequently and assured me that I was going to be fine but away from school for a few months till I recovered fully. He told my parents that he had no explanation for my ‘return from the edge’, did not believe in miracles but had just seen on.

Five years later, with the active support of my mother and the reluctant consent of my father, I found myself a flight cadet in Air Force Academy in Secunderabad. At a social function I was introduced to a pretty young lady teacher with the same surname as the doctor. In fact she was his niece and informed me that her uncle had married the nurse and the couple had immigrated to Australia. I courted the young lady for five years before we married in 1956. In the next 30 years we moved 15 times on postings while she adapted and coped with running a house, raising two wonderful children, kept teaching, carried out all her commitments as an air force wife and stood by me through all the ups and downs of life on the edge. It was many years before we could build a house of own to retire in. Now, in the 62nd year of our marriage, she is busy overseeing the travel arrangements for our next trip abroad to be present at the wedding of the first of our six grandchildren who are spread over three continents both sides of the equator. Notwithstanding the risk element in any fighter pilot’s career, ‘life on the edge’ has been very good to this ancient aviator and his family.

The author is a retired air vice marshal of the IAF and a freelance writer who can be contacted at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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