Flight Lieutenant Rajesh Thapa, 27, was among the 13 Air Force personnel killed in a tragic air crash on June 3. We look back at his awe-inspiring social media posts from remote destinations around the country he was posted at during his service with the Indian Air Force. By Shikha Pushpan
It wasn’t long ago when I received a serendipitous message from Thapa, as we fondly called him back in school, one fine day on Facebook. What followed was an exuberant exchange of travel stories and anecdotes from the remotest trekking trails in the country late into that night. Late Flight Lieutenant Rajesh Thapa, as the country remembers him today, was a dear friend, an inspiring traveller and a very proud Air Force officer. His love for places unknown and adventures unseen shone through his frequent social media updates—most of which often left his classmates (including me) secretly yearn for his free-spirited constitution. Rajesh was among the 13 Air Force personnel who boarded the fateful AN-32 aircraft on June 3 on a short flight from Jorhat in Assam to Menchuka in Arunachal Pradesh. As fate would have it, the plane lost signal with the air traffic control room and was ‘missing’ for almost a week, before its wreckage was finally spotted at 12,000 ft in Arunachal Pradesh. And a day later, the bodies of the 13 air warriors.
While Rajesh’s untimely demise has left everyone who knew him in disbelief, I believe this is a time when his life should be celebrated and his love for travel even more. His deployment with IAF gave him an opportunity to explore virgin valleys, myriad landscapes, and multifarious cultures across the length and breadth of the country. Mawlynnong (Meghalaya), Tuting (Arunachal Pradesh), Sela Pass, Wayanad (Kerala), Wellington (Tamil Nadu) and Triund (Himachal Pradesh) are among the few places he made us fall in love with through his inspiring photo series. Sitting in our office cubicles, while most of us only dreamt of visiting the places that he did and the views he enjoyed, quiet ironically, Rajesh captioned one of the photos he took of the snow-clad Himalayas from the cockpit during a flight, “Why shouldn’t I love my job when I have the perfect view from my workstation.” We miss you, Rajesh, and you continue to be an inspiration. RIP