The hectic and erratic flying schedules were temporarily put on hold with the commencement of the Nuri captaincy conversion course which was held at the Base. Both my fears and worries were temporarily put on hold, too. For the first time since joining him, it felt like being married to someone with a nine-to-five job. While he was ecstatic at the prospect of becoming a Nuri captain and wanted the course to be over as fast as possible, I, on the other hand, prayed silently that it would be prolonged. While he was having this break from operational flying I knew that all his other friends were still flying long and weary hours.
There was nothing peculiar about that evening 26 of April 1976 UNTIL I realised that he was unusually late in coming home.
When there was still no sign of him at 6.30, I began to feel a bit restless. I would have got bits and pieces of the latest updates through the wives’ grapevine had I been an active member of the wives’ groups that would gather around every evening just outside the quarters. Although I was showing a marked improvement in attendance at the Wives’ Club meetings, I had not reached the ranks of a true blue-blooded, full fledged soldier’s wife YET. While I was brooding over his late return, I heard the familiar sound of his old “kapcai” breaking the silence of the quiet evening.
It was a little over seven, when he finally came in. I looked at him questioningly. His face was devoid of any expression but I could sense that something was wrong. Then, he looked at me and blurted it out, “A Nuri crashed”. I knew that it was difficult for him to break the dreadful news NOT because he was not able to cope with the sudden demise of his friends. All soldiers are a hardy lot trained to handle any form of eventualities with great skill and professionalism. There was something else lurking disturbingly at the back of his mind. He knew that this would mean my trust in the aircraft would falter and disintegrate. He knew that he would have to face a greater challenge of restoring my faith in the aircraft and convincing me on the safety of his job.
The initial shock was nothing compared to what followed soon after. He let out on the names, leaving those that I knew to the very last. My mind was in a turmoil. It was devastating. I remember thinking “It could have been him”, over and over again. It was selfish but I could not help it. The only comfort was knowing that he would not be flying operational until he completed the conversion course and that would be for about a month more.
To be continued………