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Kids in cockpit, spirits on a high
- When sky dreams take off
Differently-abled children inside an aircraft in Bhubaneswar on Monday. Picture by Sanjib Mukherjee

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 14: Today was a day to fly high for special kids. Little Rashmi Rekha, who has Down’s syndrome, got an opportunity to don the role of a pilot. She sat in the cockpit of a grounded two-seater aircraft and announced that she was ready to soar.

A few other kids, who had gathered around her, broke into a fit of giggles as they gently pushed the aircraft ahead.

On the occasion of Children’s Day, a group of differently-abled children were treated to fun and laughter at the 1 Orissa Air Squadron where they experienced the cockpit ambience. The children reached the venue at around 11 am and were greeted with flowers, balloons and chocolate by the NCC cadets. Next, they were given a short lecture on what binds India as a nation.

“The greatest thing about our country is unity in diversity. United we stand, divided we fall,” said wing commander, Bikash Kanungo. They got all the more excited when they were shown pictures of and told about different aircraft. “Who wants to see a real aircraft?” he asked as the children raised their hands, clapping and jumping with joy.

Disability rights activist, Sruti Mohapatra, who had accompanied the kids to the Air Squadron, asked Kanungo if it was possible for youths with disabilities to join the military. A thunderous applause followed his reply: “A young British man, who had lost both his legs in a mishap, turned out to be an ace pilot during World War II. Differently-abled persons might have some physical discomfort or the other but they definitely have a greater will power. One of them might grow up to be a scientist and design new aircraft or redefine the aerodynamics theory. Some other kid might become a leader and reshape the country’s future,” Kanungo said.

Though the children could not be taken on a flip because of unpleasant weather conditions, they said they had an experience of a lifetime just sitting inside the cockpit.

“It was great fun. I wanted to become a doctor but now I am so fascinated by aircraft that I am thinking of becoming a pilot,” said nine-year-old Bitupan Dutta as he alighted from the aircraft.

Lina Phukan, a 13-year-old visually-challenged girl, described her day as “one of the most special and memorable days of her life so far”.

Sruti said children don’t always need classrooms to learn new things but learn best in a carefree atmosphere.

“We can learn about NCC and flying aircraft from our books but how much would a child grasp? But here, they would learn better by sitting inside the aircraft and interacting with the cadets. This is what education really is — engrossing the children through amusing methods so that the lessons stay with them throughout their lives,” she said.

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