Officer Who Survived Crash Wrote to School on Why ‘Being Average’ Isn’t the End


“It is ok to be mediocre. Not everyone will excel at school and not everyone will be able to score in the 90s. Find your calling and do your best. Never lose hope,” wrote Group Captain Varun Singh, who described himself as an average person until he worked towards his interest in aviation, in a heart-warming letter addressed to students of his school after being awarded the Shaurya Chakra this year.

Group Captain Singh, who is the sole survivor of the chopper crash that killed Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife, and 11 Air Force personnel, received the Shaurya Chakra in August for his bravery in handling his Tejas fighter aircraft after it encountered major technical issues during a sortie.

The Group Captain, an alumnus of the Army Public School in Haryana’s Chandimandir Cantonment, wrote to his alma mater’s principal in September.

After receiving the award, Singh wrote to his school, to share some thoughts about his life “which feel may help and inspire children who might feel that they are meant to be only mediocre in this hyper competitive world.”

Describing himself as an average student who “barely scored 1st division in Class 12″, he said he was equally average in sports and other co-curricular activities. “But I had a passion for airplanes and I represented the school in the Aeronautical Society of India Quiz twice and we stood 2nd and 3rd in those events,” he said.

Over to his career at the NDA, he said he passed out as an OC (Officer Cadet) and did not excel either in studies or sport to make the cut to be an appointment in NDA. “It is when I reached AFA that I started to realise that my passion for aviation gave me an edge over my peers. Still, even then I lacked confidence in my true capabilities,” he said, adding that he lacked confidence as he always thought he was meant to be average and there was no point in trying to excel, as he “possibly couldn’t excel at anything.”

“After commissioning as a young Flight Lieutenant in a Fighter Squadron I realised that I could do well if I put my mind and heart to it. I started working to be that best I could be, as opposed to only making sure I achieve the ‘pass’ standard,” he said.

He said that it was at at this point that things started to turn around in his professional and personal life. “I resolved to do each task to the best of my abilities, whether it was flying or otherwise. I was soon selected to undergo the challenging Flying Instructors course, wherein I bagged two trophies out of the five,” he said.

Singh said he then volunteered for “the prestigious and rigorous Experimental Test Pilot course” which had a 4 stage selection and only 7 out of 59 pilots who appeared made it through. “And during the 11 months long course one of the pilots was withdrawn from the course as he could not cope with the rigours of the course,” Singh explained.

“Thereafter, I was selected to undergo the prestigious Staff College abroad and on return was posted to a Tejas aircraft Squadron even though I had crossed the seniority bracket to qualify for change of aircraft. My credentials as an Experimental Test Pilot were the reason for this challenging and exciting posting,” he said.

Describing the Tejas landing, Singh said :”In 2019 I was in the first list of 12 candidates for ISRO’s Gaganyaan programme Though, I did not make the final cut due to a medical requirement. Subsequently, last year on the fateful day. I was faced with a grave and critical failure in my aircraft The SOP required me to eject and abandon the aircraft. However. I took a few calculated risks and managed to land the aircraft without any damage to either the aircraft or civilians.”

Singh said in the letter that his achievements were not meant to “blow my trumpet” or with a desire to seek a pat on the back. Instead, his aim was to let the children know a few of the following thoughts of the life experiences that may help them in future.

A page from the letter Capt Varun Singh wrote to his school.

“It is ok to be mediocre. Not everyone will excel at school and not everyone will be able to score in the 90s. If you do, it’s an amazing achievement and must be applauded. However. if you don’t, do not think that you are meant to be mediocre. You may be mediocre in school but it is by no means a measure of things to come in life. Find your calling. it could be art. music. graphic design. literature etc. Whatever you work towards, be dedicated do your best Never go to bed thinking I could have put in more effort,” he said.

“Never lose hope, never think that you cannot be good at what you want to be. It will not come easy. it will take effort. it will require sacrifice of time and comfort I was mediocre. and today I have reached difficult milestones to my career. Don’t think that 12 board marks decide what you are capable of achieving in life. Believe in yourself. work towards it,” he said.

Singh at the end said he would “be deeply humbled” if some part of his story may be shared with the children, especially the teens as they near adulthood “with its complexities of societal pressures, academic challenges and a sometimes an uncertain and frightening future.”

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