Thiruvananthapuram/Pune: MP Anil Kumar, a former fighter pilot who was paralysed from his neck down 26 years ago but led a life that inspired a documentary and featured in school curriculum, died of cancer on Tuesday. He was 50.
Kumar studied at the Sainik School in Thiruvananthapuram. He joined the National Defence Academy and excelled in the 65th Course. He was adjudged the best air force cadet and also won a gold medal for aerobatics before becoming a fighter pilot.
But a road accident in 1988 left him paralysed below his neck at 24 years of age.
"From then on, with his sheer determination he faced all the adversities with a smile on his face. He learned to work on a computer using a special stick which he held in his mouth," said Rajesh Nair, his school senior.
Another school batchmate, KS Haridas, said Kumar was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia and was under treatment for the past one month.
"A few days back he was moved to the Military Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre in Pune but his condition deteriorated and he was taken back to the hospital," said Haridas.
Kumar, who had been living in Pune city since the paralysing accident, celebrated his 50th birthday May 5. Many of his school friends had come to Pune to see him.
"It was a memorable get together. Many came from different parts of the globe, just to spend a day with our dearest classmate... We had tears in our eyes when we bid goodbye to him, but he remained calm and cool," said Jacob Panicker, a retired naval officer and Kumar`s batchmate.
His friends had made a short documentary film "And the fight goes on" that in 30 minutes told the tale of the real-life fighter.
His story of grit and determination was included in school curriculum in Maharashtra and Kerala.
Kumar breathed his last on Tuesday, a day after the documentary on his life was screened at a short film festival in Kochi, attended by many of his school friends.
The funeral will be held at the Pune Cantonment Board Crematorium on Wednesday morning, said Panicker.