Bhupinder Singh has that unremarkable air about him, not unlike any other 46-year-old weathered by years, some of them spent in jail, in his case. But that’s only until the school dropout escorts you to the 20x10 garage in the backyard of his house in this urban village of Dhanaula.
Here’s where he has parked a work of dreams – a single-seat flying machine put together using basic knowledge culled from the Net and nuts and bolts bought from the corner hardware store. Let Bhupinder get the civil aviation ministry nod and you could be riding the wind in what Bhupinder -- a power-paraglider of some repute in the region -- fondly dubs a “flying car”.
Made at a cost of Rs 6 lakh – part of it coming from Bhupinder’s fee for daredevilry at melas and some contributed by local industrialist Vikram Gupta – the flying machine has a 313cc engine that can clock 500 hours in one go, running on a mixture of petrol and fully synthetic lubricating oil.
But that’s just the brasstacks. There is some vital, and vulnerable, detail. Not for nothing is art often termed a self-healing mechanism for depression.
Bhupinder spent a good time of his youth detained on militancy charges in the post-Bluestar period. Though he has since been acquitted, he says the Jodhpur jail cell walls bred in him a burning desire to live like a bird, free to fly.
“When I came out, I gathered every bit of information on how I could build a plane. It seemed preposterous, but support for my childhood dreams came in from my mentor Vikram Gupta. I read a lot on the subject, used the then nascent Internet, and finally came up with my first power paraglider in 1997,” he gives sketchy details, refusing to divulge more about the dark years of his life, years that also turned him from a wall painter to an icon for many.
He tells you how he started showcasing his skills at regional sports fests and has since clocked 550 hours on power paragliders. He’s sought after for showering flower petals on political and religious processions, and gets Rs 20,000 for each outing.
Shifting focus to his flying car, he tells you how it took him a little over six months to get the blueprint ready. “I studied various versions of single-seat planes from European countries, and then designed my own version using material purchased from hardware stores in Barnala and Ludhiana,” he tells HT.
Detailing, he adds, “I ran a final test of the engine on Sunday. Initially I used a 65 horse power engine imported from Germany, but it was too powerful. The 313cc is just perfect.”
Asserting that his “flying car” can fulfill a common man’s dream of having a personal aircraft, Bhupinder now plans to manufacture wooden propellers in his garage for commercial purposes. “These propellers are either made ore here, in my garage,” he smiles.
Seeks govt support
Bhupinder, however, laments lack of government support . He says despite his several requests to the state as well as union government for financial assistance under any available scheme he has got nothing except verbal assurances. “Only a few people like my mentor Vikram Gupta showed interest in my work and have provided me with full financial and moral support. But I have huge plans and want a bigger platform,” he adds.