After 40-year-long wait, retired peon finally lives his chopper dream
Nobody fits the aphorism ‘finishing with a bang’ better than 60-year-old Kude Ram. On Tuesday, he retired from a government school in Neemka, Faridabad, and returned home—hardly three-kilometres away in village Sadpura —in a helicopter, his dream of 40 years.
Ram dreamt of travelling in a helicopter all these years and often expressed his desire to his family, but no one ever took him seriously until March 19 this year when he approached his younger brother, the village sarpanch, about his desire to make his retirement memorable for the entire family and village.
“I am barely educated and could not make it big in life but I wanted to create history in my area. So, after planning for several years, I arrived at the conclusion that if I plan my retirement in a memorable way, people would always remember my name,” Kude Ram said.
So, on the last day of his work as a peon, he left home on a bicycle, but returned in a helicopter.
Ram said that since childhood he had dreamt of travelling in a plane, but neither did he get an opportunity nor did he have the funds to plan a trip involving air travel.
“I often told my family that I see a helicopter in my dreams; they made fun of me. Even my childhood friends used to tease me saying my dreams were too lofty and that it would not be possible to fulfill them in this lifetime. I once asked an astrologer who said dreaming of a helicopter is a symbol of goals and achievements and that my dreams will come true,” he said, adding that it had taken him years to buy a bicycle.
On Tuesday afternoon, as Ram entered the helicopter, he said he first looked up at the tail rotor in amazement, he then stepped in and peered at the cockpit and was mesmerized by the sights as he sat beside the woman pilot and flew above his village. His wife, one of the three daughters and her child accompanied him on the ride that lasted 15 minutes.
Kude Ram said initially he had thought of chartering a plane, but that idea was turned down by his family.
He was told that he would need to construct a runway and the cost would increase manifold. “After a month-long discussion, we decided that we should hire a helicopter and started looking for companies that were providing the service in Delhi. Once the helicopter was finalised and we had received a rate quotation, I got a letter drafted and approached deputy commissioner’s office,” he said.
Ram said that initially whichever office he went to, people looked at the permission letter and laughed. They asked him why he wanted to spend so much money just for a “joy ride”.
“It was not about money, but a dream of 40 years. I was unable to make people understand that I have lived for and dreamt of this moment all my life. When I asked them if there was anything wrong or immoral about my wish, they said ‘no’ but what bothered them most was that my wish was a unique one and it involved a lot of money I was willing to spend,” he said.
On the momentous day, 40 members of his immediate and extended family took rounds for almost two-and-a-half hours around the village. The family had invited all of their relatives for a lunch party attended by around 7,000 guests.
Ram spent ₹3.5 lakh on the lunch, apart from ₹3.25 lakh spent on hiring the helicopter and documentation.
Ram’s wife Rammati Devi said she had waited all these years to get a picture clicked with her husband, but he was always so shy and even avoided talking to her in front of the family.
“I have seen him collecting every penny for this dream. He would keep saving each year and would make sure 10% of his salary is kept aside for his annual travel,” she said.
Asha Rani, Ram’s daughter who is married to a teacher in Faridabad and has a son, said she used to think that her father was kidding and he would not waste his money on a helicopter ride, but they all supported him in his decision since he was adamant.
Ram’s younger brother Shiv Kumar was the first to approve of his decision and went from pillar to post with him to ensure there were no hurdles in his brother’s way. “It took us almost four months to get all permissions and approvals; we did not know that we would need dozens of them. He doesn’t spend a single penny on himself and all his life he has worked very hard. He always told me that he has never smoked or drank, and relentlessly saved money for his annual travel. He is very passionate,” he said.
Kude Ram has now become a celebrity in the village and nearby areas.
Deputy Commissioner of Faridabad, Atul Kumar, whose office reportedly granted the permission, said, “I do not specifically remember this particular request. But, I have never heard of anything like this,” he said.