Mumbai: The eerie silence of the desolate streets of a locked down Mumbai was broken on Sunday morning by three Sukhoi-30 (Su-30) fighter aircraft and two C-130J aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) flying over the city, paying tribute to the nation's frontline corona warriors.
The Indian Armed Forces on Sunday conducted flypasts across the nation expressing gratitude to the healthcare workers and staff engaged in battling the coronavirus pandemic.
The Su-30 aircraft took off from the IAF airbase in Pune and entered Mumbai airspace around 10.15 am, flying over the Arabian Sea and went north, over Marine Drive, Haji Ali, Worli and Bandra. In 'Vic spitfire' formation, the three aircraft roared over Mumbai, flying at a lower altitude.
Two more IAF C-130J passenger aircraft took off from the North India Air Force base and entered the city's airspace at a lower altitude and also flew over Marine Drive, Cuffe Parade and the Gateway of India. Chetaks and Mi-17s belonging to the Indian Navy and IAF flew over various city hospitals, in aerial salutes and showering flower petals over the medical staff and sanitation workers.
As many as 50 staffers of the Naval hospital stood in the compound around 10.30am, in salute, as the helicopters arrived. Two Chetaks showered rose petals over the gathering. There was a similar shower of flowers over the KEM, Kasturba and JJ Hospitals, where staff was gathered on the rooftops.
Healthcare providers across the city said this gesture of the defence forces had immensely boosted their morale. "This is a positive approach by the armed forces. There are medics working day in and day out, to fight the pandemic. Such recognition will definitely boost their morale," said Dr Ranjit Tripathi, on duty as special services officer at civic hospitals.
"We never knew we would get such respect for just doing our work. Being a sanitation worker and being showered with flowers definitely give us the hope that we will make it through this," said sanitation worker Kapil Kumar.
In the evening, the Indian Navy illuminated five of its ships anchored at the Navy harbour beside the Gateway of India. For ten minutes, the ships' sirens were sounded, and green flares were fired in the sky.
To get a glimpse of the flypasts, Mumbaikars in town thronged their terraces and balconies. The sight of IAF aircraft flying over their roof so low was a visual treat for them. In response, Mumbaikars waved the national flag from their window, clapped their hands and clanged utensils.
Worli resident Rahul Devaiah had kept vigil on his terrace since 8am, with his 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter waiting for the flights to arrive, so that they could wave the national flag at them in reciprocation.
When the flights went past finally, roaring over their heads, they were able to fulfil their wish. "We wanted to be there on the roof to convey our gratitude as well. My children were also enthusiastic about watching this aerial 'drive-through’, “said Devaiah.
At Churchgate, residents participated on the ground, clanging utensils and whistling, as the aircraft whizzed past. 48-year-old Salman Qureshi raised the tempo, singing patriotic songs and 'Hum Honge Kaamyaab' with his neighbours, standing at their apartment windows. "
This is a historic day. The whole country is unitedly standing together by the paramedics. These drives are meant to encourage them in their fight from the front," said marine engineer Yash Ahuja. Twitterati showered praise on the armed forces for this drive.
Actor Anupam Kher tweeted his thanks to the defence forces for standing in solidarity with corona warriors, as did cricketing great Sachin Tendulkar, who posted a picture of the armed forces and expressed thanks to the frontline workers.