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An Autobiographical Account

Anoop Verma

By Vijaypat Singhania
Roli Books, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 288, Rs. 395.00


Adventures beckon those with pockets deep, despite the fact that being an adventurer entails sacrifice of the very luxuries millionaires may be accustomed to. When Dennis Tito paid $20 million or so to the Russian space agency, he was tapping into a fast growing trend—spending big bucks to experience adventures that remain out of bounds for the vast majority. For the privilege of a week’s stay in space Tito underwent arduous training, at the space station he lived in cramped conditions without gravity. But in lieu of all that his was a wonderful space experience. If there is any Indian millionaire adventurer club, it is Vijaypat Singhania who dominates it. Not content with spending his time in devising ways to make even more money, Singhania has become a super achiever of sorts in his forays of adventure. It was far back in 1988 that he successfully broke Brain Milton’s record by flying a microlight aircraft England-India in just 19 flying days. Then in 2005 he became the first person to fly a hot air balloon to the edge of space at the height of 70,000 feet. The book under review, An Angel in the Cockpit is Singhania’s autobiographical account of his record-breaking microlight aircraft flight of 1988. So what motivates Singhania to take up this risky attempt? At one place in the book he does try to delve into his own state of mind, “what is this that draws a man to adventure…. Is it to be able to say: ‘I have pitched my fragility against nature’s might and I have won; I have conquered not just elements to create a new record for posterity but I have conquered my mind and in the conquest I have found… myself.” Isn’t it every child’s dream to fly into space or to circumnavigate the globe in a hot air balloon? Singhania’s adventure could in a sense be a resurrection of his childhood dreams. So on August 18, 1988, he took off from Biggin Hill in England in a microlight weighing little over 150 kgs, with a cockpit so small that Singhania was forced to lose weight by 11 kgs so that he may fit in. But even with a toned down body it was a tight fit inside the cockpit, with hardly any space left for manoeuvre. The book gives a day-by-day breakup of his adventure that lasted for 22 days. The first day’s ...

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