An elderly Karachi tea seller has found the most witty way to give his business a boost by using an image of IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman in a banner on his stall. The banner also had a line that said, “Aisi chai ki dushman ko bhi dost banaye” (The kind of tea that can turn foes into friends) in Urdu. The image used by the tea seller garnered a lot of attention online, and has now gone viral.
Wing Commander Varthaman was chasing Pakistani jets with a MiG -21 Bison fighter plane in Jammu and Kashmir on February 27 and crossed over to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) where his aircraft was shot down during the fierce dogfight. He ejected safely and was taken into custody by the Pakistan Army when his parachute drifted and fell inside the PoK. He was released on March 1 after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on February 28 announced to release him as “a peace gesture.” Varthaman was returned to India through the Wagah-Attari border two days after his capture.
His image has inspired fan art, memes, and poems online. The Election Commission also asked Facebook to remove two political posters and the Wing Commander’s photograph and asked political parties to stop making references to the armed forces in their campaigns.
Sources said Wing Commander Varthaman had informed the top brass of IAF that he was subjected to a lot of mental harassment, though he was not physically tortured by Pakistan military authorities. On March 4, IAF Chief Air Marshal BS Dhanoa clarified that Varthaman will fly an aircraft again after he is declared fit.