“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

-Henry Ford

Son of a security guard, he, used to be a delivery boy in his school days. He switched between delivering and school to support the dwindling finances of his family. He then bought an auto in the hope that he would earn enough to get ends meet. He used to say “my life depends on three wheels and one day I will see the world on three wheels” He chased his dream and realized it. The lad who used to drive an auto rickshaw on the roads of Nagpur four years back is now a commercial pilot!

Meet Mr Shrikant Pantawane who is not just any ordinary man. From driving a three-wheeled auto rickshaw to flying an aircraft – which also ironically is three-wheeled. The turning point of his life came when he had gone to Nagpur airport to deliver some items. He heard the screeching sound of the landing of an aircraft, and saw some handsome men in smart uniforms coming out. Curious to know about them, he went to the nearby tea stall and enquired from some people standing there, who seemed to be educated. They told him that they were pilots who fly the plane. Wanting to know more, he probed “how does one become a pilot? “But the reply dampened his spirits. Neither had he had the education nor the money to prepare himself to become a pilot. But the small voice within him made his determination firm and he said to himself “I will become a pilot one day”.

Auto driver to pilot

He learnt that after passing Class XII there is an examination to qualify for a government scholarship to meet the expenditure of pilot training. It is the pilot scholarship program run by aviation regulator DGCA or the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. He started preparing for the examination by putting his heart and soul into it.Driving his auto during the day and studying late into the night became his daily routine.

He stretched himself and qualified for the scholarship in 2011.Consequently he got admission in Chimes Aviation Academy Sagar (MP).New challenges cropped up during the training. Not only was he weak in English but couldn’t afford to buy books or even get them zeroxed. Instead of losing heart, he started studying in the library till 2 am every single night. His efforts bore fruits. He was ranked highest in the assessment marks. He completed the course in two years, but luck did not favour him. In spite of passing the examination with flying colours, a slump in aviation market kept him at bay. To support himself and his family, he joined as an executive in a Nagpur based company. But he never lost hope. The burning desire to become a pilot didn’t let him rest in peace. He qualified for the scholarship once again in 2013.This time he got admission in Central Training Establishment Hyderabad. On successful completion of the training he was picked up by IndiGo Airlines. He is now a copilot and is really on top of the world, as he has realized his long cherished dream.

The only thing Shrikant Pantawane had initially was an iron will. With the power of determination and a little sprinkling of destiny, he managed to achieve what he had only dreamt of as a child. The inspirational story of this auto-driver just shows that if you have a dream coupled with determination, the destiny gives you wings to fly high. IndiGo, shared on micro-blogging site Twitter, an excerpt of Mr Pantawane’s exceptional story which features in their in-house magazine for the month.