New Delhi: “Recipe lete hue aana” (bring back the recipe). That’s what Tanvi Marwah said when her husband, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, joked about the tea he was served in the custody of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.
This was the only conversation the couple had between Abhinandan’s MiG-21 Bison fighter jet getting shot down on 27 February and his return via the Wagah border nearly 60 hours later.
A top source in the defence establishment told ThePrint that the ISI employed classic ‘good cop, bad cop’ tactics — while one officer punched Abhinandan’s ribs and slapped him, another walked in and made him speak to his wife.
Tanvi, a former Indian Air Force helicopter pilot, showed confidence, calmness and presence of mind when she got a call from Pakistan routed through Saudi Arabia, the source said.
‘Papa jail mein hain’
Tanvi was taken aback when she heard Abhinandan’s voice over the phone, which showed a Saudi number. Realising that the ISI was at play, she recorded the conversation.
Far from breaking down, she spoke confidently to the Wing Commander. Apart from the initial questions on how he was doing, she asked what she should tell their two children about the whereabouts of their father. A composed Abhinandan replied: “Tell them Papa jail mein hain (Papa is in jail).”
In the middle of the conversation, Tanvi joked about the video put out by the Pakistani military, which showed Abhinandan having a cup of tea while being quizzed by a member of the establishment.
“Chai kaisi thi (how was the tea)?” she asked.
“Achhi thi (it was nice),” he replied.
“Mujhse bhi achhi banayi (was it better than how I make it)?”
Abhinandan replied with a laugh: “Yes, it was better.”
“Phir recipe lete hue aana (then bring back the recipe),” Tanvi said.
According to the sequence of events firmed up after Abhinandan’s detailed debriefing, it has come be known he was hit by an ISI officer in custody.
While initially it was assumed that his broken ribs was due to the beating he received from civilians when he parachuted into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, it is now believed that the ISI officer’s punches broke his ribs. He was also slapped by the ISI officer. Even at the time of his arrest, he was hit on the back with a rifle butt by a Pakistani soldier.
Besides the physical beating, Abhinandan was also subjected to loud music and bright lights for the first 24 hours, to break him down by keeping him sleep deprived, as reported by ThePrint earlier.