As a photographer, Arjun Menon has travelled and shot all around the world, captured some breath-taking moments, and has been part of some amazing shoots. But none like this one.

Arjun’s father was part of the Indian Army’s flying wing and served 22 years in the field. He received commendations from the President for his services as a pilot and field duties in his regiment. Naturally, Arjun looked up to his father and thought he had the coolest job in the world. To him, his father was like a lifesized G.I. Joe action figure undertaking daunting and daring missions like it was nothing. But sixteen years ago, he lost his father in a helicopter crash. As he grew older, his admiration and respect for the armed forces grew too. He realized that people like his father weren’t being represented enough. Sure, there were a few patriotic Bollywood movies here and there, but nothing that showcased the true lives of the men and women in this position. That was it. After several months of meetings with army officials, Arjun was given permission to shoot the Indian Army. And he did, in a way no one ever has.

Aptly named ‘The Extraordinary’, the project aimed to capture everything from tense expressions during a battle-training session, to the smiles shared while playing a game of hockey. Shot mostly in the northern and western regions of India, the project gives us a peek into the lives of the individuals who wake up in frigid temperatures and splitting heat, to train and be the protectors of this nation.

 

  • A paratrooper from the Indian Army lands back to base through yellow smoke after a jump from 14000 feet. A smoke candle is generally used to indicate the wind speed and as a geotag

 

  • A Cheetah helicopter flying over troops during a pseudo combat session

 

  • Indian Army aviation conducts some of the most challenging medical evacuations during natural calamities like floods, earthquakes or during combat scenarios.

 

  • An Indian Army aviation pilot gears up for a flight

 

  • An ALH helicopter making its way around a landing spot for a troop drop off

 

  • A pilot poses next to a Cheetah helicopter

 

  • The troops being dropped off for an emergency reaction drill at the background of the Himalayas

 

  • The Indian armed forces ice hockey teams practice on frozen lakes near Leh while an Indian Army aviation helicopter takes off

 

  • Even though this is just a combat drill, I could feel my hands trembling as I was photographing. And my job here was probably the easiest. There was so much dust in the air that I couldn’t even see my camera screen properly