Monday, July 26, 2010

The true hero

I wanted to write this on July 7, but as most of us 'complaining type' people would say, I did not quite find the time, given the various challenges of life , this , that, bla bla bla!

But then, you think of some men, who have overcome so much, achieved magnanimity and won the hearts of millions and had constraints compared to which our life would seem like a complete cake walk.

It was 1999. I just turned 18 and was stepping to the next stage of life. I personally felt that that was also the year when I understood politics, life and developed interest in trying to understand how deep these things were and their importance and influence in our lives. It was the year of the nuclear tests, a year when Atal Bihari Vajpayee , as a politician, suddenly had a fan following among the youth , a year when NDTV and Barkha Dutt, then a relatively new, getting-popular and if I may use the word, extremely humble journalist were getting popular , and the youth of the country was getting involved in political discussions more than ever before. I like to think of it as the golden period in Indian television news reporting, since it was the phase when we had lesser, high-quality channels and people actually were completely fond of this new source of information .

It was also the year of coalition politics, the blackmailing of the ruling Govt by Jayalalitha, and with AIADMK finally pulling support, the Govt had to be relegated to a caretaker Govt, but by that time, AB Vajpayee and his men had won enough popular support.

In the middle of all this, intrusions by terrorists and Pakistani soldiers began in Kargil, Drass and Batalik and the Kargil war began. This war was the first Indian war I had seen and one of the first which had so much of media coverage. In a time, when such media coverage was very new, it was very welcome to see journalists risk their life and report from the warfront giving us sights of shelling, bunkers and indirectly infusing a deep sense of respect for the army personnel in the minds of the younger generation.

And one day, there was an interview of a captain. My mother asked me, what's his name? I said , Capt. Vikram Batra Little did I know that the name I took would be etched in my memory for life.

(Part of the footage is here )

The captain was speaking about how his boys were so charged up , and Pepsi's 'Yeh Dil Maange More' , a famous ad jingle then, being the war cry. He was cheerful and was joking as to how his soldiers wished that there were more bunkers that they could attack. As a smile came to our faces hearing this man, the screen blanked out, and Barkha Dutt's words came

"Captain Vikram Batra died on 7 July 1999 while fighting in Drass"

A moment when things suddenly stopped. A moment when without a word, tears came to our eyes, and you felt as if you had lost someone terribly close to you. A moment whose memory still makes my eyes moist. A brave young man, had sacrificed his life for the nation. I could not sleep that night. I am sure hundreds of us must have had this feeling.

That one day forever changed my outlook towards men in uniform. A sight of them, and I would feel enormous respect, and sometimes even a bit of shame that I could do practically nothing compared to them for the nation and the people.

What this incident also signified ( and I absolutely credit Barkha Dutt for this, though I am sure a number of us disagree with her today) was how the media could create an awareness in a population which did not even know the names of it's great heroes who had won Param Vir Chakra's and died to protect this country.

Simply put, a true hero. Words are not enough to describe the bravery of these men. RIP, Capt. Batra. We owe it to you.