“I was just doing my job, I am no hero! It’s been more than two decades but I still find it difficult to talk about what happened that day. I have blocked those memories or at least I have tried to. Every time there is a mention of Uphaar, the images of 13th June 1997 come flashing back. I can still hear the cries for help, I can still smell the smoke and see the pile of bodies lying down. The day we all went to see how reel life heroes portray the life of real life army men on the big screen, in the film Border. Things were fine till interval but after that the projector failed to roll and we could see smoke rising from the side screen. I knew something was very wrong.
People make me out to be a hero, but at that time I was a part of the rescue operation. I could not see people dying, any army officer would have done what I did, we are trained to save lives. Even after giving my 100 percent, I could not save Captain Majinder Singh Bhinder, his wife Mrs Roop Bhinder & their son Rustin.
When I go for movies even today, invariably I look for emergency exits and fire extinguishers. I am always anticipating another Uphaar. I wish I could save those 59 lives that day.
Life is a roller coaster and like everyone mine was a crazy one too. Army has given me lot of experience and many life lessons. I have made many friends and some have been like family till date. I don’t understand why are people shocked to see when someone wants to be a part of the other person’s success. I saw some shocked faces when I went to cheer Major Deep Kumar Ahlawat as he got the Arjuna award for 2004 in equestrian. I believe in living not just for yourself, but being a part of others’ success even if they happen to be rivals.
Army is a different lifestyle altogether. We stay away from our close family members to protect our bigger family whom we’ve never met and might never even meet. Nothing can beat a normal day on duty in the Army, the experience is absolutely priceless. Today I have many awards, medals but if asked what is it that is the most close to my heart I would say it’s all the memories that I have from day one into the Army. One of the special day that I remember, is 61st Cavalry which is the most memorable day of my career.
Every day has been a new learning since 1995 in Army. My Father was into Army and I was always keen to join the force. Army men are so selfless and I used to wonder how my Father works for the protection of people who are strangers but only when I joined Army I realised that it comes out of love and duty for the country.
Until 2008 I never thought I would ever get married but then I met Manisha who changed my perspective. I knew she was the one and we got married and have an 6 year old son who completes our family. He loves to hear about my and my wife’s experiences. Although he is too young to understand Asian games or recognitions, he curiously asks us about our work and past achievements. Once while I was talking to someone during an interview, he observed everything that I was talking about and then congratulated me for winning the Arjuna award. He showed me his thumb with a smile while the journalist congratulated me for being the only one to have won 3 consecutive medals in the three Asian games and being the only army office to have conferred with Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak. I saw a spark in my 6 year old champ and I saw the same excitement that I had while growing up to see my Father.
It feels good to see the respect and love in the young generation for people working for the country.”
These are the real life Raagdesh heroes.
Story By – Mansi Dhanak | Mission JOSH