"I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks."
It broke our heart to hear the news of 40 CRPF jawans getting martyred in the Pulwama terror attack last month. A single news of martyrdom pushes us to take to social media to express anger, concern, sorrow and anguish. However, as time goes by, we retreat back to our normal lives. We work, eat, sleep and follow our regular routine, perhaps without realising what the martyrs’ families are going through. For most of us, our feelings for something that has not directly affected us are often quite short-lived.
Things, however, are not the same for Jitendra Singh Gurjar, a security guard at a private firm in Surat. Gurjar wanted to become a soldier like his father, but unfortunately, he fell short in height by a centimetre. However, that could not demotivate Gurjar. A security guard’s uniform, for him, eerily resembled that of a soldier’s. He chose to become a security guard because in that uniform, he felt like a soldier.
Gurjar’s love for the armed forces is out of the ordinary, and so is his story. Back in 1999 during the Kargil War, 14 jawans, who hailed from areas neighbouring his native village Kutkheda, in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district, were martyred. At that time, 19-year-old Gurjar saw a letter from a martyred soldier reach his grieving family after his last rites had already been performed. Somehow, that moment triggered something in Gurjar, and he made up his mind that this would not be the last letter that the family received.
Gurjar started scouring letters and journals at the local public library. Visiting nearby homes of army men, he managed to put together addresses of all 527 soldiers who were martyred in the Kargil War.
Over all these years, till date, Gurjar has sent more than 4,500 letters to the families of soldiers killed in conflicts, systematically tracking down their addresses. He carefully pens down heart-warming words and does not forget to sketch a small flag of India. In his letters, he assures the families that he will do his bit to keep the memories of the slain soldier alive, and always signs off with a self-composed poem, praising the martyr.
His last letters were to the families of the jawans who lost their lives in the Pulwama attack. Over the phone, he is in contact with over 1,500 families of martyrs.
Gurjar’s devotion to the armed forces is such that he has turned his family home in Vikramgarh, MP into a huge repository, of photographs, data records, nearly 900 kg of newspaper cuttings, and as many as 61 registry books with information on “41,000 Indian soldiers martyred on the field since World War I in 1914”. He calls it the ‘Shaheed Sangrahalay’, which comprises a bugle that he bought from the local bazaar and a ‘Bofors gun’ he crafted in wood.
“I’ve also learnt to do the four-step march. That’s how I pay aam aadmi shradhanjali to our martyrs on Shaheed Diwas,” Gurjar said. He named his son Hardeep, who is now 16 years old, after a soldier who was martyred the same year that his son was born.
Sometimes his letters take months to reach the right address and sometimes he never gets a reply. But when he does, it is a reward for him. Captain Pannikot Vikram’s father in Kozhikode, who was killed in the Kargil war, sends him ‘good morning’ messages every day. Sometimes, he is invited by the martyrs’ families on their death anniversaries, but Gurjar, who earns only Rs 10,400 a month, is usually unable to travel.
“I’ve been writing to the PM ever since postcard prices went up from 15 to 50 paise. It helps that a lot of people send me postcards now… which I hope I don’t have to use,” Gurjar said.
While Gurjar stands in his uniform with his upturned, robust moustache talking of valour, any common man passing him by would see him as an ordinary security guard. But his golden heart and his massive love for those who serve our country are what really separates him from the rest of the crowd.
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