INDEPENDENCE DAY SPECIAL

View from the other side

A diary entry and a letter from two soldiers martyred during the Kargil War

19 October 1998

20:00 hours

TODAY IS DIWALI. The festival of light, it symbolises the victory of truth over lies. Far away from home, in these snowy mountains and bone-chilling cold, my comrades and I are safeguarding our borders from enemies. Every now and then the valley reverberates with the sound of gunfire. With feet deep in snow and alert with their guns, our soldiers are responding to each threat from the enemy with twice the intensity and vigour, but my heart is somewhere else.

An image keeps reappearing in front of my eyes—that of the edge of my terrace brightly lit up with diyas, firecrackers that go up in the air and create a rainbow in the night sky, the auspicious time of Lakshmi pooja and the tranquility of the hymns that silence everything around me. All these images come to me in a flash, and I imagine myself roaming around carefree till the wee hours of the next day, cosy in the love and warmth of close friends and neighbours.

This is my third Diwali away from home. Sitting alone in this trench, I am consoling myself with the sense of duty that I have for the nation. Even so, the kid that somewhere lives in a quiet corner of my heart is getting restless to eat that sweet from his mother’s hands. Every second moment, that face—my mother’s—flashes in front of my eyes. She would be lighting the diyas right now, and her hands might just freeze at the thought of her son who is guarding the nation at the border. My father would be consoling her and becoming emotional at the same time.

Diary entry of Lieutenant Amit Bhardwaj of 4 Jat, who was martyred on May 17, 1999. Excerpted with permission from Diksha Dwivedi’s book Letters from Kargil.

Letters from Kargil: The war through our soldiers’ eyes

By Diksha Dwivedi

Publisher: Juggernaut

Pages: 168

Price: Rs 162

10 May 1999

C/O 56Apo

My dear Charu,

I AM IN RECEIPT of your letter of 03 May 99. Thanks a lot. I feel you write beautifully. You must write more often if your health permits.

I keep thinking of you all the time and the good and hard times we have shared together. Life is the best teacher and experience makes us all wiser. I am grateful to you for standing by my side through thick and thin, and making me a better person than what I was earlier. I would not have improved but for you.

You have finally reached that state of womanhood where you will be creating and moulding a new life. In creating a new life a woman is no less than a goddess, but the way she sacrifices herself for her child, she becomes greater than any goddess. For the baby you would be the world. You must give the baby a healthy and happy world, and for that you must remain healthy and happy. Kaajal would require to get used to the baby since the beginning so that there is no jealousy and she gets used to looking after the baby like an elder sister. She can help a lot in generating confidence in the baby and make the baby grow faster. They should be the best friends of each other.

Today we had gone to Tac HQ to celebrate the CO’s 12th wedding anniversary. Thapar and myself presented him with a pair of ducks. They will be kept in the offrs mess. You did the right thing by keeping away from -------. She is dangerous company and always causes fights. I got a card from Madras in Tamil, so I don’t know what its all about. I’ll send it to you. I’m sure you would have taken a wise decision to go to Madras but please take care of your health.

Please convey my regards to your parents, sister and Sriram. I love you and miss you a lot. Give my love to ma, papa, Lichi, Mallika, Kuchi didi, DP and Ginger girl and Anihita.

Take care,

Love,

Babloo

Major Padmapani Acharya of 2 Rajputana Rifles, a Mahavir Chakra awardee, was martyred on June 28, 1999. This letter was sourced from his family.