Since I'm incapacitated, my friends call me up all day and all night. Shahnaz and I talk nights, discussing our fathers, our dogs, the army and she tells me incredible tales of the fauji.
She told me an story today which made me forget my spider bite completely. Shahnaz's father was a Vir Chakra recipient and a fine soldier. My grandfather, who was also an army officer, spoke of Brig Mansingh with much fondness. Her story goes like this.....
In 1962, Chushul was a place which saw incredible fighting. The Chinese overran Indian posts and the Indian soldier fought back with an focused intensity and power, with complete disregard for the enemy's superior numbers and stealthy, sneaky attack!
There is saying in street fights that he who throws the first punch, wins the fight.
It is completely the opposite with the Indian soldier.....he never attacks first, he always defends. But when he defends, history bears witness that he then is unconquerable. Victory then is his and he creates legendary sagas of his ferocity and his courage.
So Shahnaz told me of 2nd Lieutenant Goswami who fought the Chinese with 4 other men at his post, guarding the vitally important airfield with his life. And withheld...and withheld....and withheld......till he was grievously injured and fell unconscious. Goswami was 24 years old. He lay buried under snow for 36 hours, regained consciousness and crawled away to safety! He lost his legs due to frostbite and stayed in hospital for a long, long time. He was later awarded the Mahavir Vir Chakra for unconscious bravery in the face of the enemy!
Now for the part few know.
A retired American sergeant heard about a lionhearted young Indian soldier and his lost limbs and he sent his life savings to the youngster.
2nd Lt Goswami got a pair of artificial limbs with that donation and could walk again. He came to meet Brig Mansingh and jumped smartly off the rickshaw and saluted sharply! Shahnaz says her father had tears in his eyes and he was thrilled to see the young officer in as good a shape as could be expected!
Do you know how this gallant man died?
He was set upon by goons, at the time Mulayam Singh held the post of defence minister. And was murdered!
A lion set upon by hyenas.......a war hero killed by common criminals....and no one was brought to book!
Goswami was born in Uttar Pradesh, 6th Nov,1938.
Mulayam was born in Uttar Pradesh, 22nd Nov, 1939.
One proved his mettle under fire and repaid his country's debt by holding his position till he was knocked out and literally overrun by the enemy! And sacrificed his limbs at age 24.
The other could not (did not) be bothered enough to get ordinary justice for an extraordinary man!
Shahnaz remembers her mother who flung herself on a sofa in a storm of angry tears and said "This is how we repay our soldiers" when she heard about Goswami's death. She swore she would write to all her contacts and get justice for the forgotten hero.....
Shahnaz and I fell quiet for a while...sometimes silence speaks eloquently. And I told her that we should pursue this.....write about passionate young men who dedicate their lives to the country and then do not turn away, no matter what the price. We should tell their stories. We should be the sentinels who stand guard over the fallen brave....we shall neither forget, nor let others forget!
We should be the watchdogs of the Indian soldier....and once in a year, the two of us should meet and have a roaring havan, just the two of us....where we pour our sentiments and sacred offerings in the memory of the fallen, forgotten Indian soldier! And gaze into the embers and honour those who blazed a trail and left us awestruck in their wake! And ask them for their blessings and a transference of the same courage, the same passion, the same steadfastness.
Note:- For the history buffs, read about the Battle for Chushul airfield at: