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Tribute at School

The Day of Rain : The Day of Tributes

Nawang studied in the St. Xavier’s Boys’ Academy in Mumbai. It is a small and friendly school where both he and Sonam had studied. Being only “Boys’ Academy” there is always a vibrancy that a boys only school has! The school is run by Jesuits Christian fathers from many years and they are a great educationalist. Nawang studied here for 6 years (1986-1992) (earlier he was in the New Era School where his father had studied). As a past student he was of course well-known to all the teachers and some of the present students also knew him.

The School and teachers had organised a gathering in the school to pay tributes to Nawang on July 9,2001. In fact it was organised to coincide with a day when few of Nawang’s friends from the Army could attend. We had Lt. Abhishek Singh (50 Armoured Regiment) and another Lt. Abhishek Singh (from Central India Horse Regiment) – both were travelling from Ahmadnagar. From Pune came Lt. Yogendra Katiyar who is in 9 Maratha Light Infantry. We had Lt. Zal Bharucha (48 Armoured Regiment) who hails from Bombay. These officers were with Nawang in the Officer’s Training Academy in Chennai and had shared memories with him. From Bombay sub-area army units were represented by Major Dharamveer.

The morning of 9th July, when the function was to be held started with heavy rains. Such heavy rains are a specialty of the Mumbai Monsoon and if it continues for long, entire Mumbai goes on an impromptu holiday. Of course schools are closed ! So we were wondering how we all will gather. But gather we did and the hall was full with friends and students. Deepak remarked at the beginning, “I am certain, in such rains Nawang would not have come to school”

The school had organised the function starting at about 8 a.m. After lighting a traditional lamp at Nawang’s photo, students paid warm tributes by reading out passages and poems. First speaker was Mr. Singh, or “Singh Sir” as he was known to Nawang. He spoke in Hindi with great affection. Nawang was his favourite student. From the early days in school Nawang used to discuss with him about possibilities of joining the army and Mr. Singh encouraged him. After his “Passing Out Parade” Nawang had visited school and spent almost a day with Mr. Singh and other teachers. Mr. Singh, who hails from Varanasi had visited 39 Gorkha Training Centre to meet Nawang on 10th November 2000. Next day, on the 11th Nawang died in action. He remembered a Hindi poem before ending his tribute.

And so it went on. One after the other, teachers and students paid tributes and remembered incidences and events associated with Nawang. Sonam was deeply touched and was almost in tears when he read his tributes (Sonam’s speech) ending with a quote from T. E. Lawrence. Deepak, his childhood friend spoke from the heart. What he said was relevant. He said “Nawang was an ordinary person. But what he did was extraordinary and it only goes to show that we all can contribute to life and Nation if we care. Most normal and worldly persons amongst us can be a hero”.

Finally Mr. D’mello, a teacher at the school ended with warm tributes and mentioned events from his association with Nawang. It was still raining heavily outside and one can also feel wetness in every eye in the hall too. Teachers, school and students had hoped that Nawang, as an army officer would be present at their various functions like”Sport’s Day” to bring glory to the school. But now instead they had gathered to pay a tribute to their glorious son.

No sooner the function was over children surrounded some of the officers and many questions were asked. Some were simple queries to know why they wear a specific badge, some wanted to know about life in the army, how to join, what was their training like and where they were posted. Mumbai student have less opportunity to meet the Army officers and their curiosity knew no bounds. Lt. Abhishek was crowded with children and spent almost an hour replying to their queries.

But all were not “general” queries only. We received an e-mail from a past student who stated emphatically that he would advice that everyone should join economic activities only to make India progress. There is no need to be in “risky” areas like joining the army. Of course not everyone has to join the army but he was reminded that without the borders being defended by them there will be no economic activity at all ! Both the activities, like most activities in a Nation, are interdependent and one cannot be taken in isolation without the other.

It was aim of this gathering that 9th July 2001; to raise questions, start discussions and pay a tribute to a glorious student of the school, Lt. Nawang Kapadia. And the event succeeded in doing that in a large measure, just like the heavy rain that day.