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Celebrating the unsung hero

Siddharth Shriram

The pleasant young man one observed in the Indian Airlines waiting lounge ended up sitting directly opposite me in the transit bus from the aircraft to the terminal in Delhi. He sported an attractive looking silver “khukri” on his lapel. I commented on the beauty of it to him and his eyes immediately softened and a different kind of glow enveloped him. He said he always wore that khukri to honour his brother Lt. Nawang Kapadia who died in action in Kashmir and also for all the soldiers of that regiment. He also immediately undid the lapel pin and offered it to me saying that he always offered it to anyone who commented on the khukri as this was his way of briefly telling the enquirer about the bravery of the soldier and also how the soldier may be honoured and respected in this way.

I was glad to accept this khukri and in the last few days have often looked at it and admired it; but most of all it has led me to thoughts of the nature of the soldier and why and how he might die in battle, or otherwise, and why and how he might similarly afford some other soldier’s brother to mourn his heroically departed brother.

Without getting into the polemics or morality etc., of war, every larger nation needs to have the community at large hugely respect and honour the man in uniform. In the last several years these men have also done some civilian administration duties i.e. attend to the internal wars and battles rather than mainly external ones. The armed forces do have a system of honouring heroes so that heroism becomes a credo of that fighting force. This perhaps does not happen amongst the masses of civilians all over the country who are more oriented towards improving their daily livings.

The gentle way in which Sonam Kapadia honoured his brother and his regiment is a small and a big thing. There may be a thousand other small and big things that the so called civilian communities can do to honour the battlefield hero who often gives up his life in defending our civilian way of life. Symbols of regiments (such as the Khukri) are not only attractive but also usable; for children to grow up playing with well designed toy soldiers in their historical and/or current regimental outfits is yet another universal process. Well crafted tales of heroes can become legends even today. Think of other ideas that can help celebrate the hero; the hero must be celebrated in the public mind.