Article appeared in Gomantak Times - a popular Goan Daily
Kapadia: courage in Goan genes
wasn't even time to say 'ouch'. The burst of fire had taken all the Gorkha
soldiers by surprise. The pain was too much, the gore gushed out of Havildar
Chitra Bahadur's abdomen as he collapsed, moaning, to the ground. He was
unconscious, and young Lt. Nawang, having no experience of war or warlike
conditions, couldn't fathom what happened. Nor did he waste any time thinking
about it. He knew what he had to do to: get his injured mate to safety.
Unafraid, he edged towards him, straining each sinew, training, fitness, age and
courage, all on his side. The jungle shrubbery of Rajwar, in Kupwara, west of
Kargil, and northwest of Srinagar, is thick, and Nawang couldn't see what was
beyond him, he was following his instinct. On his walkie-talkie, he told his
comrades to give him cover whilst he went to help his injured buddy.
was the moment a mercenary terrorist sniper was waiting for. A single bullet in
his face, and vivacious young Nawang Kapadia was gone. In the highest tradition
of valour and sacrifice. It was 11 Nov, 2000, about 11 am.
Kapadia had been commissioned into the Fourth Battalion The Third Gorkha Rifles
of the Indian Army on 2nd September, the same year. Born in Dec 1975, and
educated in Mumbai, this lad's maternal ancestors hailed from Goa, where he
spent many of his holidays. Dr. Pundalik Gaitonde was his mother's maternal
uncle. His Gujerati father had broken from tradition and given up the family's
cloth trading business for serious mountaineering, a rare profession in India.
Nawang (which in Nepali aptly means 'leader of men') and his elder brother Sonam
were named after famous mountaineers.
could have opted for a life of easy money and luxury. But the call of duty to
country beckoned. So motivated was he to join the Defence Forces, that when told
he was overweight (and it was more muscle than fat, so more difficult to
reduce), he slept under woolen blankets after miles of jogging in a Delhi summer
(average temperature 39 deg C!!) without drinking water, so he could sweat and
lose the excess moisture in his body. After graduation, he joined the Officers'
Training Academy at Chennai to fulfill his dream.
was one lad, not terribly out of the ordinary, who showed how one has to pay a
price for lasting peace. His links with Goa were strong. It was here he came for
his summer holidays, in Sangolda when his grandma, Mrs. Mangala Wagle, lived
there, and Panaji when she shifted into her flat at Miramar. Once, not much
before his sudden departure, he came urgently, to care for his grandmother when
she'd broken her elbow and was recuperating after a surgery upon it. Feni, fish,
mangoes and a good swim in the sea…..that was the good life.
unlike many of his generation, he wasn't interested in New York or New Zealand,
but in the borders of his own country and what he could do to serve it. Rinipora,
Zachaldara, Nawakadal, these were the names that he read about. Mountaineering
exposed him to the best of Indian landscapes, and indirectly, whilst trekking
and climbing, to the discipline and patriotism of the Indian Army. He loved the
uniform even as a child, and died in it, a true martyr, facing a bullet in
to how one would expect a family in grief to react, the Kapadias have devoted
their lives to peace at the Kashmir border. Harish, Nawang's father, travels
over the world lecturing on mountains and climbing, and has authored several
books on the subject. Last year he was awarded the Royal Geographic Society's
Gold Medal for exploration, by Queen Elizabeth II, in London, the second Asian
to have received it in 125 years, putting him in the same league as Dr
Livingstone. As always, he used the opportunity to focus the attention of the
VIPs present on the trouble at India's border and pitched his words at Peace,
Peace, Peace. Geeta, Nawang's mother, plants large, shady tree saplings wherever
and whenever she gets a chance. Brother Sonam maintains a website in his
brother's name that keeps the world community informed of military happenings at
the country's north-western border. Together, they have reached out to other
families who have thus lost a loved one in an effort to make the peace process
gather momentum. Grandmother Wagle focuses her energy on the street-children she
Sheela Jaywant is the sister of Geeta Kapadia. As someone who was married to a soldier, she has been familiar with men in uniform, those who have displayed courage in its highest form, and a few who have sacrificed their lives because of it, for India. She believes that soldiers on the field never die. Their spirit lives on strongly around those who have known them, always.