By Harish Kapadia
The Pune artificial limb centre has a variety of young officers who have lost a limb, are paralytic or handicapped. During the height of insurgency, in which Nawang sacrificed his life, many of his course mates landed here. But who says that crippling of the physical body of a young fit army officer cripples his mind, nay spirit!
A car driven by a paralytic officer (special car) was full with one without a leg in front and back and last one with hand missing. They were off to see another friend without a leg at railway station at Pune. Their friend was posted out. They all gathered near the compartment with one in wheel chair, pushed by one without a hand ! As their friend boarded suddenly a criminal jumped and picked up his bag and started running. Pune crowd was stunned so to see all these officers hobbling behind the thief, one limping, one on crutches and one in wheel chair. No shouting just chasing. As thief was caught in crowd the officer without a hand caught up and grabbed him. But in the struggle thief pushed his one hand away and was free. Minute he got up there came a crutch on his body from another officer who had caught up limping behind him. But still thief managed to get up and tried to escape. Before he could take more than two steps something heavy fell on him. It was the officer in wheel chair who had caught him and managed to tilt his wheel chair on him ! The thrashing thief got is better not described.
They returned to the car and there too had an altercation with another. From car one of them shouted “shall I come out and thrash you ?” The offender did not know that officer had no leg, one had no hand and one was paralytic ! But he just ran away!
In the hospital one officer had a leg amputed but he his neighbour had a feeding tube in his naval, rest of him was fine. So they came up with an idea to go out on a drive! On a scooter the “fit” officer would drive while the second one sit behind him holding the feeding bottle high up with the tube leading to his naval! What site it must have been in Pune streets ! Nearer to the hotel the scooter tilted and both fell off and the spectacle to helpers was another story !
But the spirit one can never forget was of Capt Vinay Katiyar. He had lost a leg in mine blast in Kashmir. He was from Nawang’s batch so we went to meet him. At first he said “I am not going to tell you my story as many come from that.” But when he knew that we are Nawang’s parents he touched out feet and we sat down for a long chat. After an hour he said “Aunty talk to the young Lt. Negi in next bed. He has also lost a leg and is very depressed, His mother came and sat for days but he will not talk and does not eat properly. Even hospital doctors are worried.”. So Geeta started talking to him and he was very reluctant to open up. But again when Geeta said that she was mother Lt Nawang, he started being emotional and said “Aunty your loss is far greater than my leg”.
We asked both of them to come out for lunch at a Pune hotel. Again Lt Negi , who had refused to eat or go out, said “Aunty aap kaho to main kaise na keh sakta hun”- (Aunty if you ask how can I refuse !) Sonam, who was with us, called for two auto-rickshaws (three wheelers) and there we were entering Blue Diamond hotel, best in Pune then. As we entered with these two tall proud officers in uniform, on crutches and one leg dangling empty, there was silence in the lobby. “These are your heroes from Kashmir. We want a great lunch”, I said. They said “It is a buffet lunch, but do not worry we will bring the entire buffet to your table so that these officers do not have to get up to refill”. And it was great lunch with these two polishing much of chicken dishes.
After a leisurely time Sonam called for two rickshaws again who were asked to wait outside. In a relaxed mood we spent time in the lobby looking at the paintings and chatting. The rickshaw chap, as they always do, was impatient and threatened to Sonam that he will charge double for this waiting. Sonam shouted, â€œTake what you want but do not disturb nowâ€. Finally as we came out and boarded there was silence! By address we gave he knew that these were officers from the hospital. As we reached Sonam asked for the price. The troublesome rickshaw driver got out and literally prostrated on ground in most respectable Indian tradition and said in Marathi; â€œYou sat in my rickshaw that is because of my motherâ€™s blessings. I regret shouting and ask you to forgive me. How can I charge any money even to themâ€. He was asked to get up, and Capt Katiyar, always with an apt comment which never betrays his handicap or generates sympathy said â€œ Ok Ok I forgive you. I would have otherwise shot you. Go nowâ€.
Such are Nawangâ€™s friends and such is an spirit of Indian Army officers !