This appeared on January 30, 2008 in the NDTV progam called Witness which examines issues on national importance in detail. This episode was examining the acute shortage of Officer Cadets in the Indian Army
”We are a family of cloth merchants. Nobody’s ever joined the army. Even Nawang sat in the shop for a year and a half. But he wasn’t happy. He would say, ”Dad, I feel as if I am in an air-conditioned jail.” That is the anguished voice of a proud father.
So Nawang Kapadia exchanged his starched whites in the family shop for army fatigues and was commissioned in the Fourth Gorkha Regiment in September 2000. He joined his unit in Kupwara, where barely two months later he fell in an encounter with Pakistani militants.”I was in Darjeeling after completing a trek when my son called to tell me. I told you must be joking it couldn’t be true,” said Harish Kapadia, Father.
But true it was.
Seven years later, the Kapdias have made their peace, getting on with life, their connection with their son maintained through a website dedicated to Nawang, documenting his short heroic life.
For Geeta Kapadia, it’s a life she says her son was meant to pursue.
”He was happy in the army. If given a chance, I would again let him go and join,” said Geeta Kapadia, Mother.
But since Lt Nawang’s demise they have seen how the India, he gave his life for treats its heroes. People in their community respect Lt Nawang’s martyrdom. But they also consider it his fate, the deterrent of joining the army. ”They said, ”we told you. You should have controlled him and forced him to tend the shop. He was young and you let him join the army! That was wrong’,” said Harish Kapadia, Father.The Kapadias are well off and were thus spared the humiliation parents of many poor army men have to suffer after their death. But even they realised quickly, just how impervious the world is to the scale of their loss. ”This man told me okay your son died, but at least you got the compensation money. And this was Nawang’s teacher! I just stared at him. I feel sorry for people like that,” said Geeta Kapadia, Mother. Geeta Kapadia now devotes her time helping other families, who have lost sons and brothers in uniform. And everyday there is one more realization that our heroes are falling for a nation that just doesn’t care.
”This officer died in Kashmir. He had worked winning the trust of the local people. On his death people from five villages had turned up. But when the body came to Bombay, there wasn’t anyone to receive it. ”Is it worth not even standing up to pay your respects to a martyr? I think the common man still values the army. But government officials are just rude. Then I always try and console myself that they are rude to everyone,” said Geeta Kapadia, Mother.
There are many like the Kapdias in India, who grieve in silence for those who left them so young, so full of promise. ”You know, I always thought Nawang was made for the army and will be a good officer. He would have done his battalion proud. He said you are saying okay to my buying a bike, you always said no. And I told him how could I say no. You are grown up and an officer now,” said Geeta Kapadia, Mother.