Having been a music lover, I have been to a few music shows and since my kids are fond of football, I have witnessed few live matches too. Many of us might have been through this experience of watching a celebrity’s show or a game live. So how does it feel when you are watching a celebrity perform live or watch a match which has celebrity players? There is a certain buzz in the air, there is noise all over, the fans are cheering for their celebrity and sometimes trying their best to get close to the celebrity, some trying to click a picture, get an autograph, some come with posters etc.
Now, think about this. How does it feel to be in a room that also houses a few war veterans? There is a feeling of awe and respect in the air. There is a certain seriousness in the room when one thinks of the sacrifices of the comrades of these veterans, there is also a sense of pride. But at the end of it, there are Goosebumps galore.
I recently attended one such event on 15th Dec’2019. This was the 1971 Vijay Diwas Commemoration and Felicitation function organized by Major Akshay Girish Memorial Trust. In other words, this function was being held to felicitate 7 War Veterans of the Indo Pak War of 1971. These were the men who had witnessed the formation of a nation (Bangladesh), they could proudly claim to be a part of those who helped liberate the people there from the various atrocities being inflicted upon them.
I was particularly very happy to see a full house for this function. The auditorium where this function was being held was packed. It was really heartening to see that people had taken out time from their busy schedule to attend this function on a Sunday morning. There were school students, NCC Cadets, defence aspirants and people from various walks of life, most of them locals but some of us who lived away from Bengaluru but were there for this function only.
The Beginning / Background
The students of Chaitanya Public School Yelahanka presented a song in Kannada. This was followed by a small presentation on the work done by the Major Akshay Girish Memorial Trust.
For those who were new to Major Akshay Girish Memorial Trust, this trust in involved in a lot of activities in schools and colleges. They educate the children on information related to Armed Forces. They make the school children aware of real life heroes who in their own little way have been contributing to the well-being of the society, and these were people not only from Armed Forces but other sections of society as well. Apart from schools, the members of the Trust along with a few Veterans also address college students with regards to a career in Uniformed Services and give them relevant information for the same. Apart from this, they also provide scholarship to select students and last year they were also able to get all weather school bags sent to students of a boarding school in Ladakh.
Time for some History
After this brief presentation, it was time for the Guest Speaker Col D P K Pillay to take over. A researcher par excellence, Col Pillay, true to his style appraised the audience about the events to the run up to the 1971 Indo Pak War, the Battle of Longewala, Operation Trident, Operation Python, the subsequent surrender, capture of 93000 POWs and their release later and the formation of Bangladesh. He reiterated that ours is a great country, Unity among people of all religions, keeping our differences aside and fighting for a common cause has been and is our key strength and our Armed Forces personnel have always strived to uphold the legacy and the true values of our nation. On our part as citizens, we ought to do our bit and be worthy of the sacrifices made by these great men.
A token of appreciation and gratitude
The main purpose of this function was the felicitation of the War Veterans of the 1971 Indo Pak area and so it was time now to call on some of the Heroes of this important event in history.
We were first introduced to an Audio Visual (AV) clip of Sq. Ldr. J D Kumar, who was a part of the 1971 war but who has been MIA (Missing in Action) since then. His family awaits his return after 48 years and in his absence, it was his daughter (Mrs. Kavita Bhakoo) who was felicitated.
Another AV of the Veterans followed, where each of these men spoke about their experiences, their inspiration to join Indian Army/ Air Force and about their role during this war. Of course, the AV certainly had this statement ‘If I would get a chance, I would join in and do this all over again’. A statement that I so commonly hear from the Veterans, all the time. This time it was Wg. Cdr. J C Gehlawat VrC saying it.
The Veterans who were felicitated at the event included Lt. Col A. Krishnamoorthy (I must mention here that he is 91 years old. He led 6 Garhwal Rifles in battles in the Western Sector), Maj Gen Ian Cardozo AVSM. Sena Medal (The first war disabled officer of the Indian Army to command a battalion and a brigade), Nk Subedar C D Vijaykumar (an expert in mine laying & bridge demolitions), Col TNC Vijaysarathy VSM (Madras Regiment, who fought deep in East Pakistan till it became Bangladesh) , Sub P. Kuppam (boxer, fighter, bridge builder & transporter) & Wg Cdr. J S Gahlawat, VrC (involved in many missions that destroyed important targets in Pakistan).
The Legend Speaks
This felicitation was followed by a brief speech by Maj. Gen. Ian Cardozo. While his tale of courage and determination would be known to those who know about our Armed Forces but, to hear about it from the man himself, is an honour and experience to cherish. He also mentioned about how the 3 Jats Battalion, which consisted of 50% Haryanvi Jats and 50% Khemkhani Muslims captured Dograi. The camaraderie & the leadership skills of the Faujis is a well-known fact and he only reiterated it with more tales from his service days. Towards the end of his talk, he also quoted Field Marshal Manekshaw and the advice Maj Gen Cardozo had received from him. I am assured that the youngsters and defence enthusiasts present in the audience must have been deeply inspired by the words of encouragement and motivation at the end of his talk.
Let’s lighten up a bit
After a brief and somber narration of Maj Gen Ian’s injury and subsequent struggle, we enjoyed a video of a song sung by an Indo-Tibetan Border Police soldier. Like most Faujis, this young man too is very talented and did full justice to the song ‘Teri Mitti’ from Kesari. An absolute joy to hear him.
Time to remember those who have gone
As a part of the felicitation, Major Akshay Girish Memorial Trust had invited the members of the family of some of our soldiers Killed in Action. It was time for the felicitation of some of these brave women who had lost their beloved for they had given up their lives in the service of the nation. These were Mrs. Charulata Acharya (Wife of Major Padmapani Acharya) , Mrs. Shakuntala Bhandarkar (Wife of Lt. Col. Ajit Bhandarkar) , Mrs. Salma Shafeeq (wife of Major Shafeeq Mohd. Khan Ghori), Mrs. Padma Sangali (Wife of Major Ashok Sangali) , Mrs. Beena Thomas (Wife of Col. Jojan Thomas) , Mr. Shivarajan (Father of Lt. Col Niranjan E K)
There was a small presentation about these women and their children as to how they were before tragedy struck and how they had continued with their lives, brought up their children and some of them had even been working to give back to the society. The one thought that I had in mind at that time was that the person because of whom they were here himself was missing. (Certainly no intention to belittle the efforts of these family members)
I once read a post on Twitter saying that ‘God always found the strongest women and paired them with soldiers’. Seeing these Veer Naaris and interacting with them just proved it that this statement was true to the core.
Apart from the families of the brave hearts, the Kargil Hero from Bengaluru Capt. Naveen Nagappa too was felicitated.
Time to hear the views of another distinguished person
It is one thing reading articles about brave hearts and their families or our veterans but it is another thing to hear someone like Air Commodore Chandrasekhar speak. It was painful to hear about the efforts he had to take to set up the National Military Memorial and also for having the tallest flag mast in India for our Tricolor, at Bengaluru. The gist of his address to the audience was that we don’t need to be at a special place, hold a special position and have special qualities to do our bit for our Nation. We can do so in our own little way. We just need the intentions to do that and most importantly need to have that kind of respect for our country and for the men who strived to protect us and some of whom even made the supreme sacrifice. This is the least we can do for them. Rest all would be meaningless.
A special meeting
It was now time for a special meeting. A time to meet Major Akshay Girish, at least for those of us like me, who had never met him or knew him personally. We knew him through the various write ups and the memories shared by his mother Mrs. Meghna Girish. We were shown a video of the brave heart which had his pictures, right from his childhood till the time he was here. It had anecdotes by family and friends. At the end of this video, I was left teary eyed and with a lump in my throat. Immediately after this video was over, Mrs. Sangeeta came up on the dias and carried on with the function as normally as anyone could. Truly remarkable!
Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.
I have read this phrase so many times and my presence amidst the distinguished people in this function only made me realize that this was absolutely true.
Time to sign off
Wg Cdr Girish, the trustee of Major Akshay Girish Memorial Trust addressed the audience and thanked everyone who made this event a success.
The function was concluded with the song Ae Watan Ae Watan, followed by the National Anthem by the students of Army Public School. It is not every day that we get to stand and sing our National Anthem along with War Veterans.
I am a fan of Motivational speakers and watch videos of a lot of them such as Ms Priya Kumar, Mr Robin Sharma, Mr Tony Robbins and so on. But can there be any more motivation or inspiration than meeting and hearing people like Maj Gen Ian Cardozo, Air Cmde Chandrasekhar and Col. DPK Pillay talk. They are the epitome of courage, determination, persistence and resilience. They don’t seem to hold any remorse for what they suffered in their lives, but they only radiate positivity.
It is easy to buy tickets and watch a celebrity show or some Bollywood event but it may not be easy to meet such distinguished people as well as people whose family members made the supreme sacrifice for our well being. I am so glad that I decided to attend this function in spite of the efforts and the time it would take.
Thank you Mrs. Meghna Girish, Wg. Cdr Girish, Mrs. Sangeeta, Ms. Neha, Baby Naina & all the volunteers of Major Akshay Girish Memorial Trust for putting together such a wonderful function and enabling us citizens to mingle with such esteemed people.
Major Akshay Girish, we owe this one too to you!