The places where moments reside

Heroes: True Soldier

I don’t know where to begin this post, there is no format, nothing which comes into the mind as it begins to pen down  thoughts. I am very fortunate enough to actually meet one soldier in real life, although he holds a very high rank but deep dive inside the heart every serviceman is a soldier first.

The man whom I’m introducing to you needs no introduction in the history of Indian Army but here is a quick snapshot for the uninitiated. Meet Major General Ian Cardozo (Retd.), AVSM, SM, the first war disabled officer of the Indian Army to command a battalion (300 to 800 men) and later a brigade (3 to 6 battalions).

My association with Sir (that’s how I address him) goes back quite a few years now. I was reading his book “Param Vir Chakra: Our heroes in battle” which tells the 21 stories of the gallantry award winners. I instantly decided to pen down a poem in honour of all those 21 soldiers on my blog. Incidentally, just month after that, Republic Day was coming and I thought of sharing it with the Indian Army. Not expecting any response I wrote a mail telling him that how much I was touched and what I planned to do in the near future with the same stories. Luckily he responded and gave me the go-ahead. Also gave me a few suggestions when the poem was complete and also approved it. With help from some really unexpected quarters, I got hold of a serving major in the Indian Army and apprised him of my crazy plan. I don’t know what was there in fate`s mind that the Indian Army approved the post and posted it on their official Facebook page (it’s still there after all those years, a poem standing alongside the hundreds of drawings and paintings received from various children).

When it all happened I was dumbfounded. I was a blogger with no standing of my own, my armed forces series in its infancy stage. When I shared this news with Sir, he was happy for me and wished me luck. We kept in touch through emails and he responded although later at times but he did. In 2017 I asked him if I could meet him over the weekend and his answer was yes. He gave me his number and we fixed the meeting. Contrary to whatever people might say but when you meet legends face to face you draw a blank when it comes to asking questions irrespective of how many prepared questions you must have had in your mind... It comes to just that. When he opened the door of his house, I was clueless on how to greet him?? Standing in front of me was a legend of the Indian Army who had welcomed a civilian like me- do I salute him for what he is or should I shake hands like a gentleman should? All I could do was to say, “Hello Sir”.

Over the course of 3 long years (in 2017, now 5) he had commanded so much respect that there was a different kind of aura. I was welcomed equally warmly by his better half and I start talking to him as a reader of his books. He has a small library which is filled with books from various corners and on various topics but he is a still a child at heart who loves reading Ruskin Bond and Malgudi Days. As a fact that he has also published a few graphical comics, our topic steered to that and he asked my suggestions as to how we can make sure that these comics reach many more people and readers? There was one on World War I which I could not procure from anywhere and he gave me his own copy, all author signed.

Those days I was reading the Flight of the Garud by Mukul Deva which told the story of the "1st guards" during the 71 war and glimpses of that started flashing in my mind and I decided to ask him about war. In every article online you would find his name most famous for the operations and bravery during the 71 war but he told me that he had fought in all the wars from 62 to 71. Below are the exact lines which I remember when we spoke-

“We were sent for three attacks in 1971. When we started, we were 18 officers apart from the jawans. At the end of the attack, only seven of us survived”.

“How tough it is to find food on the battlefield?”
“We found the first morsel of food after 10 days. Till then it was all fighting the empty stomach while we were scrounging for dal, rice in abandoned places. Drank water straight from the ground which unfortunately destroyed my stomach”.

“What was the first thought when the landmine went off?”
“My life”

The incident referred here occurred in 71 war when he stepped on a landmine and his leg blew. In the absence of medical facilities at that juncture, he amputated his own leg via a Khukri and ordered a jawan to go and bury it somewhere... and continued to lead the troops.

Maj. Gen. Ian Cardozo

The note he gave me
Due to the fact that on that particular Sunday he had other engagements too but still he took out time for me and whatever time I could gather I spent in the company of a very soft-spoken soldier. When I was about to leave, he told me “All those years I thought that Shwetabh was a girl. Only yesterday when you called up did I realise that you were a boy”.

I have never met any other soldier personally but what Sir has done for my future and the country`s all those years ago is a debt we could never pay off. For me he would always be the true soldier.

When he is not looking after the health of his leg, he is busy penning down all those 21 stories of the Param chakra awardees via graphical comics under the series name Param Vir Chakra. He also gave me his permission to publish our interaction for this blog post.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’ 

We at Memories dedicate this particular blog post to all the martyrs and injured CRPF personnel in the Pulwama attack. 

Heroes: True Soldier Heroes: True Soldier Reviewed by Shwetabh on 7:05:00 PM Rating: 5

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