A salute to Bengaluru's war heroes

Army veterans recall tough, memorable events from the battle field. A Metrolife special for Independence Day

They fought the fiercest of battles and guarded the country for many long years. Even after hanging up their boots, their enthusiasm and patriotic fervour has not dimmed.

Metrolife spoke to some Bengaluru-based war veterans who recollected their toughest moments on the battlefield and what it took to emerge victorious. This is what they had to say.


Brigadier Abraham Chacko in 2004.

We had to be fit always and that was tough 

Bengaluru-based Brig (retd) Abraham Chacko joined the Sainik School at the age of 12 and thereafter began his journey to National Defence Academy. “Growing up under the tutelage of a strict Principal, Col Somaiah, joining the Army was the only honourable course of our journey,” Abraham tells Metrolife. 

Talking about his toughest moments, he says “The 1971 Indo-Pak war, Operation Vijay and the Kargil war were the easiest as we had an enemy. Op Pawan, the peacekeeping operation in Srilanka, was somewhat easier but we had to fight the insurgency with our arms tied behind our backs,” he says.
The toughest battle was fighting the anti-national elements in Kashmir and North East as “a faceless enemy is hidden amongst our own people.”

“Twenty-five years with Army Special Forces has led me into dangerous situations. Our steadfast belief in the honour and integrity of the nation helped us achieve great success,” says Abraham.

Life in the Army Special Forces wasn’t an easy one. “I chose to be with the toughest of the lot — Army Special Forces or Para Commandos. Seven to eight months a year we were deployed to fight insurgency or anti-national elements. Being in the Special Forces meant that we had to be physically and mentally fit and maintaining that level of fitness was no easy task,” he says.

On the occasion of Independence Day, Abraham feels that the country that fought for its freedom from the British no more exists.

“We stand divided over religion, language and caste. A strong secular India can emerge only if we go beyond these and stand together. We should be self-disciplined and love our country first,” he shares.

Asked about his definition of freedom, Abraham says, “My understanding of freedom is to live a meaningful life and being useful to the society. There should be no prejudice of colour, caste or creed and an individual’s choice of religion should be respected. One should not be judged by the clothes one wears or food one eats.”

 

The sacrifices made by our forces is unimaginable

Commodore K M Nair (retd) recalls that his main attraction to join the Armed forces was the uniform and discipline. But the strongest motivation, for him, came in the early 1960s.

“Post the Chinese aggression on India, the government here felt an urgent need to improve the quality of our defence forces. One of the measures to do this was to establish Sainik schools in all states of India to train young students to join the Armed Forces. I joined the Sainik School at Trivandrum. The atmosphere in these schools was akin to that in the forces,” recollects Nair.

He joined the Navy in 1970 after his training at National Defence Academy. “Barely a year into service, I had an opportunity to see action when Pakistan declared war on us in December 1971. I was a young sub-lieutenant onboard INS Ranjit destroyer class ship, which was deployed to enforce a naval blockade off the Pakistani coast. While on duty, on December 8, 1971 we intercepted a Pakistani merchant ship ‘Madhumati’ carrying reinforcements, rations and materials for their troops in East Pakistan. As a young officer, I was directed to lead a party to board that ship and capture it. Needless to say, it was a thrilling operation,” he recalls.

The tough training conditions in the National Defence Academy and Navy teaches one to be selfless when one is doing one’s duty, explains Nair.

“The armed forces teach you that the honour of your country comes first. The operation of boarding a ship in mid-ocean with your men, in an unknown environment, can be challenging but honestly, your own safety is the last thing on your mind,” he adds.

Today, many years later, Nair says that the word freedom has begun to assume more significance.

“We tend to take freedom for granted and we don’t realise the sacrifices made by our countrymen to achieve this. More significantly we tend to forget the hardships our soldiers had to bear to safeguard this freedom. The sacrifices made by our forces is unimaginable to a common man,” he sums up.


Lt Col (retd) A Balasubramanian says
youngsters must join the Armed forces
only if they have a strong motivation.

Life in the Armed forces makes you a complete man 

Lt Col (retd) A Balasubramanian was part of the Indo-Pak War of 1971. He describes his stint in the Armed forces as the best days of his life when he braved the harshest of conditions and deadliest of battles with courage and determination.

“My father was a civilian senior administrative officer in defence services. As a class six student in Pune, I got a chance to visit the National Defence Academy. Tourists and visitors were permitted to visit the place on Sunday. The sight of marching cadets, the mess and the disciplined surroundings left an impression on me. In 1962, I joined the Sainik School in Kazhakootam as a resident cadet. Later, in 1964, I appeared for National Defence Academy entrance and got selected in the first attempt itself.”

After seven years of rigorous training, he joined the artillery section which is the supporting arm that assists the infantry on the battleground.

“I was posted to a camel-pack regiment in Rajasthan (the only camel-pack regiment of the Indian army) in 1968, December. I was stationed in Jaisalmer sector and this was, by far, one of the major challenges to handle,” he says.

During 1971, he took part in the battle of Longevala and soon after in Barmer sector, which any young officer looks forward to.

Balasubramanian says a career in the Armed forces makes one a complete man.

“We have no caste, creed or religion. You experience life in its fullest and learn how to cope with the toughest of situations. You also learn to be a humble person. I would say that youngsters must join the armed forces only if they have a strong motivation, courage and determination to do so,” he explains.

Post retirement, he used to run an institute that prepared aspiring students for the Armed forces. He has, in fact, succeeded in helping about 1,500 young men join the services.

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