Vivek paused in his diatribe, his belligerence fading with self-realisation. What he had said, was not merely the outburst of a wronged man, it was the truth. And one need not get angry while defending the truth.
‘My friend,’ he concluded triumphantly, ‘you don’t know what it is to be in the Line of Fire’.
The man sat back in his chair, his eyes closed as if in realization. When he spoke after sometime, it was with a calm certainty that surprised Vivek.
‘I know sir,….. I know what it is to be in the Line of Fire……’
He was staring blankly, as if no passenger, no train existed, just a vast expanse of time.
‘There were 30 of us when we were ordered to capture Point 4875 in the cover of the night.
The enemy was firing from the top.
There was no knowing where the next bullet was going to come from and for whom.
In the morning when we finally hoisted the tricolour at the top, only 4 of us were alive.’
‘You are a…?’
‘I am Subedar Sushant from the 13 J&K Rifles on duty at Peak 4875 in Kargil. They tell me I have completed my term and can opt for a soft assignment.
But, tell me sir, can one give up duty just because it makes life easier.
On the dawn of that capture, one of my colleagues lay injured in the snow, open to enemy fire while we were hiding behind a bunker.
It was my job to go and fetch that soldier to safety. But my captain sahib refused me permission and went ahead himself.
He said that the first pledge he had taken as a Gentleman Cadet was to put the safety and welfare of the nation foremost followed by the safety and welfare of the men he commanded… ….his own personal safety came last, always and every time.’
‘He was killed as he shielded and brought that injured soldier into the bunker. Every morning thereafter, as we stood guard, I could see him taking all those bullets, which were actually meant for me . I know sir….I know, what it is to be in the Line of Fire