Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The 72nd Independence Day.

This Independence day, I shall recount a story passed on to me by my friend and course mate, Col Anil Alagh. A true story of what so many of our brethren in uniform have experienced. 

Karanbir Natt joined my outfit when I was commanding in ’97 - a young, super excited Lt as all hot blooded young men are, on commissioning. The Army’s CR system did not allow him a future and he moved out after 10 years or so, only to rejoin the Territorial Army as he was addicted to the uniform. His first posting took him to Jammu and Kashmir. A go getter and always in operations with his men even as a Lieutenant Colonel now, he earned their loyalty and respect under fire. One night his luck ran out. In a CASO, based on hard intelligence, as he entered to search a tiny outer hutment, a terrorist lying in wait in the darkness, let loose a burst which went through his throat and out, via his cheek bone. In those moments, as he fell, he successfully neutralised the ‘sonovabitch’....But he was grievously injured.

He was air evacuated to Srinagar and then to the Research and Referral Hospital within 36 hrs. Karanbir Natt survived. The day he was brought in was 23 Nov ’15. He was in a vegetative state as he’d suffered oxygen loss in the brain. The doctors gave him little chance but their selfless efforts, the love of his comrades-at-arms, the prayers of the retired unit veterans, his parents and his young wife, Navpreet gradually sustained and kept him alive. From that day began the saga of suffering and extreme test of faith for his beloved Navpreet, his children – Guneet and Ashmeet – and his parents (Themselves veterans).

Exactly, 2 yrs and 9 months(less a week) that the encounter had happened. Lt Col Karanbir Natt, Sena Medal(Gallantry), continues to be immobile and without speech. He cannot recognise and cannot react or respond.....he cannot eat and survives on external feeding implements.....he is unable to enjoy the sight of his lovely daughters growing up, waiting for their father to attend the Parents-Teachers’ meetings, their annual functions, their birthdays.

He's unable to understand the sacrifice of Navpreet and the psychological and emotional trauma she so courageously continues to endure. Here, I shall quote a conversation that I had with her, "Good Morning Col Alagh. Hope you and ma'am are fine. Today Ashmeet had Independence Day celebrations in her school. I got her ready and she said I want to show it to papa. I was thinking I'll send a picture of her with Karan to you and I request you to post it on Facebook with a write up about him and share it with the Indian Army and maximum people. It will be a tribute to his sacrifice. I hope you can spare a little time for writing and you're a superb writer". When I asked her to send her own thoughts as well, she said, "I can't find words, Col Alagh".

"My heart rips apart when Ashi says, papa kab uthenge? Mujhe school se kab lene ayenge? Mera school function kab dekhenge?....many more questions.....I hug her tightly and say, very soon. Wondering will it happen? Gunnu says he should be with us always even if he is in this condition.....we have him. The photos are of Ashi with him in the hospital. Gunnu made a collage of the good times because she was emotionally drained at her mother's proposal of this note on FB and refused to be clicked in the hospital". 

This is from Anil's heart, "Navpreet says that when Ashi visits, the four year old cannot understand why her father does not respond and gets angry with him in her innocence. To the comrades-in-uniform, you'll understand.......and also understand my special bond with him and the family, having been his first Comdt. 

More importantly, I would like my civilian friends to understand this post......understand the scars even our soldiers' family and children bear......while saluting the Mira Road brethren and others for the homage they paid to Major Rane and his comrades last week.......I would greatly appreciate that whenever an opportunity arises, you salute the Forces who keep you safe and your independence secure.....not just in their death, but in their life too. It's not just the one soldier you read about in the short note in some newspaper, it's a whole family that you and me (As veterans we too owe it to the serving) owe our respect to. 

I don't know whether I've done justice to Navpreet's request.....but I have tried. And I hope this message will highlight the saga of an army man's household and encourage the reader to salute my youngster, Karanbir Natt and pray that he becomes responsive again and bring back the happiness of his parents, his lady wife and his lovely daughters......a happiness taken away on 21/22 Nov '15 in the line of duty.

Jai Hind! Vande Mataram!! Bharat Mata ki Jai!!!

Waheguruji ka Khalsa
Waheguruji ki Fateh".


(a) Anil, you've done it marvelously well. I'm sure Navpreet would be eternally grateful to you for your moving account about her husband and the feelings that she and their children are going through.
(b) Had hoisted the tricolour on my balcony, promptly at 8 AM and saluted it with pride.
(c) It was an absolutely wet day all over again.

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