he year was 1999, place was kargil district and operation vijay (kargil war) was at its pinnacle. With 527 soldiers killed, 1363 wounded and 2 fighter jets lost to the rain of bullets and rocket launchers, the Indian army was in a tight spot. In a small town named Drass an army unit was based. Major Gill was walking towards his commanding officer’s office. He was walking very slowly with pain which was visible with every step he took. He had received a very disturbing phone call from his wife in the morning informing him of his father’s death. He reached the doorsteps of his boss’ office and read his nameplate hung outside. It read Col. Sehgal. He had a reputation of being a hard task master. He had lost his wife to cancer 8 years back and the rumour was that he had become an insensitive and feeling less person after this incident. If the stories were to be believed then his son had drifted away from him due to his rash and weird behavior. The Major knocked on the door firmly. “Come on in”, said Col. Sehgal. Gill entered the office and strode handsomely towards Sehgal and shouted, ”Jai Hind” while giving him a salute. The colonel returned the greeting feebly. “Sir, I lost my father today early morning”, said Gill with his voice cracking a bit. The colonel removed his reading glasses and looked sympathetically towards Gill and asked, “I am sorry to hear that Gill. How can I help you?” With his sunken eyes fixed at Sehgal he asked, “Sir, the funeral is on Monday. Can you please grant me a leave of 5 days?” Sehgal didn’t flinch. He asked, “How many brothers and sisters do you have Gill?” Gill replied, “Sir, we are 3 brothers and 2 sisters.” “Are you the eldest or the youngest child?” asked Sehgal. “Sir I am the middle one” replied Gill. Then Sehgal said, “Whenever we write an answer in an exam, the teacher sees only the beginning and ending of the answer. Nobody cares to see the middle portion.” Beads of tears started to form around the cornea of Gill’s eyes. Sehgal continued, “The maximum you can get is my sympathy, if you want more out of me then I need to remind you that firstly I am not your wife and secondly I have a war to win.” Gill couldn’t bear this anymore. He raised his heels in unison and shouted, “Jai Hind”. He then left the room with his face red with anger and eyes red with sorrow.
That evening Gill was in his tent heating water to take a bath. His mood had not changed and all he could think about was the dreadful words that Col. Sehgal had used to justify his decision to not give him leave. The steam was rising from the hot water in the bucket. He took his official landline phone and dialed the number of the army exchange, “Could you give me a civil number? 194102-4537814” said Gill. Another voice from the other end replied, ”2 minutes sir.” After around 30 seconds Gill heard the dial tone. After the third ring a man picked up the phone. He had a hoarse voice and was panting. “What happened to you Ijaz? Why are you panting?” asked Gill. “Sir, I was just about to call you. I have very good news. 20 infiltrators were seen cutting the LOC and crossing over to India in Kaksar district. They are presently in Kaksar itself but they will start for Drass early morning.” A big smile formed on Gill’s face.
That night there was a lot of chaos and discordance in the tents. Gill heard the starting of engines, the yelling of soldiers and Sehgal barking the orders. Gill stepped out of his room to see what the commotion was all about. He stopped a soldier and asked him what was going on. He was in haste so he mumbled something about Pakistanis and infiltrators and ran away. He went to Sehgal and asked what the matter was. He told him about Pakistani troops sitting in a small house 4kms from the site where they were. The adjutant, a Major Surinder had received a call from one of his informants who gave him this priceless information. At that precise moment Surinder came to Sehgal and asked for his permission to leave. Gill interjected, “Sir, why am I not being sent?” “ Because you are under stress Major. I don’t think you will be able to concentrate on the mission” replied Sehgal. “Plus we want some senior officer here in the absence of all other officers just in case of any emergency” added Surinder. “Sir, when the jawans can manage without me then I guess they can manage without you as well. After all its just a bunch of infiltrators not the whole Pakistani army” said Gill. “But I am the commanding officer. I have to be there with the soldiers. If there are any casualties I will be held responsible” said Sehgal. “Come on sir; give these youngsters a chance at least. Even you know you can trust Surinder. Plus, if you don’t trust me with the mission then how can you trust me with the charge of the whole base?” asked Gill. “Hmm… what do you think Surinder? Can you handle it?” asked Sehgal. “Yes sir, I can do it” said Surinder in the same overconfident tone that went with his personality. “Okay then, it’s decided. I am staying put” announced Sehgal. Surinder face started glowing suddenly as he saluted the colonel and shouted,” Jai Hind”. Sehgal wished him good luck and shook hands with him. He briefed the soldiers and built up their confidence with a 2 minutes speech. As the trucks started filling up with soldiers and all the officers sat in the jeeps, Gill’s eyes didn’t leave Sehgal. He stared at him till everyone left and his mind started racing away in directions unknown to him.
When Sehgal entered his office after seeing everyone off, he heard his phone ringing. He picked it up and listened for some time. After 5 minutes he banged the phone down and ran to Gill’s office. He said,” there is a problem. There are 4 men who are buying illegal weapons from Ijaz. He is really angry because you didn’t pick up your phone. Anyways the bottom line is that if we leave right now by foot we’ll be able to make it in time to catch them. Ijaz can make them stay only for 15 more minutes.” Gill looked towards the ceiling and closed his eyes. “Come on Gill, this is your time for glory. Forget about your personal loss and do something for your country” continued Sehgal. Gill looked up at Sehgal and said with a smile,” Let’s do it”. They both ran out of the room and in 5 minutes they were ready with 3 soldiers and their weapons. They left the base on feet and walked towards the area that Ijaz had told. After walking for 15 minutes they reached the back end of the hut where Ijaz sold his illegal weapons. All 5 men got onto their knees and crawled towards the back door. They looked through the window and saw 3 men standing and seeing the guns laid in front of them. Sehgal gave his men the signal. On the count of 3 everybody got up and barged through the back door. Before the soldiers could even fire, a bullet went whistling through the group of soldiers and hit Sehgal who was standing behind everyone on the forehead. Ijaz ran and covered the 3 men who had just shot Col.Sehgal. The soldiers looked in disbelief at the lifeless body of their leader and lifted their guns to aim at the infiltrators, but they stopped midway when they saw Ijaz covering the 3 men crying loudly. Gill came forward and aimed his gun at ijaz and said,” Move Ijaz, you are on the wrong side”. Ijaz wailed,” Don’t shoot saab, they are my sons. I had called them for protection after the infiltrators left without paying up. They mistook you as the Pakistanis and fired saab. Please don’t shoot saab”. Everyone lowered their gun and looked at each other, thinking,” What have we got ourselves into”.
2 DAYS LATER
“Well, that was the lawyer on the phone. The case is in our favor. People are buying our story that your son mistook us as the Pakistanis. So you can rest for a while, and if that is not working then you can accept this small token of appreciation”. Saying so he placed a large bundle of noted into Ijaz’s hands. “Thank you saab”, said Ijaz. “That was a great plan you made and executed, and your son’s aim is so good”, said Gill. “I told you he was the best saab”, replied Ijaz. “I got a call in the morning from Sehgal’s son saying that he won’t be able to attend the funeral because of the F5 tornado which has cancelled all flights out of Oklahoma” said Gill. “I guess that makes your revenge perfect” said Ijaz walking towards the door. “You are right, it was not a revenge, it was the perfect revenge” hummed Gill as Ijaz put the money in his bag and walked out of the door.