Chocolate Hero

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Lakshya Vedh which means ‘On Target’ is the motto displayed on the emblem of the Indian Air Force, Squadron No.3 in the north Indian province which operates as a major close air support and reconnaissance unit.

The base—called Cobras— is a usual military base except that it has a huge photograph of a young flying officer, Upkar Singh Dhillon, in the bar of the officers’ mess. Definitely a bar is the most unusual place to pay homage but he has an ode in the mess bar not actually because of his valor or dedication in service but something different which is really interesting and inspiring.

Upkar Singh had a bad childhood due to which he had developed a passion to do something really great one day, at least for one day. At 17, he joined the Indian Air Force as Leading Air-craftsman in the Indian Air Force, Squadron No.3. He was in the reconnaissance unit, which was only supposed to gather information about the enemy’s military camps. He definitely did not enjoy a photographer’s job, as he joined the force thinking of becoming a pilot. Soon, he realized that it takes more than secondary studies to become a pilot.

I am only one, but one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something and I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. I will, I can.

He believed in the above quote and after passing his internal exam, Upkar Singh Dhillon was promoted to a Flying Officer. He joined the Indian Air Force, Squadron No.3, which was involved in constant reconnaissance in east Pakistan.

Upkaa Singh received his first assignment to gather information from the Pakistani Air Force camp in east Pakistan. Although he did not like the idea of being a photographer, he gathered important information successfully. Later, he was sent for various other reconnaissance missions. Gradually, he hated himself more and more for the photography business he was doing in the force but knew that he was not trained for other tasks.

The unit regularly played a part in the spectacle of the Republic Day and other ceremonial occasions such as the passing out parade of the Indian Military Academy.

Upkar was once selected to fly his Dakota aircraft in the republic day parade. That day was an exciting for him. He wrote a letter to his friends in other unit describing the ultimate experience. A huge party was announced in the mess following this. Since then, he made the mess bar his constant companion.

तू जिंदा है तो ज़िन्दगी के गीत पर यक़ीन कर, अगर कहीं है स्वर्ग तो उतार ला ज़मीन पर.

Every day after exercises all the unit fellows would gather in the bar. He wrote a beautiful song in the bar one day which later on became the squadron anthem. The song meant that if you are alive, believe in the song of life and if there’s any heaven, bring it down to earth.

Peace prevailed and the unit was kept on standby. Meanwhile, the frustration of the photography job was getting to Upkar and he decided to discontinue the service. He could not abandon the service without a special reason or serving minimum years as mentioned by the Marshall Courts of the force, so he had no choice but to return to the unit. However, there was no sign of him returning. He decided to quit the force anyways. His job was not taking him anywhere. He felt like a big zero with more zeros ahead. He vowed never to show up again at the base.

It was the monsoon of august in 1965, when India and Pakistan decided to go to war. Squadron No.3 was shifted near the border in north India. The commanding officer issued orders for bomber units to engage in the mission as well as the close air support and reconnaissance. The need of the hour was to have more bomber pilots than mere photographers. All the extreme aircrafts were used for bombings. In this war situation, there was no other option other than to assign the reconnaissance mission to an experienced flying officer.

The unit was under emergency. Most of the pilots were in action that day. Someone had to do this dangerous job. The situation was calling for a hero ready for definite death. There was a knock at the door, all the heads just turned and stared at the door. It was Flying Officer Upkar Singh Dhillon.

The commanding officer welcomed him jubilantly, on which he replied with a pungent quote.

A false coin does not run in the market, it will always come back.

He volunteered for the mission. It was a very dangerous mission, like inviting death without reason. However, his passion to do something great one day had taken precedence to all else. He had decided to soar where the eagles dare. He assured the unit that he will return as soon as the mission is completed. The mission was named Operation Click.

We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men. Maybe I will die but the unit will win.

On 22nd September, the day he was born, he took off to click photographs. For the first time, he was proud of his job. His flight flew around the Chhamb region of northern Pakistan gathering important information. The sky was full of smoke and thunder.

The scene above looked like a horrifying battle of the worlds. His aircraft sliced the winds traveling at the speed of light. The explosions all around sounded like death was playing a loud orchestra. Hell was a half an example of this sight. Suddenly, he was informed on the radio that the images were not clear due to pollution on the field. Without a thought, the daring officer decided to fly lower for better images. However, there was enemy ground fire. So, the command came to abort the mission and return back to base.

The mission was aborted and the aircraft turned back towards the base. The dare devil was thinking deep whilst flying. There was only one life, only one chance. All his memories as a child, all his frustrations intoxicated him like a snake-bite and suddenly he gave a signal to the base.

MISSION ABORT, REVOKED: OVER.

He had made up his mind to follow the passion he was parenting all his life. His aim was now definite. He was caught on the enemy’s radar. He knew his death could escape but he had a different dream. Nobody could have expected this out of him but he sneaked his way in the valleys like a true cobra and crashed his plane in the signal unit of the enemy’s military base. The control tower kept on requesting him to return but now there was no signal. The daring officer was not responding. The last words recorded were:

OPERATION CLICK COMPLETED: OVER.

He was killed in the crash. The war was won. The unit had lost three Bomber Pilots and one Flying Officer Upkar Singh Dhillon. The efforts of Squadron No.3 were recognized and all four officers, including martyr Flying Officer Upkar Singh Dhillon were awarded the Vir Chakra.

Young Upkar had fulfilled his dream. All the units he attended were filled with tears. The martyr’s name was in all the newspapers and radio announcements for the day, while He witnessed his achievements from the heavens above. He knew he was not going to be remembered as a constant hero in history but he only wanted to be a hero someday, at least for one day and the day had arrived.

Being a martyr or receiving medals was never a part of his dream. He died so that he could be a hero. That is what modest people do. They have all the roads in their hands but will say that they are mere lines on the palms. In the mess, lavish celebrations were organized by the unit for the victory. The Commanding Officer ordered a large photograph of martyr Flying Officer Upkar Singh Dhillon to be put up on the bar wall, to pay homage to his anthem and his good times in the bar.

He observed silence for a while and signed below the photo—an ode to our chocolate hero.

Captain Farmer

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Roop was deep in his thoughts as he sat in the train, for his home. He kept his head on the wall. He had grown his hair long and a beard that gave him a scruffy look. A young kid, sitting next to him struck a conversation.

Uncle, have you always had such long hair?

No, dear.

After responding Roop returned to his flashback, as the train entered a tunnel whistling loudly.

Roop was a captain in the Indian Army. He was an excellent leader, sharp. A part of his battalion, along with him, was returning from the army base after 6 months. They were very happy, there were singing and dancing in the bogey. He got down at the last station. He remembered how the whole village came to receive him at the station.

He lived with his elder brother, wife and their children. He was from a very wealthy family, owning acres of lands in the village. Being the only one to be in the military from the whole village, he was the pride of the village. The villagers made it a point to come and receive him at the station every time he made his journey back home. The last time he came home for a vacation he met with an accident in the village, which led to multiple fractures in his hand. He consulted the best doctors available but eventually his hand turned non-usable. He could not take this shock and from that day on he became like a zombie.

As the train crossed the tunnel, he started reflecting on his present life. He had been to the battalion to surrender his services for the country and was on his way back. He could not come to terms with this cruel decision of destiny. At the station, he was

welcomed by the villagers and his elder brother who drove him home quietly. The whole village was shouting his praises and everyone offered kind words of wisdom, but all in vain.

Roop was broken.

Day by day his mental and physical situation was deteriorating. He became quiet and reserved. He stopped eating and remained forever lost in his world of thoughts. It’s extremely tough to live a civilian life after having spent 15 years in the army. To add to that, he was now classified as a handicap. The clouds of uncertainty loomed over him and feeling of being incapable plagued him.

He would remember the initial months of the training and all the pains he took to pass the exams. He would laugh sometimes and sometimes cry in pain, like a mad man. He would remember ordering his troop and he would suddenly shout ATTENTION. He behaved like a madman for many months. His brother tried to explain to him to forget the past and move forward in life, but like a parasite the past would not let him go.

He was frequently visited by his battalion or members of other battalions, who at some point of time had been under his command. He was the most famous officer in his battalion. He always remembered the evenings which were full of fun and frolic, in the mess bar. He was the prime entertainer in the mess. He had pledged his life for the country, but his present condition made him feel shameful and guilty in front of the oath he had taken.

Frustrated, he decided to end his misery one day by committing suicide. He had an overdose of sleeping pills that night. He would have been dead but incidentally the pills caused him to suffocate and vomit. The noise woke up the family members and they rushed to his room. It was locked, but the servants broke open the door and immediately took him to a nearby clinic. He was saved somehow, but this made his elder brother very angry. He decided to have a dialog with him, as soon as he was fit again.

After a few days Roop was called by his elder brother to his room.

What is the matter Roop, why do you want to kill yourself?

I don’t have any other goal left in my life, that’s the reason.

Roop, tell me, when you joined the army, you took an oath to serve the mother land and protect it. You worked with your full dedication to follow your oath. Didn’t you?

Yes, brother.

So why do you discriminate the mother land on the border and here in this village?

Roop was confused and asked for an open explanation from his brother.

Roop, mother land is the same, whether on the border or here in the farms. In our country two kinds of people will always be respected, a soldier and a farmer. These are the most dignified positions in the country. You will still retain the same dignity while working in your farms, only the field will change but your pride, dignity, honor and patriotism will still be the same. Mother land will still smile on you and be proud of you dear.

He was numb. His brother’s words had touched him deeply. He felt for the first time that he had not lost, but had only changed the game. Slowly he started paying his attention to his farms. After some months, he changed his attitude completely and loved his mother land like he would on the border. He became an excellent farmer in a year.

The villagers were proud of him as usual and kept a new name for him and called him Captain Farmer.

Beyond: Spirit Of A Woman

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It was a bright sunny day. Mrs. Kapoor was leaving for work, when the phone rang.

Good morning aunt, Maggie here

Oh! Good morning child.

Maggie had called to inform her that she is would be coming to the city and staying with her for a couple of days. Maggie was Mrs. Kapoor’s to be daughter-in-law. She stayed away from the city but visited the Kapoor family often. She was supposed to meet her boyfriend on the following weekend.

She usually stayed with the Kapoor family, but this time the situation was different. Mrs. Kapoor informed her that their home would be under maintenance and refurnishing for a couple of days and hence needed to be vacated for that period. But she gave her an option of putting up at their other residence nearby which was on rent. She told her that she will talk to the lady who was currently occupying it and also assured her that it would not be a problem, anyway it was a matter of just one night. They both agreed to this. Mrs. Kapoor called up her tenant immediately and explained everything. The tenant, Sim, readily agreed to this and promised to extend all help possible.

It was very late in the night when the bell rang. Sim opened the door and saw this beautiful girl standing in front of her.

Hello, Sim, I’m Maggie!

Oh, I see. Come in please, but you were supposed to come in the morning?

Good I am here early no? So now I can talk to you the whole night.

Sim showed her the room and asked her to get fresh. She then prepared some food for her and invited her on the dining table. Maggie was hungry, so she ate non-stop without uttering a word. As soon as she finished, they both sat near the French window of the house and started talking.

Maggie took out a cigarette and offered Sim, but she refused. Maggie was a very talkative girl and loved making new friends. She told her about her relation with Mrs. Kapoor’s son, how they met, how he proposed to her and all about her past. She also told her about her future plans. When Sim asked her about friendship, she said that friendship is a relation of soul, not mind, heart and body—soul which is always seeking.

She was so excited and talkative that she didn’t let Sim speak at all. It was getting pretty late and they finally decided to sleep, in Sim’s room. Sim woke up in the morning and saw that Maggie was missing. She couldn’t understand this. They had spent the whole night talking to each other and now she had suddenly disappeared without even informing her. Sim did not like this, so she called Mrs. Kapoor to inquire whether Maggie was with her.

Good morning Mrs. Kapoor. Is Maggie with you?

What?

Aunt, is Maggie with you? She came to my house last night. She arrived earlier than expected and now suddenly she is gone.

Mrs. Kapoor observed silence for a while; she asked her if that girl was really Maggie or somebody else. She was almost in tears as she explained that Maggie was no more. The bus, in which she was traveling, had a brutal accident and she was killed. Mrs. Kapoor also informed Sim that her son was on his way to Maggie’s home with the body.

Sim was shocked and fainted on hearing this. What really happened was a mystery. Did Maggie want to meet her because she loved making friends? Did she want to make a last new friend before starting the heavenly journey?

It was for sure that her soul was present. She proved her definition of friendship. Her soul was seeking a true friend even till the last minute. She has gone but her words have given a beautiful dimension to our thoughts.

Some questions are never answered and it’s better that way. They defy the law of nature and exceed beyond science, beyond human knowledge; beyond all answers.

22

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Buzz! Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!

Yes.

Hi, this is the secretary, you are needed in the conference room after an hour for an important meeting with the president of the company.

Will be there.

It had been a wonderful day at work for Omi that day. He immediately started preparing for the meeting. The agenda was unknown, but he expected it to be a monthly team performance meeting with the President.

Omi held a very important place in the office and was one of the oldest employees. An hour later he entered the conference hall and saw it filled with many other department heads. He had come to the venue thinking it was a one on one meeting and suddenly the agenda became unknown again. He understood that there is a much bigger issue that was to be addressed than what he had thought.

He was nervous.

Exactly at 3 pm, the President announced the agenda of the meeting—LAYOFF. There was pin drop silence in the room. Everyone was looking at each other like zombies suddenly being exposed to reality. The President went on to explain the decision of restructuring the company, and attributed it primarily to not enough work being available at the moment, for everyone to be accommodated. What ensued were strong discussions for hours together with the majority still struggling to grasp the gravity of the matter at hand.

After much deliberations and cajoling from the management the layoff was agreed upon. The major impact was to be felt in Omi’s department. The number supposed to go was 22. He lost his spirit. He did not know what to do, how to react. He called up some of his seniors to discuss the matter. Everybody suggested him to be calm and composed at the moment. He followed their advice. He tried to take it as an hour of examination or a bad phase, which would pass very soon or at least he thought so.

The next day, he called for a meeting with his co-subordinates to discuss the issue. They met in a nearby coffee shop to prepare a list of 22 people. Omi had 5 names ready, which he thought would be fine to let go, but the bigger question mark was of the remaining 17. Others suggested some names, which were penned down. They had 5 teams running within the department and they made a strategy to choose 4 people from each group first and then select a final list from those names. They planned to meet the next day with the names.

They gathered in the coffee shop the next day to make a final list. Omi thought it would not be so difficult to chalk out names, but to his horror, it was tougher than he thought. No one could come up with 2 or more names. They collected merely 15 names. Now it was a matter of concern to all of them. This carried on for some more days. Everybody was worried and restless. Omi was so sad that he could not eat. He went to speak with the human resource manager over the weekend.

I feel so sad, I recruited and trained each of them personally, now I myself have to show them the door.

Don’t worry too much, Omi. Everything is for the best. Change is always violent.

Why don’t you fire me instead and save 5 people from my team? Anyways it’s all about cost saving. I’m the highest paid employee, take me out.

No, we need your skills and experience, Omi. It’s only a class which has to go.

Day after day Omi was getting tense as he and his co-subordinates battled to get the final list as the submission date came closer and closer. Eventually, in last meeting his was hell bent on finalizing on the remaining list. Finally, he and his team compiled the final list of 22 people and submitted it immediately.

As the doom’s day approached the whole company was buzzing with rumors about what was going to happen. He was asked to call for a meeting and let everyone know about the objective of this move. He decided to speak to his department on the very first day of the week. His department was a huge and they all gathered in the conference hall to hear their department head.

Omi was very nervous, but he gathered all his courage and spoke.

My friends, this is an inevitable move by the company. They have planned to restructure the company, so as to retain only the best people. I understand the pain some of you will go through, but to win a battle, sacrifices of many great souls have to be made. I believe that everything will be for best for everybody.

With doom’s day around the corner somehow the information about the list leaked. It was the worst thing that could have happened. Somebody had hacked his email and spread the list around. Omi was ashamed. Everywhere he went, people gave him dirty looks. Suddenly after all these years of hard work, he lost the relationship and respect that he had built with his colleagues.

Suddenly, he was to be blamed because he was the one who made the list. He had become a villain in his people’s eyes. Omi fell down in his own eyes, but decided to fight the situation.

Tomorrow would be the day. Omi knew that bad times lay ahead but he could have never ever expected what really did happen. In the afternoon, He was informed by the President and was told that the layoffs had been called off. He was shocked but happy. He thought he should give this good news to his department. He immediately rushed to his department after the meeting. There was chaos in the room.

Omi could not even think what was in store for his future. Everyone, especially those 22 people had now turned against him. Everyone felt so insecure with him that they wanted to throw him out of the company. No one wanted him to be there and they all rushed to the president’s cabin, shouting to throw him out. He was shocked. He felt numb. He felt like a criminal. His people questioned him. They asked him why he didn’t fight against it or at least reduce the numbers if he knew about the layoff. These questions sent a chill up his spine and turned him into a mere statue.

He was an emotional individual. He decided to step down from his position, if he’s not capable of saving his people, he is not fit to be in the department as a head. He resigned in the office of the President and walked away silently in tears. The President saw him walking out. He smiled, for his plan was a success.

He was one of the strongest employees in the company. The President wanted to let go as his growing popularity was worrying the top management. They found their position very insecure in presence of Omi.

He was an honest man and knew how to fight. This attribute of his always proved to be a thorn in eyes of the top people within the company, but to remove him out from the office for no reason was impossible. No small reason would be enough. His termination would require solid reason as it would affect the entire company. Therefore, they thought deep and came up with the layoff plan.

They knew exactly what would happen. So, they declared layoff for 22 people in Omi’s department. They knew when they declared the layoff and called it off, everybody, especially those 22 would rule him out and they will have the cake and eat it too!

First Year Junior College

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I scored a distinction in SSC board. 78% was considered a very high percentage in 1995. School life was exciting but I was really very eager to finish school and enter college life. My teachers at school always wanted me to go to a very good college in the city, so I joined one of the best college in the city.

I will, I can—was the motto of the college. It was an old college next to the blue Arabian sea. The location of the college was the first thing that had impressed me and next was the peer-crowd. My college boasted of the best peer-crowd in the city. The students were from affluent families of the uptown. The girls were pretty like fairies. I had never seen any girl wearing short skirts before, ever in my life. The young boys of my age drove fast cars with loud music. The loud noise and pretty girls covered the college campus all the while.

Coming from a lower-middle class family from far north of the city, all this was an extreme fantasy for me. I was not sure that if I would be able to cope up with this flashy lifestyle but I was convinced with the quality of life. The first day was the best day in my life. A senior student called upon me.

Show me your identity card and if you want it back, bow down to my feet.

I didn’t understand what was happening but to me she was like my elder sister, so, I bowed to her feet to take her blessings. she was quite embarrassed.

Duffer, I am ragging you. can’t you understand?

Oops, no, I don’t

I think she felt pity on me that moment and returned me my identity card. She asked my name and was also very kind enough to introduce me to her friends. The day was getting better. After some inquiries, I found out my section. It was section D, for the students who got admission in the last list—I was the second last lucky fellow.

Section D was a small class and out of sheer habit, I made myself comfortable in the second last bench. I dressed in a very uncommon way to them, so the girls made me a topic of comic. However, I introduced myself to the pretty girls. There were a bunch of them but the girl that stole my life was this girl. She was the prettiest girl I ever saw in life. She was in a short skirt and wore a sleek spectacle. The cupid struck me and I told to myself that she’s the only one I had been looking for.

I am ******.

Such a unique and lovely name. I replied her my name but there was a pause on her face. to my surprise she could not understand my local language. I really hated myself that day but eventually we both went along well and learnt each other’s language very well. We shared the same bench along with some others pretty girls and they went along with me very well because I was strong in Economics; really good with figures.

The day which changed my life was a stormy one. The city was flooded with heavy rainfall, but my love for the college forced me to attend lectures fighting against all odds. Luckily, the new friend, too, was there early morning to attend the class.

Hey, how on earth did you manage to come today, Agastya?

It’s your love which has brought this desert to the rain, ******.

She was quite impressed with my valor and suddenly I became the superman of the college, because of my strong commitment towards attendance. Even the Economics professor promised all the students 10 marks extra in next examinations. Soon, the recess college was declared closed for the day. I proposed ****** for a coffee in the canteen and she readily accepted my warm invitation.

Canteen was the most comfortable zone in the college. We bought ourselves 2 cups of coffee and parked ourselves in my favourite seat near the balcony. The corner was reserved only for couples and that day I was with the most beautiful girl in the college; discussing Economics.

How can I contact you for notes, Agastya?

Well, I don’t have a phone but you can give me your number and I’ll call you when you need me.

Great. It’s 5127202.

Can I call you today evening ******?

Yes, at around 5 pm.

We parted shortly. I accompanied her till the bus stop, came back in the washroom and shouted Yes. It was the first time in life I could manage to ask a girl’s telephone number. I was filled with tremendous joy. That was definitely the best day in my life till date. Immediately, I caught a train back to home and the prepared myself to call her for the first time. I spent the rest of the day waiting for evening.

The worst thing about time is that it never passes away quickly when you really want it to. So, I just waited like a statue in front of the clock till 5 pm. Finally, I called her up and spoke for 2 hours. We went along really well and as days passed my, we were the best of the friends.

****** was fond of roses. So, everyday I bought her a rose from the money I used to get for breakfast. I never understood whether it was an infatuation, love or mere likeness, but it was all so good. By the end of the year I was almost her Economics professor.

Time passed by so soon when I really wanted it to move slowly. The end of the first year was around the corner. I thought of a very innovative way of taking autographs of friends. I wore a white shirt and asked everybody to sign on the shirt. She signed too; on the heart. She didn’t write her name but wrote 5127202 on my shirt.

The day was over and I was very tired. I called her up to thank her for the wonderful friendship. The night was quite tough for me as I was not sure if could be in the same class next year. With all such thoughts in mind, I don’t know when I went far deep in my dreams of the first year junior college.

The next day the doorbell woke me up. It was the courier boy who had brought a parcel for me. I immediately opened it up to see the content. It was a greeting card. With tears in my eyes, I read the message—Happy 38th Birthday, from 5127202.