When I was 10 years old, I was admitted to a boarding school – 170 km away from my home, inside decently vegetated and sparsely populated valleys, established in a place which is still more famous for its phonetics and appearances in Vividh Bharti announcements than anything else.
Even now, whenever I think of my school, the first few pictorial flashbacks remain the same as I had when I went on my first school vacation – a huge white gate over which “Sainik School Tilaiya” was written, two small cannons kept beside the gate, a defunct blue-coloured fighter plane inside a park, students running in colourful red, blue, orange, green shirt in the morning in a weird haircut, and a stone in the middle of the school over which was called “Immortal Tilaiyans”.
As a 10 year kid, I could only associate martyrs with essays, history quizzes, movies and songs sung on 15th August or 26th January. I read names of school alumni who died in Operation Blue Star, Operation Pawan and other similar combats. My first reactions after watching the stone were more bookish and pedantic than real.
Every morning, the whole school had to run as unit formations and perform physical training. Subedars from the Indian Army were specially assigned to the school for 2-3 three years to train us. These subedars were people with low emotions; they rarely talked about anything apart from running or sports. After serving for 2-3 years, they were transferred back to borders. We got a funny, but strict subedar when I was in class 7th. I was a super lazy undisciplined kid, so my frequency to encounter him and get punished was high. Even though we were punished by him, we used to joke with him during sports time. My schoolmates kept funny nickname for him which we used to shout during morning run while crossing him.
He was okay with our mass hooting, he knew how to deal with hooliganism. I faintly remember when was he transferred and we got a new subedar as our PT instructor, but I clearly remember returning to school after the vacation of 1999. My friend told be that Subedar ji is killed in Kargil, he was shot in his head.
The next time I passed “Immortal Tilaiyans”, I read it again. It says, “When you go home, tell them of us and say, “For your tomorrow, we gave our today”
PS: This post was published last year on my facebook page, but my sentiments are still the same 🙂