Wheel of the Ultimate Brave
Balvihar July 2020
“Payal,Payal” my cousin Sejal loved calling out my name repeatedly.
Without saying another word, she dragged me to a rickshaw parked close by.
“Shall we go Neetu Didi?” Sejal remarked and just then, I realised it was a middle aged woman who was at the driver’s seat.
“Would you mind telling me what’s happening?” I nudged Sejal.
” I won’t spoil the suspense for you. You can talk to Neetu Didi till then.” Neetu Didi was all smiles watching our animated conversation.
“Hello Neetu Didi. Aap kaise ho?” I enquired and I was surprised to hear her reply back in English.
” I am fine, Payal. Glad to meet you.”
I got to know more about Neetu Didi. Her father had been serving in the Indian Army and had been fatally injured during the Kargil war. Didi had been barely 2 years old then. She shared about her brave mom and loving uncle who had never let her feel her dad’s absence.
“But why are you driving a rickshaw? Did you not go to school/college?” I asked innocently as Sejal and Neetu Didi laughed uncontrollably.
“My mom drives it during the day and I use it in the evenings.Saves time” Didi winked.
The rickshaw came to a stop. We walked into an amphitheatre which was almost full.
I noticed that there were a lot of excited school children dressed up like soldiers, waiting to perform. They waved excitedly to Neetu Didi and Sejal as we walked in.
Neetu Didi announced “Good evening. I am Neetu, the Drama and Theatre Coordinator from Captain Manoj Kumar Pandey U.P.Sainik School, Lucknow and this is my assistant Sejal. We are pleased to present a performance by our school kids on the Heroes of Kargil. As you all know, our school is named after Captain Manoj Kumar Pandey, who sacrificed his life for our country and the recipient of Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest award for bravery.”
The performance that followed kept the audience spell bound. I had no words to thank Neetu Didi and Sejal for the wonderful evening.
What echoed in my ears that day and on many more was this sharing about Captain Manoj.
“When asked why he wanted to join the Army? “I want to win the Param Vir Chakra.” Pandey had replied.
True to his words, he did win the country’s highest military honour but posthumously.