In 2001, I was on a short sabbatical and traveling to New Delhi from Mumbai; in the train. Our Indian trains are really one of the wonders of the world. If you don’t believe me, get on it once. Nothing bad, it’s just really a joyful roller-coaster ride.
I was traveling in class II sleeper coach where there are usually double the people than the seats. The journey was of around 1,200 km and there it was vacation time. So, it felt like all the 1.072 billion were in that coach. I was enjoying as usual. The heat was killing and we were passing the hottest zone of the country.
On a particular station, a small group of young men entered the coach with a blast. They were strong, stiff and disciplined headed by another young man who was a little older than the others. I figured that these are military men but was reluctant, and little afraid, to ask.
My curiosity was increasing, I had to do something to get the answers. So, I gathered all my courage and asked the elder man about their existence. To my surprise, I was right and they belonged to the military—Indian Air Force.
I greeted the group with a salute and we started talking. In a little while, I came to know that they couldn’t manage a reservation and would be covering the entire journey standing or sitting near the corridor. I was upset about this fact that our soldiers are guarding us all day and night but we don’t even have few seats for them. While I was thinking all of this, my heart told me to stop blaming and BE THE CHANGE!
I took a spontaneous decision and offered my seat to all the officers. It wasn’t a long seat but good enough to seat all of us. The group head agreed—not easily—after learning my selfless intentions. We all sat on the seat the whole evening and night till next morning.
In the group was LAC Kiran Bose.
Kiran was one of the first military officers whom I interacted for such a long time. He was huge, powerful like a mountain and soft, compassionate like a fruit. He spoke with respectful language and with utter confidence. His team was equally disciplined, soft-spoken and little naughty.
After they got down at their station, Kiran invited me to their camp to spend a few days with them.
I visited their camp upon his genuine request. I was welcomed by my new friend and was assigned a cot in their billet. I did some time-pass in the day and in the night we had several rounds of rum along with unforgettable conversations.
The next day we went to see The Garden City of India for the first time; on his motorcycle. It was such a glorious moment to ride with an officer.
It’s 2018 now and he has retired from his 20 years short service and has become a healer. He runs a holistic center near his hometown; fondly called in God’s own country. In fact, after his service, he got a job in Australia but he wanted to stay in India to do something on his own and serve the country.
Such is his story of valor, loyalty, and goodness. I salute such men of honor who not only safeguard our nation but also make us feel proud all the time.
I have traveled widely in India by train and always have noticed military men standing the whole night without getting a berth to sleep or sit. From that day, I made myself a promise that whenever I travel, I’ll offer my berth to any such military officer who is facing reservation issues