“He died, under circumstances when he could have easily saved himself. He died, mainly because he wanted to do something heroic for the country. He died, because he had no fear of death. He died, because he wanted to make his parents proud.He died, because he thought thats the most splendid fate of a soldier” These are the words of Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s maternal Aunt ( Mother’s sister), who is also my paternal aunt( My father’s elder brother’s wife). If you don’t remember Sandeep, he was one of the NSG Commandos killed during the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai: Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, Ashok chakra(posthumously).
He was the only son to Unni uncle and Dhanalakshmi Aunty. Contrary to her strong willed son, I remember Dhanalakshmi aunty as an epitome of tender motherhood. It’s impossible to measure her loss and makes me wonder how she would be coping with the void left over by her son. Probably he was her sole reason to live, and what’s life when one has no reason to live. Perhaps that’s why they would have refused the financial assistance, including the allotment of a fuel station in Bangalore, assured by the Govt. And when the whole world remembers her son on the first anniversary, its lot more sorrowful for the family.Its like scabs of old wounds are torn open, all over again, and for many-many years to come.
He was a Hero even before his death. He was one of the idols in our family. He was the benchmark and whenever annoyed, my father would tell us to learn from this lad. I was a tad bit envious of him, for all the attention he received. He was a Lieutenant when I was barely in college and struggling with my uncertain future in the world, full of jobless engineers, architects and MBAs. He was a commissioned officer in the Indian army, earning what I could only dream of. When I passed out of college, that was my biggest motivation: I wanted to be richer and more successful than him. I was naïve to quantum success in terms of mere currency notes earned. He has become the hero of a nation, defending a permanent place in the history of modern India.
Last I had been to their apartment was in 2004, when I worked in India and had gone on a meeting to Bangalore. I was treated with some fine home cooked chicken and kerala food and she made Gulab Jamuns, specially for me. I had gone in the afternoon and since I had had my Lunch, she made me stay until the diner. She was alone at the apartment and she made me see all the photo albums of Sandeep, including his passing out parade at the NDA Pune, saluting in front of his proud parents (Coming to more than a thousand photographs). I remember when Sandeep came on vacations to his taravadu (Ancestral home), it was nothing short of a festivity. I remember his mother mention his fondness for seafood and kerala delicacies like Puttu/kadala and appam and how the entire family would join in the food preparations for his arrival. Kalumukaya ( Mussels) fry was his favorite.
He is a true hero and his death is a great loss for the country. But I wish a lot more that he was alive and Dhanalakshmi Aunty was her old, cheerful self. I have not been to their place since the tragedy happened, being away from the country and visiting once a year, but I would like to go to her on my next visit and assure her that she can look up to me as her son. I pray that almighty provide her enough strength to accept the fact and move forward with her life. Hope almighty provides her another reason to live.