"The Phone Kept Ringing"
Vijaypal Singh, 23, of the Jat Regiment
On June 12, 7.30 am, a hand grenade tore Vijaypal's head apart while he was returning army fire from his post 10 km from the LoC.
Main barah ki subah phone karta raha, ghanti bajti rahi," says his inconsolable father. "Mujhe kya pata tha woh sari baat kar chuka tha." He's more worried about the 18-year-old wife his son has left behind. "Kya hoga iska?," he asks. She hasn't eaten or drunk for three days; doctors forcibly put her on a drip.
All the family will now live by are Vijaypal's memories and photographs. Which show him as a smiling lad who loved football, books, the outdoors and the army. Neighbours, relatives, well-wishers console Navrang, his father. "Desh ka tha. Desh ke liye gaya." He understands that. Yet he can't help saying: "Desh ka naam to kara. Mujhe to rula gaya."
Vijaypal Singh, 23, a jawan in the Jat Regiment, too had travelled a long way from hot, dusty Dhakon Ki Dhani, a hamlet of 250 people in Rajasthan's Jhunjhunu district, to cold Kashmir. He'd studied hard at the local primary school, fought fond parents tooth and nail to grant him permission to shift home base to his aunt's home in nearby Nawalgarh to study in the higher secondary school. How else could he hope to accomplish that childhood dream of becoming an armyman like the dashing uncle who was both role model and mentor? When he qualified for the army two years ago, he proudly walked up to his stunned parents, announcing he was a working man now. "I'll be back, Father," he'd assured the gentle Navrang Singh just three months ago. "I need to tutor Ranjit for his army entrance course. Then both us brothers will walk together in uniform. Won't you be a proud man then?" On June 12 at 7.30 in the morning, Vijaypal, stationed at a post 10 km from the LoC, was returning enemy fire when a hand grenade tore his head apart. Also the hopes of a family that doted on him, had come to depend on him. Inside the house one can hear the raw animal cries of his 18-year-old widow, Sarita. "Phool si ladki hai," whispers Navrang, "kya hoga iska?" (She's like a delicate flower. What will become of her?)
Crowds roared at Vijaypal's funeral
Sarhad par ab baj hi chuka hai nagaada shaitan ka/Nakshe par se naam hata do paapi Pakistan ka."
In Vijaypal's Jhunjhunu district-renowned for sending the maximum number of soldiers to the army-tempers and morale are peaking. At Vijaypal's 250-people village which alone accounts for 11 serving, five retired soldiers, the retired men are raring to go. "Take me back in the army and I'll teach those Pakistanis a lesson they will not forget," storms ex-havaldar Mahavir Singh of 17 Grenadiers. Not unlike retd capt Jagrup Singh of Johragaon who says determinedly-"Soldiers never retire. Once a soldier, always a soldier. I will go if the country calls." It was Ramsagar, father of Fatehpur resident Vijaypal (the Jhunjhunu hero's namesake), 24, the 10th Commando Para Unit soldier who died at Kargil this June 10, who best expressed the prevailing mood of chin-up defiance prevailing in the country today. Notwithstanding the grief of his pregnant 20-year-old daughter-in-law Sushma, the desolation of his wife, Ramsagar remains staunchly dry-eyed. "Kyon roey jaoon main? (Why should I keep crying?) After all, could there be a loftier death for my son?" he says as he turns to his sobbing younger son. "Tumhe bhi bahadur banana hai. Bhai ki tarah desh ke liye ladna hai." (You also have to be brave. Serve your country like your brother.)
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