It was in 1992 that my elder brother Vikram (he was the elder twin by 14 minutes) and I got admission into DAV College, Sector 10, Chandigarh. We were excited about experiencing hostel life.
Even before coming to Chandigarh, we were in awe of the men in military uniform as our school was inside the military area in the hill station of Palampur in Himachal Pradesh.
In our first year itself, we made a lot of friends from the defence background. Just like the two of us, they had a dream of donning the uniform. For them, it was more about carrying forward the legacy of their fathers or grandfathers, but for us it meant a new world, a new way of life and a desire to become like the legendary warriors we had seen in the TV serial titled ‘Param Veer Chakra’ every Sunday on Doordarshan while growing up.
Of course, none of us thought that Vikram would become one of the 21 recipients of the Param Veer Chakra, India’s highest gallantry award in a battlefield. The very first step that Vikram took towards fulfilling his military dream was joining the National Cadet Corps (NCC), Air Wing at DAV College. It meant imbibing the basics like discipline, professionalism, courage, fearlessness, camaraderie, building a secular outlook and leadership traits.
He attended camps like DCAT-1 and DCAT-2 and excelled, thus booking his berth for the most prestigious Republic Day Parade on January 26, 1994 at Rajpath. NCC also decorated him with the prestigious ‘C’ certificate. The next step involved serious studies to clear the combined defence services (CDS) examination. In January 1996, news came that both of us had cleared the written test. It was celebration time but Service Selection Board (SSB) was to follow and there was not a minute to waste. We joined a coaching academy near Chandigarh for preparation and also took sessions from a retired Army officer in Hisar of Haryana.
On March 12, 1996, Vikram reported at 19-SSB Allahabad and I reported on March 14 at 18-SSB Allahabad. Four days later, there was a real celebration became he was one among the four cadets selected from a batch of 32 aspirants. In fact, when the final merit list came, he was ranked among the top 50.
We didn’t know then that Vikram’s name would be written into the history of Indian Army in golden letters and the whole nation would remember him by his call sign — Sher Shah. His famous words ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’ at a treacherous height of 17,000 feet still reverberate when I think about him.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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