The best way to live and die...
It is country calling for Dombivali boy Mohith Mohandas Nair (21) who is all set to join the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun. Mohith is set to leave for the IMA in January 2014, and says, “I am unsure about the dates of joining as we have not yet been given them, but I should be leaving in January.”
Mohith will be leaving the comfort of the familiar - home and family - for a 1.5-year stint in the salubrious environs of Dehradun. There will be little time, however, to smell the flowers. Those 18 months carry a packed schedule for Mohith, “where I will undergo hard military training like reading maps and physical training.” On completion of this, Mohith is all set to become a Lieutenant with the Indian Army.
The young man stood 161st in the All India Merit of Combined Defence Services (CDS) list announced by the UPSC recently. He appeared for the CDS written exam held on February 17, 2013. He also appeared for an SSB interview in September 2013. A total of 1, 85,000 students appeared for the CDS Services examination held by the UPSC. Out of these, 5,000 students qualified for the written exams. They were then called for the SSB interviews.
A bright student, Mohith had several avenues open to him, but it was a chapter on the Indo-Chinese war that first set him thinking about a possible career in the army. While some students may have nodded sleepily in time to the cadence of their history teacher’s voice at the Model English School, all those years ago Mohith saw his imagination take wing, and, he says, “the real inspiration to join the Army came from a lesson on Subedar Joginder Singh Sahnam and his act of valour at the Bum La axis, which I studied some time in VI class.” When he was beset by self-doubt, Mohith visited the Shaheed Smarak in Dombivali.
This memorial is in memory of Capt Vinay Kumar Sachan, also from Dombivali, who died in the Kashmir Valley fighting insurgents. “It inspired me at all times.” This music fan, “I like everything except rock!’ he laughs, had movies like Prahaar, Lakshya and Border as additional motivation to join the army. Mohith went on to do his XI-XII from Model College in Dombivali (E).
Still holding fast to his army dream, he completed his BSc in Physics from D G Ruparel College, where he got 75.53 per cent. Through his graduation, he was an active NCC cadet of 3 Mah Bn (NCC) Churchgate, with the rank of Senior Under Officer (SUO). His aim, though, never wavered - whether it was about the army or literally the bull’s eye. Mohith represented his college in the team rifle-shooting event at the University Championships, taking the bronze in the event.
Yet, even medal-winning marksmen falter in their aim at times. Mohith says, “I failed my SSB thrice, because of my impatience and anxiety. Lt Col (Retd) Pradeep Brahmankar spotted my weakness and brought in changes in my personality. That helped me greatly.” After each failure, Mohith was a little shaken, and his self-belief eroded to an extent, but it was his family and friends who stood by him. Then, there was Col Pradeep Brahmankar, who is director of an institute called Apex Careers in Pune, grooming young people eyeing a career in defence. He says, “Mohith was groomed for the SSB Interviews at Apex.
There was also Cdr (Retd.) PK Banerjee and Hrishikesh Apte for guidance.” Asked specifically about the young man’s setbacks, Brahmankar says, “I knew he is an extremely intelligent boy, with passion and dynamism. I could spot his problem areas very easily and tried to improve on them,” that was the key to cracking the exam. Now, Brahmankar says that he has little doubt that Mohith will be the consummate “officer and a gentleman.”
He adds with the laugh of a proud teacher, “Gentleman he already is, now, on his way to becoming a good army officer.” Nobody however could be prouder than Mohith’s father Mohandas, who used to work as a marketing executive in Kala Kaumudi, a Malayalam daily newspaper, and mother Gowri, who is a homemaker. Older sister Namitha works as an Asst DA officer in the Bernhard Schulte company in Powai.
Asked what his family thinks about his career choice, Mohith says, “I and they too, do know, of course, all that comes with a career in the Army. I may be posted in conflict areas like Kashmir or even Naxal-infested pockets, but I am prepared for everything, including death.
One can die at any time, not just in the services. I may sound brave saying all this, but behind a brave soldier is also a brave family who is willing to let their son go to the army.” In these times, when cynicism rules and youth experience what we call the ‘loss of innocence’ very early, Mohith says, “In the end, I believe the best way to live - and, yes, die too - is for your country.”
About Bum La axis
Subedar Joginder Singh Sahnan (26 September 1921 to October 23, 1962) was born in Moga, Punjab (British India). He was a Subedar in the Indian army who won the Param Vir Chakra. During the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Subedar Joginder Singh commanded a platoon in the Tawang sector of NEFA (North East Frontier Agency). While holding a defensive position on a ridge in Tongpeng La area on Bum La axis, the platoon noticed heavy Chinese concentration opposite Bum La across the McMahon Line on October 20.
This was a preparatory to the Chinese advance on Bum La axis on October 23. At 0530 hours on October 23, the Chinese launched a heavy attack on the Bum La axis. The intention was to achieve a breakthrough to Tawang. The Chinese attacked the ridge in three waves, each about 200 strong. The attack was supported by artillery and mortar fire, besides other weapons. The fierce resistance of the Sikh platoon, compelled the Chinese to fall back with heavy losses. They regrouped quickly and launched a fresh attack under the cover of an artillery barrage.
Subedar Joginder Singh and his platoon stood firm. The platoon lost half its men but not the will to fight. Subedar Joginder Singh, despite a thigh wound, refused evacuation. His platoon also refused to yield any ground to the Chinese. The last wave of the Chinese attack, which was more determined and more forceful followed. Now, the platoon had very few men left to fight. Subedar Joginder Singh, manned a light machine gun and killed a large number of enemies, about 52 men.
But he could not stem the tide of the Chinese advance single-handedly. Ammo was exhausted. When the situation became desperate, Subedar Joginder Singh and his men emerged from their position with fixed bayonets, falling upon the advancing Chinese and bayoneted many to death.
Finally, the Chinese prevailed and Subedar Singh was captured after this epic battle. He died from his wounds and frostbite as a PoW in Chinese custody. For his inspiring leadership, steadfast courage and devotion to duty beyond all odds, Subedar Joginder Singh was awarded the highest wartime gallantry medal, the Param Vir Chakra, posthumously.