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His soul sang Yeh Dil Maange More
His soul sang Yeh Dil Maange More
By: Anshuman G Dutta
... and Pepsi listened. Captain Vikram Batra, all of 24 when he turned martyr, was recommended for Mahavir Chakra, but went on to win the Param Vir Chakra
Vikram was like any other 24-year-old, except that his mind was occupied by guerrilla, not girls; bullets, not booze. He was a legend in the making, a champ who'd be cherished long after he was created and cremated.
Captain Vikram Batra, who fought fearlessly till his end, was among the very few men who was awarded the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) 10 years ago, during Operation Vijay. Well before his name was proposed for PVC, he was recommended for Mahavir Chakra (MVC), when he earned the rank of captain on the highest battlefield: Tololing. A commando with a trainer's grade, he was a table-tennis pro in his school and college days, and two-time best cadet of the National Cadet Corps (NCC). And he didn't disappoint in the real game, either.
Braveheart: Captain Batra with his subordinates after winning one of the missions
"He always asked for more. His call sign was Yeh Dil Maange More, which later became the most popular slogan for the Kargil war," remembered his father GL Batra. His cheerfulness was contagious, and his ability to crack jokes in the most tense situations, superb. Nevertheless, this seemingly easygoing guy was one of the toughest soldiers from the Indian Army, who kept clearing one bunker after another on the arduous heights of Tololing and Drass. His battle skills were evident from the very beginning, and the man who had earned an instructor grade in the commando course was very soon named the Lion of Kargil. "We had given him the title Sher Shah to communicate on radio lines. This title remained with him forever. Even the Pakistanis communicated with him with the same name," said Vikram's then commanding officer Col YK Joshi (VrC). His fellow officers remember him as one who always led from the front, because he knew others had a wife and kids back home. Even the then Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Ved Prakash Mallik, called him to congratulate in those troubling times.
After leading a series of successful attacks, the toughest challenge was when his Delta company was tasked to capture Point 5140 on Tololing. Knowing that the steep cliffs do not provide any cover against the enemy's line of sight, Captain Batra decided to lead his company from the opposite side to surprise them. Even though he was seriously injured, he led a hand-to-hand combat, and flung grenade after grenade at the infiltrators' gun posts. Their heavy machine gun, which was not letting Indian troops advance, was finally brought down, and the soldiers of 13 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles took over. "He called me right after he triumphed, and his words were, 'dad, I have captured the post'. That was the happiest day of my life," smiled his father fondly.
Laminated copy of the letter (R) which he wrote to his brother Vishal from the war zone
After that ordeal, the young lion, with his pack, ravaged through adjoining peaks, even though he was wounded. On July 7, at Point 4875, Vikram called his Commanding Officer again, just to say, yeh dil maange more. As if in answer, the enemy launched a counter attack, and Vikram rushed to rescue an injured officer. "He did not allow other soldiers to go, and told them 'tumhare biwi bachche hain'. Instead, he opted for a solo attack with his gun, but was shot in the head. That morning, my son made the supremest sacrifice for his country and fellow men," his father prided.
"He was the bravest officer I had," agreed Col Joshi, who still feels a lump in his throat every time someone talks of Vikram.
The soldier who defeated death on several occasions is still very much alive. "I've never felt he's no more. He was only 14 minutes elder to me, but has moved far ahead in terms of achievements," said Vikram's identical twin Vishal Batra. Vishal's face is another factor that keeps his bro alive. "I talk to him every day, and I salute his photograph the first thing in the morning. Sometimes, I can't believe that it's been 10 years since he left me. People still give me a surprised look, saying aapko kahin dekha hai," Vishal added. He's also visited the places where Vikram fought. Their parents, too, swore by support. "His mother is a very brave lady, and while Vikram called to tell stories about his victory, she would bless him for more," his father recalled.
The braveheart's bhai has treasured the letters Vikram wrote him from the war zone, and the words written in the letters speak volumes about the officer. "He used to write to me regularly, but I never responded, thinking my replies would never make it. But one fine day, I wrote to him, and very next day, he died. For months, I was in deep shock, and could not do anything. But then, I resumed office only to get a pleasant surprise. One of my colleagues handed me the last letter he wrote." A laminated copy was produced before MiD DAY, and it read, "Don't mind my handwriting. I'm at a height of 17,200 feet. It's very cold here." His warmth, however, still melts hearts.
Fizz biz in waiting "One day, we got a letter from a very senior official at Pepsi Co, congratulating us for the achievements of our son. The company wanted to make Vikram its brand ambassador, and was waiting for his return," beamed Vikram's father GL Batra. Even the SRKs would stand in salute.