Army hero to be immortalised in graphic novel

Updated: Aug 14, 2019, 07:19 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

SoBo family hopes book on Gorkha Rifles Lieutenant's heroics, which will release tomorrow, inspires generations to come

Army hero to be immortalised in graphic novel
Lt Nawang Kapadia (right) with his father Harish, brother Sonam and mother Geeta

There are many ways to honour martyrs and the family of Lieutenant Nawang Kapadia has chosen a rather unique one. His parents and brother have come up with a graphic novel illustrating the story of Kapadia who laid down his life fighting terrorists just 39 days after getting commissioned in the army 19 years ago.

The 32-page novel titled 'Nawang' will be released at the National War Museum, New Delhi, on August 15, when the country celebrates its 73rd Independence Day.

Nawang was commissioned into the army on September 2, 2000, in the fourth battalion of the third Gorkha Rifles and laid his life in the jungles of Rajwar in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir on November 11, 2000, at the age of 25.

Graphic novel 1
Panel from the graphic novel

The idea of a graphic novel struck the family since it had read books depicting stories from World War II in a graphical form. "This has been a medium to make the stories more relatable and vivid for the readers. Many of these comics have fictitious stories but are inspirational," said Sonam Kapadia, Nawang's elder brother and a banker settled in Dubai.

Over the years, a serving officer from Nawang's unit too mentioned these war stories that he had read in his childhood.

"In late 2015, I came across the work of AAN Comics who had been publishing graphics based on the brave acts of soldiers. I ordered the entire set and the appeal of this medium became apparent to me. The illustrations vividly bring to life the story. This visual medium was a happy middle ground between a full movie and only text. We floated the idea to Rishi Kumar of AAN Comics in early 2017 and he was very receptive to taking this forward," explained Sonam.

Graphic novel 2
Panel from the graphic novel 

"The first job was to gather as much information as we could about this so we could build a narrative. The family knew everything about his life during his growing up years, his motivations to join the army, appearing for the Services Selection Board and his struggle to join the Officers Training Academy (OTA). We had documented that well on the web-memorial (www.nawang.com) which has been maintained since 2000 and has now grown into a site with over 250 pages and hundreds of pictures. However, the few months that he served in the army and the actual details of the encounter were not very clear to us and somewhere lost in the intervening 17 years. We sought to fill this gap," Sonam added.

Gorkha Rifles help

Nawang's Battalion, as per tradition, had invited the Kapadia family for a Dusshera celebration when the family discussed the novel project with the Commanding Officer of the unit. "We also spoke to officers who were with Nawang during the operation and they provided information on what happened during those fateful 36 hours. Death of a fellow soldier leaves a deep imprint in the minds of his colleagues and friends. Even after many years, they recounted in detail the events of that night and the early morning on of November 11, 2000. The officer described their conversations, their state of mind and the eagerness that Nawang showed to face those terrorists and prevent them from causing any harm. The battalion was extremely helpful in providing us all the information. The young officers who joined the battalion after Nawang too know about him. He is part of their history and ethos which inspires and dedicates them to be of service to the nation," Sonam explained.

Rishi Kumar
Rishi Kumar, the artist and publisher 

In creating the story, the family also relied on articles written by Nawang's father Harish Kapadia, his friend Dr Mrinal Patnaik, his senior officer Maj Gen Randhir Sinh (retd) and recollection of many friends.

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Kumar first produced an ink-sketch of the entire novel. "For the front page, we decided to use the image of Lt Nawang Kapadia in his Gorkha uniform. For the back page, we used a poem written in Nawang's memory. The inside cover pages also have additional information about 3rd Gorkha Rifles along with the photo from the original flag raising day of the battalion," he explained.

"Nawang's novel was quite different from the others I have done. I felt as if I was witnessing all the wonderful moments of his life and got connected to his character," Kumar told mid-day.

Cover graphic
Cover of the graphic novel

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The purpose

"Hopefully his story would send a message to the masses that for your freedom, someone in a uniform is paying the price. Obviously we don't expect everyone to join the armed forces, but just a small thought for them will work," Kumar insisted.

"We are now working on creating a motion comic from this using the graphics from the novel," Sonam added.

39
No. of days Nawang was in the army before he was martyred

Sep 2
Day in 2000 Nawang was commissioned into the army

32
No. of illustrated pages the novel has

39
No. of days Nawang had spent in the army

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