We celebrate birthdays. We celebrate our birthday, we celebrate our friends’ birthdays, our gods birthdays, heck, we even celebrate some random movie star’s birthday whose only accomplishment is that he is a star because of his parents.
But today, let’s celebrate a true hero’s birthday. A hero, who gave his life without any second thoughts for his nation and us.
Let us remember him and honor every martyr who stood tall for us in conditions that make conditions in hell sound like a beach in Goa. Let us thank all of them who do it every day apart from their families, friends, and every human luxury possible.
“Do not come up, I will handle them”, were the last words which Major Unnikrishnan told his men as he was hit by bullets while engaging terrorists inside the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower during Operation Black Tornado, according to NSG officials.
Sandeep Unnikrishnan (15 March 1977 – 28 November 2008), the brave son of India was a major in the Indian Army who served in the National Security Guard. He was killed in action while trying to save the lives of hostages at the Taj Mahal hotel on November 27, 2008.
In this post, we are trying to showcase some of the brave and memorable moments of his life said by his close ones.
“You’ll find that life is still worthwhile if you just smile.”
…and he kept smiling.
Sandeep’s father, K. Unnikrishnan said, “He always had a smiling face. He believed in smiling so much so that he once even said that he did not like getting photographed for his identity card since it needed him to keep a straight face. We have learned a lot from him and believe that we need to keep smiling even though we are going through a bad phase. My son is always with me and we will take him wherever we go.”
Following is an incident described by his NDA course-mate that depicts his character:
“In 1995, we were a bunch of gangly 18-year-olds, wondering what the hell we were doing climbing up Sinhgad fort on a miserable, rainy day, when I first met Unni. He was an ikki, a first termer, bone-weary, but always gung-ho. When we made it to the top, the first stop was for a fill of water. Soggy, bushed, and thirsty, we ran to the natural spring that has been feeding soldiers since the days of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Unni was the first to reach and started drawing water from the well. We lined up with our canteens, but a tourist first held out her water bottle. Unni filled it. Then, another. Unni filled that too. Within seconds, there was a long line of tourists waiting for water. Without a word – and with a smile to us – Unni dutifully doled out his generosity. He never got to us. He himself never got a sip. The order came to move on.”
While most of us today are running abroad to protect our future, he chose to be in the army to protect our country.
“None of us suggested anything to him. At a later stage, we wanted him to be in the IT sector. To that, he said the respect that one gets in the armed forces, one does not get anywhere,” said K. Unnikrishnan.
Sandeep was a born fighter. His friends remember him as somebody who never gave up.
“It showed itself during Camps Greenhorn and Rovers (said to be the toughest for the age group) at NDA. He never knew the word quit’. He just kept going,” recalled one of his buddies now in the Special Forces. “During the 15-km cross-country races at NDA, there would be shouts of Unni, Unni’ in the last 500 meters. Most of us were dead by then. But he would tuck his head into his chest, close his eyes and run for his life, for his squadron.”
He was a common man who was funny, who gave gaalis, loved his friends but what made him exceptional was his grit: ready to cross any boundary to save his nation’s honor.
“He was a total movie maniac. In civvies, he didn’t look a commando. Whenever anyone asked him what his profession was, he would say, non-productive human resources’. ‘He could speak five languages and he just loved to give gaali’ in all five,” recalled major Naren C. “We always ribbed him about his nonexistent, rippling biceps. But he surprised us all by joining the NSG. He was always a fighter. I can’t believe he is no more. Only a few weeks ago, he had joked, Finally, I am putting on some weight’.”
“When the name Sandeep Unnikrishnan was mentioned among the NSG casualties on Friday, there was a sinking feeling in my gut. Was it our Unni? But then, in the forces, you cannot even pray that it is “some other Unni”. Within minutes, confirmation came. An old buddy called up to say, “Yaar, Sandeep is no more.”
And what would you say about parents who are braver than their son who died a hero? Bravery runs in this family’s blood. “My son became a hero. I am proud of him, but I didn’t want to lose him ever. Sandeep laid down his life for the country’s safety. But I don’t know whether the country has become safer today. I feel that more people should join the army,”- K Unnikrishnan.
Very few people achieve immortality even after death, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan was one of them. He sacrificed his life so that we could breathe in a terror-free environment. But how many of us remember him? More importantly, how many of us think we are working towards a terror-free society?
“Our nation needs heroes, my son has instilled the feeling of nationalism and patriotism in me and I will always remember that…”- K. Unnikrishnan