|Vivek Pradhan was not a happy man. Even the plush|
comfort of the air-conditioned compartment of the
Shatabdi express could not cool his frayed nerves. He
was the Project Manager and still not entitled to air
travel. It was not the prestige he sought; he had
tried to reason with the admin person,
it was the
savings in time. As PM, he had so many things to do!!
He opened his case and took out the laptop, determined
to put the time to some good use.
'Are you from the software industry sir,' the man
beside him was staring appreciatively at the laptop.
Vivek glanced briefly and mumbled in affirmation,
handling the laptop now with exaggerated care and
importance as if it were an expensive car.
'You people have brought so much advancement to the
country, Sir. Today everything is getting
'Thanks,' smiled Vivek, turning around to give the man
He always found it difficult to resist appreciation.
The man was young and well built like a sportsman. He
looked simple and strangely out of place in that
little lap of luxury like a small town boy
in a prep
He probably was a railway sportsman making the most of
his free traveling pass.
'You people always amaze me,' the man continued, 'You
sit in an office and write something on a computer and
it does so many big things outside.'
Vivek smiled deprecatingly. Naiveness demanded
reasoning not anger. 'It is not as simple as that my
friend. It is not just a question of writing a few
lines. There is a lot of process that goes behind it.'
For a moment, he was tempted to explain the entire
Software Development Lifecycle but restrained himself
to a single statement. 'It is complex, very complex.'
'It has to be. No wonder you people are so highly
paid,' came the reply.
This was not turning out as Vivek had thought. A hint
of belligerence crept into his so
persuasive tone. ' Everyone just sees the money. No
one sees the amount of hard work we have to put in.
Indians have such a narrow concept of hard work. Just
because we sit in an air-conditioned office, does not
mean our brows do not sweat. You exercise the muscle;
we exercise the mind and believe me that is no less
He could see, he had the man where he wanted, and it
was time to drive home the point.
'Let me give you an example. Take this train. The
entire railway reservation system is computerized. You
can book a train ticket between any two stations from
any of the hundreds of computerized booking centres
across the country. Thousands of transactions
accessing a single database, at a time concurrently;
data integrity, locking, data security. Do you
understand the complexity in designing and coding such
The man was awestuck; quite like a child at a
This was something big and beyond his imagination.
'You design and code such things.'
'I used to,' Vivek paused for effect, 'but now I am
the Project Manager.'
'Oh!' sighed the man, as if the storm had passed over,
'so your life is easy now.'
This was like the last straw for Vivek. He retorted,
'Oh come on, does life ever get easy as you go up the
ladder. Responsibility only brings more work. Design
and coding! That is the easier part. Now I do not do
it, but I am responsible for it and believe me, that
is far more stressful. My job is to get the work done
in time and with the highest quality. To tell you
about the pressures, there is the customer at one end,
changing his requirements, the user at the
other, wanting something else, and your boss, always
expecting you to have finished it yesterday.'
Vivek paused in his diatribe, his belligerence fading
with self-realisation. What he had said, was not
merely the outburst of a wronged man, it was the
truth. And one need not get angry while defending the
truth. 'My friend,' he concluded triumphantly, 'you
don't know what it is to be in the Line of Fire'.
The man sat back in his chair, his eyes closed as if
in realization. When he spoke after sometime, it was
with a calm certainty that surprised Vivek.
'I know sir, I know what it is to be in the Line of
Fire.' He was staring blankly, as if no passenger, no
train existed, just a vast expanse of time.
'There were 30 of us when we were ordered to capture
4875 in the cover of the night. The enemy was
firing from the top. There was no knowing where the
next bullet was going to come from and for whom. In
the morning when we finally hoisted the tricolour at
the top only 4 of us were alive.'
'You are a...?'
'I am Subedar Sushant from the 13 J&K Rifles on duty
at Peak 4875 in Kargil. They tell me I have completed
my term and can opt for a soft assignment. But, tell
me sir, can one give up duty just because it makes
life easier. On the dawn of that capture, one of my
colleagues lay injured in the snow, open to enemy fire
while we were hiding behind a bunker. It was my job to
go and fetch that soldier to safety. But my captain
sahib refused me permission and went ahead himself. He
said that the first pledge he had taken as a Gentleman
Cadet was to put the safety
and welfare of the nation
foremost followed by the safety and welfare of the men
he commanded........his own personal safety came last,
always and every time.'
'He was killed as he shielded and brought that injured
soldier into the bunker. Every morning thereafter, as
we stood guard, I could see him taking all those
bullets, which were actually meant for me. I know
sir....I know, what it is to be in the Line of Fire.'
Vivek looked at him in disbelief not sure of how to
respond. Abruptly, he switched off the laptop. It
seemed trivial, even insulting to edit a Word document
in the presence of a man for whom valour and duty was
a daily part of life; valour and sense of duty which
he had so far attributed only to
The train slowed down as it pulled into the station,
Sushant picked up his bags to alight.
'It was nice meeting you sir.'
Vivek fumbled with the handshake. This hand... had
climbed mountains, pressed the trigger, and hoisted
the tricolour. Suddenly, as if by impulse, he stood up
at attention and his right hand went up in an
It was the least he felt he could do for the country.
PS: The incident he narrated during the capture of
Peak 4875 is a true-life incident during the Kargil
war. Capt. Batra sacrificed his life while trying to
save one of the men he commanded, as victory was
For this and various other acts of bravery, he was
awarded the Param Vir Chakra (Medal), the nation's
highest military award.
Live humbly, there are great people around us.