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something important

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

a look.

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
far affable,

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

a system?'

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

epical heroes.

The train slowed down as it pulled into the station,

and Subedar
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

impromptu salute.

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

within sight.

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.


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