At times, we meet people who are too strong to dismiss. By chance, destiny or no factor at all, here he was, the unforgettable man, best buddy of my best friend, whom I had only heard of but never seen.
The army officer, 26, was back from his posting on the Line of Control (LoC). During commando training, he had hurt his knee by carrying excess weight. He had come to Chandigarh, as my best friend had urged him to go with me to the PGI (Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research) to consult an orthopaedician.
His striking, bright green eyes and perfect jaw line made the first impression. Simplicity was his charm. We clicked instantly, and during his x-ray test, he opened up to talk about his experiences of the soldier's life in a no man's land.
Eating a sandwich, he gave me tips on cooking delicacies when no ingredient was available, and how soldiers at the border relished every small piece of bread. Common folks need to go to restaurants and eat fancy olives with pasta and exotic food to reach the satisfaction level he had found in chomping on the humble loaf.
I gathered that the gentle officer was also the strong slayer of a wild boar, and in his beautiful eyes were also the frozen images of the horrors of constant firing. He told me how he would care about protecting his platoon all the time and sleep under a tree after tough hours of vigil. "Eileen, sleep isn't easy to come, as we hear gunshots all night. I sleep wherever and whenever, regardless of comfort."
He guards not the border but countless strangers like me he has never met; and yet, I have no idea of how to sleep without luxuries. At the end of his two-day visit, I feared looking into his eyes, and coming face to face with my raw emotions. After a year or two, we'll meet again. The young man with an innocent smile does the most serious duty of safeguarding millions of citizens, prepared to sacrifice every luxury that to him would have come easy if he liked.
Like every other young man, he craves for new shirts, varied tastes, and further studies, but unlike them, he has accepted living in hell for a few years. I will miss you lieutenant Ankush Singh Chandel, and how you taught me to be happy in what I have. You gave me a reason to be contented and live in self-belief.