Retired Indian Space Research Organisation engineer K. Unnikrishnan would always be the first person to call his son, National Security Guard commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan (31), alerting him about an unfolding terror incident in the country. But on November 26 last year, when Mumbai was attacked by a group of 10 Lashkar-e-Tayyeba terrorists, he couldn’t call him.
On that night, it was Sandeep who rang up his father. “At around 11.15 pm, he called me… and requested me to… watch television as something ‘big’ was happening in Mumbai,” Unnikrishnan recounted while talking to HT on Monday. He was in Delhi to receive the country’s highest peacetime gallantry award — Ashok Chakra — conferred posthumously on his son by President Pratibha Patil.
Sandeep did not tell his father where he was or if he would be part of the anti-terror operation in Mumbai. “He would reveal nothing if he or his organisation would get involved in an operation,” Unnikrishnan said. It was only hours later that the father came to know that his son had lost his life fighting terrorists in Mumbai.
More than a month after his son’s death, Unnikrish-nan is still struggling to grapple with the reality. “He was a brave and intelligent boy who would focus 100 per cent on work but try to chill at home,” he said. When asked how Sandeep would have reacted after receiving the award, Unnikrishnan said, “He would have casually informed me.”