SurferSpeak | Requiem to an unsung hero

Our surfer talks of his un-kept promise to his friend; killed by terrorists in J&K.

india Updated: May 04, 2006 11:27 IST

I met him for the first time in National Defence Academy Wing at Ghorpudi, Pune. He was in November Squadron and myself in Mike.

An "Upsainian" (pass out of UP Sainik School), he was a stylist desi, with a name which I always found a little strange.

After all "Amiya" is not a common name and following it with "Kumar Tripathi" made it Amiya Kumar Tripathi in full which sounded more like a "neta" or a don from UP/Bihar rather than somebody aspiring to be an army officer.

From Wing we moved to the main academy at Khadakwasla, he to Juliet Squadron and myself to Echo. Besides occasional Hi! and hellos, we seldom crossed ways. That was late 1980s.

Life moved fast and we bumped into each other again in 1999 at Mhow. He was posted in Infantry School and I was doing a course of instruction. He met me with immense warmth and thus started a friendship.

That was the time when I realised what a large hearted and wonderful person he was! But then my course ended and I left Mhow.

We were destined to meet again and this time it was in 2002 at Defence Services Staff College, Wellington.

By now all those around Amiya had realised that here was a genuine gentleman. Since he belonged to a political family, he had all the leadership qualities and a name which befitted a "neta".

It was natural that all his friends would address him as "mantriji". He would grin hearing this.

From managing solutions to various assignments, organising picnics, throwing parties etc, all one had to do was call Amiya and mantriji would make everything look so simple.

He was a family man totally and doted on his wife Ranjana and son Ayush. I remember him taking his wife and son to the Wellington tennis court so very often.

The Tripathi family was soon a regular at the tennis court, all three of them playing in different courts.

The course finished and Amiya and myself decided to drive down from Wellington to Goa via Mysore and other places.

The man was so organised that we did not have any problem enroute and enjoyed the trip thoroughly. He would make my daughter and his son sit in his car and they would eat mangoes without cutting or peeling them.

Seeing me making faces, he would often say "Manish yaar, aam khane ka yahi tarika hai, tum angrezon ko kab samajh ayega?"

We parted ways after the trip was over and decided to meet in Jammu as he was posted to a Rashtriya Rifles Battalion in the valley and I was posted to Headquarters Victor Force. We met in Jammu and drove to Srinagar in his car.

After staying in Srinagar transit camp, we bid goodbye to each other and headed for our respective units. After some days I heard from him again, he had settled his family in cantonment at Srinagar and invited me over.

My wife and daughter had joined me for a month and we went to his house, met his wife and son and had lunch with them. He was in the unit somewhere in North Kashmir hunting terrorists.

Same evening, I got a call from him telling me that he would be coming over with his family to stay with me for a few days.

It sounded as if he wanted a break from his highly demanding routine and wanted to spend some time with his family. I was, of course, looking forward to his visit.

The next day around 5 pm, I got a call from the higher headquarters that Amiya was no more.

He was martyred while busting a terrorists' hideout. It was a rude shock -- where is my cigarette -- was my first reaction. I left office and started walking in no particular direction. For a short time I was imbalanced. Next day I along with my wife went to meet his wife and kid and the scene still haunts me.

I promised myself to visit them in Lucknow and look after them in whatever way I can.

That was 2004. It is 2006 now. I have not been to Lucknow since then even once. This is no article or tribute to Amiya. These are just pieces of memory and a reminder to self of an un-kept promise.

And finally to Amiya:-

Soldier rest! the warfare over,
Sleep the sleep that knows no breaking;
Dreams of battle fields no more,
Days of danger, nights of waking.

And to self:-

'I will fulfil my promise somewhere, someday'
...Amen

Manish Kochhar is our regular surfer and can be reached atkochharm@yahoo.co.in.

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First Published: May 04, 2006 11:23 IST