Captain Naveen Anaberu

In May 1999, Indian Armed Forces were suddenly called to the Line of Control(LoC). The Indian Army had launched Operation Vijay. I was a part of 13 Battalion -Jammu and Kashmir Rifles team and was twenty five years old when I was inducted into the battle field. My team Charlie and another, Delta, were chosen to regain hillock Point 4785 which was infiltrated. The date was July 4th 1999.

July 4th dawned. At 2:00 PM, my jawans and I sat down for lunch, and the unit pandit performed the havan and applied tilak on everyone’s forehead. Before we set out, I had to ask my team for one ‘unposted letter’, which would be given to their families incase they didn’t return. Our wallets, pictures of loved ones and any other material had to be deposited, so in case any of us got captured our identity would not be revealed. It was an emotional moment for all. At about 6:30 PM, we started towards the peak. It was a high altitude warfare and the terrain was very steep with loose rocks, and to top it off, the weather was bad as well. It was just before daybreak when the enemy sighted us and the war began.

I, along with six others, launched the initial attack. After making progress in the first attack, I noticed that my buddy who was paired with me was martyred. It was 5:00 AM on July 5th. We went on and kept fighting day and night. An MMG(Medium Machine Gun) was continuously firing and hampering our uphill movement. Rifleman Sanjay Kumar volunteered to neutralise it, He climbed the steep hill towards the enemy camp and took the MMG in bare hands while his buddy opened fire.

On July 6th, my commanding officer contacted us and asked if we needed food supplies. Our last meal had been lunch on 4th July. I told him what we needed was ammunition. Food can wait. He sent us reinforcements along with Captain Vikram Batra, a man known to be a fearless fighter. His entry gave us a new josh and created a lot of unrest amongst the enemies. Together, we captured all the bunkers except one. By the morning of July 7th, There was fierce fighting and suddenly a grenade landed near me in the bunker. I knew that everything in a 10-metre radius would be shredded and it has a time lag of only four seconds. I tried throwing it back but it hit a boulder and rolled back. I just rolled down to my right to save my upper body. The grenade went off and my legs were badly damaged but I was still alive. I picked up my gun and started firing again. Captain Vikram Batra came and pulled me off the bunker and asked me to leave but I wanted to see us to victory. I refused to budge. He threatened to call the attack off, and I started crawling my way back.

I crawled 150 metres before I found a boulder to rest against and check the damage. One of the soldiers put me on his shoulders and carried me to the base camp, avoiding the bullets fired at us. I had to bite my uniform to stop myself from screaming out of pain. On July 8th, I was airlifted out. While I was up above, my nursing assistant gently nudged me to show the tricolour atop Point 4875 in full glory. I was devastated to hear that Captain Vikram Batra had attained martyrdom.

In Delhi, I had eight surgeries and was bedridden for six months. I was in the hospital for 21 months. I was told braces and crutches would be a part of my life. I was medically boarded out of the Indian Army. Today, I limp a bit but walk on my own and work as a civilian in the Military of Defence.

On July 26th, 1999, Indian Armed Forces successfully completed Operation Vijay. The price had been steep, though. 527 soldiers sacrificed their lives and 1363 were injured in the operation.

If I am given another chance, I would fight again to protect my motherland. I have and I always will serve my country. As Captain Batra said “I will either hoist the tricolour or come back wrapped in it.”

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 Captain Naveen Anaberu
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 Mark Rego

Mark Rego

When she was 55 years old, my mother survived breast cancer. I know I got my guts from her.

My own story started in 2002. A bad stomach and a lump on my back were the first signs, and my mother insisted I get it checked. Doctors said it was just extra tissue growing and asked me to drop by the next day to get it removed. It would be a half-hour procedure, they said. It took them three hours. In the OT, they realised that the lump was cancerous and that it had spread. Six months and a fair bit of radiation therapy later, I was told I was cancer-free. They told me to come by for regular check-ups and tests, but otherwise I was good to go.

Along the way, I got careless. I was at the peak of my career and was too busy enjoying my life. Life was all about work and parties. I forgot to take care of myself, I did not visit the doctor and did not go for my check-ups. In 2005, my carelessness almost cost me my life. My cancer had relapsed. My children were 10 and 12 years old at the time, and I was given six months to live. I couldn’t fathom saying goodbye to them just yet. I was operated upon again and a large part of my intestines were removed. 18 cycles of chemotherapy followed. My mother did everything she could and took care of me like a child. She supplemented my chemo with natural therapies – aloe vera juice, lime juice, beetroot juice. My wife came with me for all my treatment. They were my rocks.

Throughout this period, I kept working. I never said no to an assignment, even though I once collapsed on stage. I realised that most people fear cancer itself, not the treatment, and I was all set to fight my internal demons. Yet, I did go through periods of depression and was suicidal a few times. I sought out the professional help I knew I needed, and had wonderful friends and family to see me through.

In 2009 I was pronounced cancer-free. Again. Now I make sure to go for my check-ups regularly. I can only eat 100 grams at a time because most of my intestine was removed, but I manage. I have travelled over 100 countries on work. 
During my treatment, I was exposed to the sufferings of other individuals. It was then that I took a conscious decision to help people in need. Today, I volunteer with different NGOs, and do what I can to help other cancer patients through their journey. I no longer take my life for granted and live life to the fullest.

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 Salma Shafeeq Ghori

Salma Shafeeq Ghori

I was 19, when I got married to Captain Shafeeq Ghori in 1991. It was difficult in the beginning to accept the fact that he was constantly on the move and had to leave me alone for long periods, but he sat me down and explained what it was like to be an army wife. There were no mobile phones back then. I used to spend hours by the phone unsure when he would call. We used to write letters and my husband made sure I received one letter every day for the days he was away from me. I used to write small notes and hide small surprises in his luggage.
In the years that followed, he had many high-risk postings. Back then, Punjab and the East were all dangerous places to be. He has been to Tripura, Punjab, and Srinagar. He used to be gone for days but by then I had become strong and learnt to fend for myself and our children. I knew he loved the country the most and his kids and wife came a close second.

In 1999, he had a field posting in Srinagar, since it was a high risk area families weren't allowed, I moved to Bangalore. June 28th 2001, we spoke for the last time. He asked about our wellbeing, told that he was in the jungles for a military operation. He wanted to speak to the kids but they were running around with their cousins and there was a lot of chaos and noise. I told him to come back to his base and speak to them. I still regret that decision.

On July 1st, 2001. Around 6.30 pm, a group of army officers along with their wives came home. Suddenly, a lady made me sit down and told me. “Major Ghori is no more,” she said. I thought I heard it wrong. It had to be a mistake. She said they had been trying to reach me since morning but couldn’t as I was at my mother’s house and the phone lines were disconnected. Major Shafeeq Ghori was martyred in a heroic gun battle with militants during Operation Rakshak. Everything around me fell, crumbled. That day was the day I received my final letter from him.
The next day, I went to the airport to receive him for the last time.This time in a box clad in Indian Flag. I broke down. He would always ask me to be strong. He reminded me even on that last day we spoke, but I never imagined a day when he wouldn’t be around.

I got his uniform and civil clothes in a box. I did not wash them for eight years because I did not want to let that feeling go. His money is still in his wallet. The letters are still a part of my reading. I have played the role of a father and mother but there were times when I used to fight back a tear seeing other kids play with their parents. Today, I work for the welfare of the army martyr families and women empowerment of the martyr widows in Karnataka.

I was 29 when Major Shafeeq Ghori was martyred. People told me to move on.. but He was, is, and will always be my Forever. 
Salma Shafeeq Ghori

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 Santosh Hegde

I was born in Karkala near Mangalore in pre-independence India. My dad was a lawyer and he always told us six siblings that he’d give us enough education, but will not leave any property, which made us aware that we should find a profession for our earnings. I was a shy yet mischievous kid. When I was 17, I fell in love with my best friend’s 14-year-old sister. Today, we’ve been married for 48 years.

Growing up, I lived in a world of my own. I loved travelling and was crazy about cars. I became a well-established lawyer. When opportunity knocked, I didn’t want to become a Judge as the pay was low, ultimately I agreed because of my mother’s request and in retrospect I am glad that I could fulfil her last wish because she died within 18 days of me becoming a judge.

In 2006, when I came to the Institution of Karnataka Lokayukta, I noticed the sufferings of the people because of maladministration and corruption. Until then, I felt that I was a frog in the well, I thought I was comfortable so was the rest of the world. The Institution of Lokayukta exposed the harsh realities of life and I was really shocked to know how much the ordinary people suffered in the hands of the Government, an institution created under the Constitution of India to serve the people.

I remember one experience that really shook me. A young couple from a village near Bagalkot brought their six-month-old daughter to me. The child did not have an anus or rectum, so she used to eat and deficit thru her mouth. Local doctor told the parents to take her to a super speciality hospital where paediatric surgeon could fix it. Since they could not afford the treatment in private hospital they took their child to an government hospital. The doctor demanded money. They gave the doctor all the money they had and he counted it. “For this money, I can make a hole near the rib cage, so that the fecal matters could pass thru that,” the doctor told them. They were heartbroken and came to us for help. We got in touch with a local multi-speciality hospital who performed the surgery for no cost, and today the girl is a healthy nine-year-old. This episode showed me just where we stand today. The government doctor was drawing a huge salary with all perks and was appointed to treat people especially the poor free of cost but the greed did not allow him to give a better future to a six month old child.That doctor not only violated his professional oath but also exhibited his greed and lack of humanism.

I was exposed to hundreds of such tragic situations. End of my professional career I realised that we live in a society which respects money and power. Today, people don’t help at accident sites but instead, stand by to take videos. For this purpose, at my age of 77, I travel across the country with the sole objective of inculcating satisfaction, humanism values which can only change the society for better. My message to people is have ambition, become big, legitimately earned wealth is no product of sin. Never allow your ambition to become an obsession.

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 Saalumarada Thimmakka

Saalumarada Thimmakka

Growing up in gubbi village, my childhood was a struggle. At the age of five, I started helping my mother in household chores and later juggled as a coolie, quarry labourer and a farmer. I was the second born of the six children and it used to be a everyday struggle to get a meal. I never went to school. At 20, I got married and moved to Hulikal. Life continued to be struggle from one house to the other. I was heartbroken that i was not able to conceive even after twenty years of marriage. My husband’s relatives wanted him to remarry but he never left me. In 1948, Tired of being called barren, I jumped into the pond. I was forty years old but somehow I survived!

Post that, My husband and I decided to plant trees and take care of it like our kids. We began planting trees on the stretch between our village Hulikal and kudoor. Ten the first year, fifteen the next, twenty the next, and so on. After our regular work, We used to carry water for over four kilometres and water the saplings. We tended to them by fencing and guarding them. We used our own meagre resources for planting these trees. Even after my husband’s death in 1991, I continued doing my work selflessly and taking care of them.

Today, I have planted more than five hundred trees in this village and thousands around the state. At one point, I was dying to hear the word “mother”, today people call me Vrukhsa Maathe (mother of trees) and prefixed my name with Saalumara (row of trees). Like every parent I am happy and proud seeing the growth of my children. In 2000, I adopted a thirteen year old boy and today he is actively involved in the mission of preserving the environment.

My life continues to be a struggle even at the age of 106…but i am hopeful for a better tomorrow!
Saalumarada Thimmakka

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 Usha Rai

Usha Rai

Growing up in Udupi, my house was filled with pre-independence stories. I got married soon after my graduation. As per the Bunt tradition, my father had given dowry but then I convinced my husband to return it. I used to be very timid and shy but the bank job changed my life. I became self reliant, confident and independent. After 25 years of service, I took voluntary retirement. I learnt driving at the age of 40 and overcame my stage fright at the age of 55. By the time I hit 60 I was an award winning writer and a marriage counselor.

In 2005, while returning from Kochi, a truck drove head on into our car. My son and grandson escaped but fate had different plans for my husband and me. We cracked a few bones, I wasn’t sure if we would survive this onslaught from God.

Meeting with an accident at an old age is the worst thing that can happen to anyone. At a time when you want to settle down with your partner and start that ‘fairytale’ life, your whole life halts. My husband went into a coma for 6 days after the accident. He is to this day traumatized by the accident and suffers from Dementia. Both my husband and I were immobilized for over six months and we went into depression. My son kept blaming himself for the accident.

One day my son got paints and asked me to paint. But I shouted at him because I couldn’t move my fingers. But I knew I did not want to give up. I decided to overcome the pain and learn painting. At the age of 60, with a bedridden husband on one side and an urge to paint on another, my life took a turn. In 2 years, I had my first solo exhibition, participated in 5 group shows and went on to publish my autobiography.

I began a new phase of my life at the age of 60….and I’ve realized it’s never late to start anything new!

Usha Rai

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