The Trust is very close to my heart. The people who have nurtured this dream with me are even more special, they are family. A journey that began with Uday has now become personal to each of us.
Uday was passionate about the Army and his work. He spent seven years in insurgency riddled Kashmir, and not once did he regret it. He had a zeal for life and living in the moment, unlike anyone I have known. With him, it was like being on a constant roller coaster ride, your feet never touched the ground. Like every man in inform, he felt strongly about his men and led from the front. A greater calling took him from our midst on Nov 29, 2003.
I was honored to have known him, a spark of magical energy. He made me proud, and taught me a great deal about life. That life is today and in this moment; that spontaneity is a gift; that nothing is impossible; that it is only worth doing what one loves doing; and of course every chinese meal must be followed by ice cream, especially in the middle of winter. He was an ace photographer, catching the different shades of the season; like his work most of his photography is also based in Kashmir. The camera never left his shoulders :). With ‘ love of the common people’ always playing out of his car stereo, he sang along, Karaoke style. The contessa was his girl and together, they zipped around many winding around. Ultimately, when the contessa was ageing, Uday wanted to take her with him to the skies and do skydive sitting inside, as the car was plunged out of the plane. The ultimate goodbye. It never got approval, is a different story.
There are countless more Udays out there, defending the nation , keeping us safe and secure. As we go to work each day, someone keeps vigil on the coldest of days. Living in cold bunkers and tinned roof temporary shelters, these men redefine the meaning of living. Away from home for months together, away from family, yet with their own. Each day, one soldier or officer is martyred in a war that has no end. Political will to end this cat and mouse will never rear its head; there is just too much money to be made.
Coming from an Army background, a uniform to me is instantly family. Recently, as I traveled through the heart of Ladakh and Kishtwar, I saw met so many jawans and officers. The green uniform distinguisging them from the rest. In a lone spot, that one man was our home. We were overwhelmed by their generosity. At Rungdum, which receives 4 feet of snow each winter, these men lived in makeshift accomodation made by converting an old school building. The roof had caved in at one end. 18 of them adjusted in two rooms. Kerosene was a luxury and rationed, a measly amount given to meet all requirements of cooking, heating water and washing. In the same village, some distance away, a Flatron TV played the latest movies via satellite dish, courtesy the ‘ Sadbhavna’ initiative of the Army. Crockery was borrowed from the nearby village to serve meals when senior officers came visiting. Thick red carpets, solar panels, cricket sets, the 29 inch LG flatron TVs, dish antennas, latest TFT screen computers and top of the line printers are some of the things that the Army doles out to villagers in the sector lying between Srinagar and Padum – they hope that it shall build them goodwill. The jawans assigned to play santa clasue each time, of course have no access to even a small TV or carpets to keep the floors warm. Not to forget that within the premises, old computers and printers continue to be used.. Sadbhavna, they say…and of course only one sector! I thought it logical that charity shoudl begin from home and people in position of power will look first into meeting the needs and comforts of their own before securing the comforts of others. I was never more wrong.
There is nothing we can do without the Udays. For the tremendous work and sacrifices they make for a greater cause, I can never pay enough tribute. You are the real heroes, my only heroes.