(This story was originally published on 26 July 2018. It has been reposted from The Quint's archives to commemorate Kargil Vijay Diwas.)
Deepchand Prakhyat grew up in Pabra village of district Hisar in Haryana. His grandfather raised him with fascinating stories of the wars of 1947 and 1965. “He told us how food packets were dropped from the sky, people were confined to their homes and how men in uniform patrolled the neighbourhood and the soldiers guarded the borders,” says Deepchand. When he grew up, he wanted to wear the army uniform.
Deepchand started as a gunner in the 1889 Light Regiment. His first posting was in Jammu and Kashmir during the peak of militancy. He was stationed in Gulmarg when his regiment was ordered to move to Kargil.
Bullets Over Bread
On 5 May 1999, a few shepherds had reported spotting Pakistani infiltrators in Baltik. Armed with 120 mm motors, Deepchand and his troop marched to fight the enemy that had entered the Indian side of Line of Control (LoC) . “We carried heavy arms and ammunition on our shoulders. We fired and moved with them on difficult mountainous terrain. At certain points the cliffs were almost perpendicular,” he said.
We didn’t crave food. We wanted bullets. My fellow soldiers and I would ask the person who got us rations to bring us more ammunition instead. In a war, you don’t feel hungry. For soldiers, nation comes first. We didn’t have mobile phones then. The only point of contact with the outside world was the Vividh Bharti. I remember listening to their special program for the army brethren.
Once a Soldier, Always a Soldier
In the army, one cannot sit back and relax. Only two years after the Kargil War, Indian Parliament came under attack. Deepchand’s regiment was posted to Rajasthan. While setting up an ammunition store, a bomb was accidentally detonated.
In the explosion, I lost my fingers. Later both my legs and the right arm was amputated. After 24 hours and 17 bottles of blood, I gained consciousness.
After the accident, lying on the hospital bed, he mulled over why the accident happened to him. He felt bad about not being able to run for the state again. But as they say, once a soldier, always a soldier. “I trained myself to walk with the help of prosthetics. I learnt to ride a scooter and use a computer. And there has been no looking back,” he said.
Deepchand has worked for the country without flinching even an eyelid. And in doing so, in an unfortunate event, he met with an accident and lost his limbs. Does he regret his childhood dream to become an army jawan? The proud man who stands on his prosthetic feet says he doesn’t.
The accident could have happened to me in any profession. At least it happened in the line of fire. I want to be reborn a soldier. There’s nothing greater than serving your country.
Video Editor: Kunal Mehra
Camerapersons: Athar Rather, Shiv Kumar Maurya
(This story has been republished from The Quint’s archives to mark the 19th Kargil Vijay Diwas.)