(This article has been republished from The Quint's archives to mark the birth anniversary of Captain Vikram Batra, an Indian solider who lost his life in the Kargil War. It was originally published on 9 September 2016.)
On a cold night in Kargil, in 1999, late Captain Vikram Batra scribbled on his notepad, “If death comes to me before I prove my blood, I will kill death itself.”
During his time at Kargil, death came for him, multiple times indeed, only to be scared off by Sher Shah’s bravery.
However, on 7 July 1999, when immortality greeted Vikram atop the snowy peak of Point 4875, he decided it was time to return, wrapped in the tricolour that he had proudly unfurled countless times.
But what goes into making a hero like Captain Batra? Are such men just born for greatness, or are they raised to be so? In Vikram Batra’s case it seems to be a mix of both.
Vikram grew up in the small Army town of Palampur, with a twin brother – Vishal Batra – who is merely 15 minutes younger than him. The two who look identical were named as Luv and Kush by their parents.
Speaking to The Quint, Vishal narrates the story of their childhood, helping us understand what really goes into making a hero like the Sher Shah of Kargil.
The Dream of Donning the Olive and Green
As Vishal explains, growing up in Palampur with an Army cantonment close to their home and most of their friends from families with Army background, donning the Olive and Green of the Army was a childhood dream for the brothers.
Both of us had a dream of joining the forces together, and Vikram made it in the first attempt. Unfortunately, I tried thrice but was not recommended by the Service Selection Board.
Childhood of Mischief
But their childhood was not only about aspirations to join the Army but was also about a lot of fun and mischief. As Vishal explains, the two shared a special bond memories of which he carries till today.
According to Vishal they were not just brothers, but confidantes and partners in crime who would often use their identical looks to go around taking flak for each others mischief. Luv and Kush he says were people who would rely on each other for anything and everything in their life.
Narrating a story from his school days, Vishal spoke of an incident when he using their identical looks took punishment for Vikram in science class after he turned up without any homework.
Vikram was a Daredevil Even When he Was Young
Shedding more light on young Vikram Batra’s life, Vishal asserts that his brother even from a very young age was a daredevil who was destined for great deeds. Vishal recalled an incident when his brother was in 10th. He narrates:
It was in Class X. He was travelling in a bus. The bus door had opened accidentally and one of the girls fell down. Vikram, even at that young age, jumped out of a window of the moving bus to save the girl’s life. He later took her to a hospital.
Vikram’s loss has left a huge void in Vishal’s life. Speaking to us, he adds that the memory of his brother’s face from the last time he saw him in Delhi will remain with him forever.
He added that he misses him, so much so that he hasn’t celebrated his birthday for years. However, he could not be more proud of what his brother achieved at Point 4,875 on the fateful night of 7 July 1999.
Here is the Full Transcript of Vishal Batra’s Interview with The Quint
Vikram was an amazing brother, a confidante, a companion and a person who I could rely on in my life.
We were in Class VII and it was a Science class. Vikram had not done his homework. When the teacher was taking attendance and she asked how many of you have not done their homework and Vikram raised his hand. Though I was done with my work but the teacher came and punished me instead of him.
Then later on she realised she had to slap Vikram but she slapped me. Our teacher felt apologetic. Vikram also came up to me and said, “ yaar I’m sorry, tujhe meri vajah se maar pad gayi”
Both of us had a dream to join the armed forces but Vikram made it in the first attempt and I unfortunately I tried thrice but I was not recommended.
Vikram always wanted to join the forces and always used to say, “ Karunga Zindagi mein toh fauj Karunga, varna kuch nahi karunga”
When Kargil erupted, we never thought even in our wildest of dreams that he will not come back because we never imagined that the situation will turn so bad.
Vikram killed five people in hand to hand combat, and whichever soldier I have met from the delta company of the 13 JAK Rifles, everybody used to say, and they still say, “ Jab humein pata lagta tha Vikram is going to be the commander for this attack, people used to volunteer to go with him because everybody knew that he would lead from the front.
Asked him about the feeling of being part of the infantry, he said, Kush...because our names our Luv and Kush...See Kush, when you join the forces you have bullet which is made by your name. Now whether you get the bullet in your life or you don’t its your destiny. But if you get that bullet in war, you become immortal.
Last time I saw him, that one picture is fresh in my mind because he was carrying a rucksack and I bid him goodbye.
My only message for him is that he is as young as he was back then, while my hair has turned grey, and while physically he is not there but he lives in the heart of millions of thousands of people.
I am blessed to have a brother like him. for me he is still alive because there is a saying that soldiers never die, and I think he still lives in the hearts of millions of people and the legacy he has created.
I can only say Vikram you are one has blessed me in my life by letting me be your younger sibling...
This is the third part of a three-part series. Watch out for The Quint’s interviews with Captain Batra’s colleague Captain Naveen Nagappa and his girlfriend, Dimple Cheema.
(Producers: Shoumini Ghosh Roy, Anubhav Mishra)
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(Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam)
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