. those heights and share the moment of joy on the auspicious occasion of Diwali. The boss chose Akhila, a fellow engineer, and me for carrying out the job. Both of us love adventurous activities and were very thrilled at the opportunity.
We wrote to the Army Head Quarters explaining our intention and sought permission for the mission. The Armyi Head Quarters cleared my visit but was apprehensive about the visit of Akhila to the posts. Our Chief explained the humane touch in the event and the publicity it would give to the army when a young lady visits the posts and expresses the nation’s solidarity with the Jawans. Finally the Army Headquarters consented. We took the Tamil Nadu Express from Chennai to New Delhi and flew by Indian Airlines to Leh, the highest airfield in the world. On landing, we were received by a smart young Captain from the Indian Army.
The Captain welcomed us to Leh and took us to a splendid army guestroom in Leh. The army hospitality was splendid and beyond verbal expression. We were to get acclimatized for a minimum of three days but we did not have the requisite time. The army, though initially apprehensive, finally agreed to allow us after proper medication. We were experiencing difficulty in breathing and experienced giddiness. But we did not disclose the fact to anyone lest the army cancels the permission to proceed with the visit. Next day we left Leh in the Army Jonga — a vehicle with the seat modified with nice cushions. It was more comfortable than a normal Maruti car. The cold breeze was testing our determination. We had never experienced winter below 20 degree Celsius. At Leh they were talking about temperatures in single digits and in negative in the month of December and January. We could feel the chillness in our spines. The sweet packets and the gifts were following us in a typical army vehicle called 1 Ton.

The journey from Leh to Kargil was very tiresome. The beauty of the landscape was a great relief from our tiring journey. We were traveling along the famous Indus River. We were offered hot tea and snacks wherever we halted en route. When they learnt that we had come all the way from the south to wish them on the eve of Diwali they were moved emotionally. Everyone had a dream in their eyes about their families celebrating this great Indian festival.

We reached Kargil in the evening. It was a beautiful township mushroomed on the banks of a local river. The town looked like a beautiful piece of picturesque landscape. We stayed in the army guestroom. In the evening, the Brigadier of the army hosted a dinner in the mess in our honour. It was a splendid event. We were moved by the hospitality and customs of the army. The mess was an underground structure capable of withstanding bombs, but the layout inside could put any five star hotel to shame. There was a dancing session at the end wherein Akhila was the star and the center of attraction. We could never even in our widest dreams imagine that there could be a civilization far superior to our metro five star cultures in the remotest locality of Kargil.
We reached the posts at 1300 hrs. The company commander welcomed us and offered us Nimbu Pani (lemon water). He had made arrangements for us to stay in his bunker. It was a nice shell-proof structure, which had the warmth of a nice home. We had our lunch and rested a while. We were each given a very heavy bulletproof jacket and bulletproof patkha. The company commander then took us to the viewpoint to point out to us the various Paksitani posts opposite us. I was slightly scared when I learnt that the enemy sniper shooter could shoot us down. In the evening all the Jawans, except those on essential duties, got together in the place from where the Pakistanis could not see us. The Diwali celebration in the post commenced. The panditji came, commenced the puja and then we distributed sweets to all the Jawans. It was the most memorable evening in my life. We came back to the company commander’s bunker. The company commander had given one part of the bunker to Akhila and we stayed in the other part.

the company commander received a telephone call from the commanding officer that there was an intercepted message from Head Quarters that indicated that the Pakistanis were planning some mischief on the eve of Diwali. He gave orders for heavy retaliation in the event of any mischief. I was really scared but the company commander assured us that there was nothing to worry about. He sent the message across to all.

At about 2030 hrs, I heard a sound that seemed like a typical cracker sound. The company commander said that the Pakistanis had opened fire in his company area. Akhila was more thrilled to see the firing. The company commander left his bunker and went to his office, which he called as the command post. Akhila volunteered to go with him. Initially he was reluctant, but finally agreed. When she volunteered, I had no choice but to go. We went to the command post from where we could see most of the area opposite. The command post indicated the post’s war preparedness with telephones, radio sets and various reports displayed neatly. The company commander, like a professional, took charge of the situation. He kept getting messages from different telephones that were kept there and he kept giving orders like a lion. He ordered the opening up of his machine guns, rocket launchers and recoilless guns. In addition, he requested the commanding officer for the fire of mortars. In a short time we could see an actual Diwali fire in front of us. The endless light rounds fired by both the sides brightly lighted the sky. The fire lasted for approximately two hours. It felt like we were watching a live Mahabharata serial.
The memories of the Diwali of 2018 have been imprinted in my mind as the most memorable event of my life. I did not have the opportunity to serve the country by joining the army, but I took an oath to spread the greatness of the army with my pen wherever possible so that the energetic youth of our country, like the young captain and the company commander, can guard us from all the evil forces so that we can celebrate our Diwali in peace. We are all indebted to all those great souls who forego their Diwali celebrations to ensure that we celebrate our Diwali in peace. Long live the glorious gallant soldiers of our nation and long live Mother India.

What a nice day

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