Capt Batra’s memory will live on
Palampur, July 7
Eleven years after the booming guns of Kargil fell silent and long after the war’s martyrs were frozen into frames forever, the tears are yet to dry. Ask Girdhari Lal Batra and everything comes back in a flash to him - explosions lighting up the night sky, gunshots ringing out in the dark, victory cries of the Indian soldiers, martyrs arriving home wrapped in the Tricolour and, of course, his son, late Capt Vikram Batra, a recipient of the Param Vir Chakra.
The father’s last memory of his son is that of an elated soldier after conquering Point 5140, signing off from a television channel with the “Yeh dil mange more” slogan he immortalised. “That’s how I’ve chosen to remember him,” says the senior Batra as he prepares for his son’s death anniversary today.
He recalls, “Before he went for his next big operation at Point 4875, a television correspondent asked him what his message to his countrymen would be. He said he wished the parents and the families of the deceased soldiers were taken better care of. In that moment I knew, perhaps, he’s not coming back. And he didn’t. It was a kind of a premonition.”
Recalling Vikram’s last holiday at home on the Holi of 1999, Batra, a retired college principal, says, “When the news of war breaking out first came in, his friends advised him to be careful. He replied that he would either come back after raising the national flag in victory or come wrapped in it. He achieved both. I’m proud of him.” The petrol station allotted to Vikram’s parents in recognition of his sacrifice, over the years, has become less of a petrol station and more of his shrine.
“Many people stop by and express solidarity with us. The other day a Wing Commander dropped by, said a few good words about Vikram and drove away. I was surprised to see him return in five minutes to touch my feet. It’s gestures like these that keep us going,” he explains.
While this is one side of the story, there is another too. The Batras are sore with Pepsi for offering mere lip service to them. “We didn’t approach it. The chairman of Pepsi corresponded quite a few times asking us what the company can do for Vikram’s family since he inadvertently became the voice and face of Pepsi and immortalised the ‘Yeh dil mange more’ slogan. We suggested that they start a tournament or contribute to a social cause in Vikram’s memory. But we didn’t hear from him again,” he rues.
The family realises Vikram’s invaluable sacrifice. So, while companies may come and go, Capt Vikram Batra’s memories will live on.