Sahil walked up to the dais. The Principal handed him a huge rolled-up drawing sheet. As he unrolled it and looked at it, tears sprang into his eyes.
“Sahil, my Dad is going to be the Chief Guest at the Annual Sports meet,” said Naresh, thumping Sahil on his back. Naresh’s father R. Balasubramanian, Bala as he was popularly known, had played cricket for the country and his superb play had made him the heartthrob of millions.
“Look, here comes Vivek. Let’s give him the good news,” Sahil said. Vivek, Naresh and Sahil were VIII class students of Hyderabad Public School and the best of friends. “I know yaar,” Vivek said when Sahil told him. And guess who’ll inaugurate the Annual Day on 15th March?” “Who?” Naresh asked. “My father! Who else?” Vivek’s father Vikram Reddy was one of the top stars of Telugu cinema. Whenever, Vikram uncle came to school, he would be mobbed–by the students, and the teachers and office staff. That evening as Sahil trudged home, he felt a tad despondent. Not that he was jealous. But he did feel a tinge of envy.
Sahil’s father Sudeep Naidu was a major in the army. Sahil was proud of him but he wasn’t a celebrity like Vikram uncle or Bala uncle. The teachers fell over themselves being nice to them and would keep asking them for favours, be it studio passes or pavilion passes. Sahil was an all-rounder, excelling in academics, sports and other activities. Yet he felt inferior to Naresh and Vivek. All because their fathers were celebrities while his father…
In May, war broke out and Major Sudeep Naidu was sent to Kargil. As the conflict raged on, for Sahil and his mother Maya, life revolved around the happenings on the front. Sahil would write one letter a day to his father and receive sporadic replies. Mother and son would be glued to every news bulletin.
On June 27th, Maya was informed that Major Naidu had led an assault on a vital peak in the Dras sector. The peak had been captured but 12 lives had been lost. The Major himself had been badly injured and was in the army hospital in Srinagar. “H..how serious is… his con.. condition….?” Maya stammered unable to think clearly. “Can’t say at the moment madam. Our doctors are trying their best. Major is a tough man… let’s hope for the best.” Maya broke down as she related the conversation to Sahil. Maya and Sahil decided to leave the very next day for Srinagar. Sahil went to the Principal Mr O.N. Puri to seek his permission. He agreed but asked him to spare some time to attend the school assembly in the morning. The next day at nine, Sahil stood in the assembly, in his usual place between Naresh and Vikram. After the prayer, the Principal addressed the gathering. “As you know fierce fighting is going on in the northern borders of our country.
Our valiant soldiers are sacrificing their todays for our tomorrows. We are proud that among these real life heroes is one who is part of our family. He led the attack on a key enemy position. Three bullets hit him but he fought on until the crucial peak was captured. That brave soldier, who is now battling for his life in the army hospital in Srinagar, is none other than Major Sudeep Naidu, father of our Sahil.” “Yesterday when I came to know that Sahil will be leaving today to meet his father I thought he should carry with him the wishes of the entire school,” he paused and looking towards Sahil said, “Sahil please come.”
Sahil walked up to the dais. The Principal handed him a huge rolled-up drawing sheet. As he unrolled it and looked at it, tears sprang into his eyes. It was a huge collage with scores of signatures, small sketches, lines of poetry, little paintings–all wishing Major Sudeep a quick recovery. “Yesterday our whole school spent the day making this for Major Naidu.
From nursery to class twelve almost every student has contributed something here. Please tell him our prayers are with him and his comrades.” As Sahil walked home, he found it difficult to control his tears. The love his school had demonstrated and the pride he felt for his father were overwhelming.
When Sahil and his mother reached Srinagar, they were given some good news. “Major Naidu is well on his way to recovery. However, he is resting now. You can meet him tomorrow morning,” the attending doctor told them. Sahil’s father was in the ICU and they could get a glimpse of him from outside. He was lying swathed in bandages with a serene expression on his face.
The next day Major Sudeep was shifted to the ward. Sahil rushed to meet him and held out his hand. He wanted to throw himself on his father and hug him, but he was scared of hurting him. He showed his father the poster. “It is lovely. As lovely as your letters that kept me going,” he kissed Sahil on his forehead.
After a couple of weeks, Major Naidu returned home to a tumultuous welcome. A month later, Hyderabad Public School, in collaboration with Cine Club, Hyderabad and Veteran Cricketers’ Association, organised a charity football match.
The proceeds were to go to the family members of the Kargil martyrs. The captain of the Veteran Cricketers’ Eleven was Bala while Vikram led the cine stars. The Chief Guest of the closing ceremony, who stole the limelight with his stirring speech, was Major Sudeep Naidu.
This teen story was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2002).
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