Other side of the coin

It was the year 1966. Indian cinema rocked by the film Mera Saya and the evergreen glamorous actress Sadhana mesmerized the Indian film industry with the song Jumka Gira Re Bareilly Ke Bazaar Mein. It was then, the two young Sikh Indian army Lieutenants of Jat regiment were riding their Royal Enfield motor cycle through the Bareilly Bazaar singing the Sadhana’s song, when they noticed a man trying to rob a shop keeper on a knife point.

Motorcycle stopped. Singing stopped.

The young Sikh man sitting on the back seat of the motorcycle got off and challenged the robber who was holding a very large army knife. Sikh army man got engaged in a hand to hand combat with the robber, he snatched the knife from the robbers hand and handed the man over to the local Police.

This sound like a story right out of a Bollywood movie. Well, the story was told to me around 1986 by my mother while she was cutting onions with the same large army knife from 1966. The young Sikh army man who fought the robber happen to be my father, Major Baldev Singh Ghuman.

It was later in 1983 when my father took me to a waterfall location right across the Pakistan border, dotted by the land mines and small red flags, near Town of Poonch in Kashmir. He pointed to the waterfall and told me that is where he and his jeep driver hid the jeep behind the waterfall and climbed the waterfall to the top of the hill to rescue an injured Colonel of Pakistani army. This was during 1971 war, operation cactus lily, when he was an army Captain posted here as part of 33 Infantry Brigade of Indian army. As he was climbing the hill he was surrounded by enemy fire and one bullet ripped through his turban narrowly missing his head, this was his first brush with the death. I was ten, and I looked amazed by what he just told me. I always thought it could only be achieved by a super hero, what I did not realized at the time that I am hanging out with one. By the way, they did rescued the injured Pakistani army men who was hit by an Indian bullet in his head, who later died not withstanding his injuries.

It was in late 1988 or early 1989 when my father first asked me to walk with few meters of distance from him. I remember these instructions given to me at the Mota Singh Nagar market of Jalandhar city located in North-West state of Punjab. It was odd, ususally parents ask their children to walk close to them in a bazaar or on a road and even would ask them to hold their hand for safety. Well, my father explained to me that if I am walking with a good distance from him, either in front or behind, then I would be out of the firing range of an assassin.

At the time my age was about 15 and this statement sent quite a chill through my spine, even though I understood the seriousness of words coming from a soldier and a human rights activist who have been busy exposing the Police role in killings of Sikh youth under the cover of fake police encounters. He was the senior executive of pro Sikh political party and a preferred target of secret police. Obviously, we knew one day the bullets will come flying finding the target and indeed they did on June 23rd, 1990 when I was 16.

As we mark 2015 as his 25th year of death, I thought it would be only fair to share few of his hidden parts of life, it is always good to see the other side of the coin.

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