Vivek Pradhan was not a happy man.. Even the plush comfort of theÂ air-conditioned compartment of the Shatabdi express could not cool his Â frayed nerves. He was the Project Manager and still not entitled toÂ air travel. It was not the prestige he sought, he had tried to reasonÂ with the admin person, it was the savings in time. As PM, he had soÂ many things to do!!
He opened his case and took out the laptop, determined to put the timeÂ to some good use.
‘Are you from the software industry sir?’ the man beside him wasÂ staring appreciatively at the laptop. Vivek glanced briefly andÂ mumbled in affirmation, handling the laptop now with exaggerated careÂ and importance as if it were an expensive car.
‘You people have brought so much advancement to the country, Sir.
Today everything is getting computerized.’
‘Thanks,’ smiled Vivek, turning around to give the man a look. HeÂ always found it difficult to resist appreciation. The man was youngÂ and stockily built like a sportsman….. He looked simple andÂ strangely out of place in that little lap of luxury like a small townÂ boy in a prep school. He probably was a railway sportsman making theÂ most of his free traveling pass.
‘You people always amaze me,’ the man continued, ‘You sit in an officeÂ and write something on a computer and it does so many big thingsÂ outside.’
Vivek smiled deprecatingly. Naiveness demanded reasoning not anger.Â ‘It is not as simple as that my friend. It is not just a question ofÂ writing a few lines. There is a lot of process that goes behind it.’
For a moment, he was tempted to explain the entire SoftwareÂ Development Lifecycle but restrained himself to a single statement.
‘It is complex, very complex.’
‘It has to be. No wonder you people are so highly paid,’ came the reply.
This was not turning out as Vivek had thought. A hint of belligerenceÂ crept into his so far affable, persuasive tone.
‘Everyone just sees the money. No one sees the amount of hard work weÂ have to put in. Indians have such a narrow concept of hard work. JustÂ because we sit in an air-conditioned office, does not mean our browsÂ do not sweat. You exercise the muscle; we exercise the mind andÂ believe me that is no less taxing.’
He could see, he had the man where he wanted, and it was time to driveÂ home the point.
‘Let me give you an example. Take this train. The entire railwayÂ reservation system is computerized. You can book a train ticketÂ between any two stations from any of the hundreds of computerizedÂ booking centers across the country.
Thousands of transactions accessing a single database, at a timeÂ concurrently; data integrity, locking, data security. Do youÂ understand the complexity in designing and coding such a system?’
The man was awestruck; quite like a child at a planetarium. This wasÂ something big and beyond his imagination.
‘You design and code such things?’
‘I used to,’ Vivek paused for effect, ‘but now I am the Project Manager.’
‘Oh!’ sighed the man, as if the storm had passed over,Â ‘so your life is easy now.’
This was like the last straw for Vivek. He retorted, ‘Oh come on, does
life ever get easy as you go up the ladder. Responsibility only brings
more work. Design and coding! That is the easier part. Now I do not do
it, but I am responsible for it and believe me, that is far more stressful. My
job is to get the work done in time and with the highest quality.
To tell you about the pressures, there is the customer at one end,
always changing his requirements, the user at the other, wantingÂ something else, and your boss, always expecting you to have finishedÂ it yesterday.’
Vivek paused in his diatribe, his belligerence fading withÂ self-realization. What he had said, was not merely the outburst of aÂ wronged man, it was the truth. And one need not get angry whileÂ defending the truth.
‘My friend,’ he concluded triumphantly, ‘you don’t know what it is toÂ be in the Line of Fire’.
The man sat back in his chair, his eyes closed as if in realization.
When he spoke after sometime, it was with a calm certainty thatÂ surprised Vivek.
‘I know sir,….. I know what it is to be in the Line of Fire……’
He was staring blankly, as if no passenger, no train existed, just aÂ vast expanse of time.Â ‘There were 30 of us when we were ordered to capture Point 4875 in theÂ cover of the night.
The enemy was firing from the top.
There was no knowing where the next bullet was going to come from and for whom.
In the morning when we finally hoisted the tri-colour at the top onlyÂ 4 of us were alive.’
‘You are a…?’
‘I am Subedar Sushant from the 13 J&K Rifles on duty at Peak 4875 inÂ Kargil. They tell me I have completed my term and can opt for a softÂ assignment.
But, tell me sir, can one give up duty just because it makes life easier?
On the dawn of that capture, one of my colleagues lay injured in theÂ snow, open to enemy fire while we were hiding behind a bunker.
It was my job to go and fetch that soldier to safety. But my captainÂ sahib refused me permission and went ahead himself.
He said that the first pledge he had taken as a Gentleman Cadet was toÂ put the safety and welfare of the nation foremost followed by theÂ safety and welfare of the men he commanded… ….his own personalÂ safety came last, always and every time.’
‘He was killed as he shielded and brought that injured soldier intoÂ the bunker.. Every morning thereafter, as we stood guard, I could seeÂ him taking all those bullets, which were actually meant for me . IÂ know sir….I know, what it is to be in the Line of Fire.’
Vivek looked at him in disbelief not sure of how to respond. Abruptly,Â he switched off the laptop.
It seemed trivial, even insulting to edit a Word document in theÂ presence of a man for whom valour and duty was a daily part of life;Â valour and sense of duty which he had so far attributed only to epicalÂ heroes.
The train slowed down as it pulled into the station, and SubedarÂ Sushant picked up his bags to alight.
‘It was nice meeting you sir.’
Vivek fumbled with the handshake.
This hand… had climbed mountains, pressed the trigger, and hoistedÂ the tri-colour. Suddenly, as if by impulse, he stood up at attentionÂ and his right hand went up in an impromptu salute….
It was the least he felt he could do for the country.
PS: The incident he narrated during the capture of Peak 4875 is aÂ true-life incident during the Kargil war. Capt. Batra sacrificed hisÂ life while trying to save one of the men he commanded, as victory wasÂ within sight. For this and various other acts of bravery, he wasÂ awarded the Param Vir Chakra, the nation’s highest military award.
Live humbly, there are great people around us, let us learn!
BE POLITEâ€¦ EVERYONE U MEET IS FIGHTING A HARD BATTLE !