A Tale of Army Brotherhood

By -
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐔𝐧𝐛𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐤𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐓𝐮𝐫𝐛𝐚𝐧: 𝐀 𝐓𝐚𝐥𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐁𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐝


The biting wind whipped across the desolate Northeast Frontier Area (NEFA), carrying the stench of cordite and the chilling whispers of defeat. The year was 1962 and the once proud 1 Sikh regiment, ravaged by the battle on Bum La, was in retreat. Orders had come down – a bitter pill to swallow – to pull back south of Tawang. Panic clawed at the soldiers, a desperate scramble for survival. Units shattered, formations crumbled, each man a solitary figure in the face of the oncoming Chinese juggernaut.

But amidst the chaos, a different story unfolded – a story etched not in victory, but in the unyielding loyalty of brothers-in-arms. Major RO "Rex" Kharbanda, the Brigade Major, trudged along the evacuation route. A lone figure emerged from the swirling fog, a young soldier of the 1 Sikh. But he wasn't alone. Strapped to his back, his weight a relentless burden, was a non-commissioned officer (NCO), his uniform stained crimson.

"Jawan," Kharbanda called out, "check if the NCO is alive. He doesn't seem to be."

The young soldier, his voice hoarse with exhaustion, replied, "Saab, he was alive a while back. But he was my Ustad (mentor), the one who recruited me, from my own village."

Kharbanda, a seasoned officer, understood the weight of those words. Yet, the harsh reality hung heavy.  "Son," he said gently, "how long can you carry him? He's gone."

The soldier's jaw clenched. "Saab, I can't abandon him. He was our platoon's Ustad."

Kharbanda and his party pressed on, a heavy silence hanging between them. Later, they caught up with the young soldier once more. He'd used his own turban, a symbol of his heritage, to bind the NCO's body to his back.

"Jawan," Kharbanda said, his voice gruff with emotion, "Leave him. He's gone. You can't save yourself if you don't."

The soldier's eyes, burning with a grief only war could forge, met Kharbanda's. "Saab," he rasped, "how can I face my village without him?"

He accepted the offered food – a meager solace in the face of his loss – and continued his trek, a solitary figure burdened by loyalty and love. Kharbanda's party rested for the night, haunted by the image of the young soldier, a testament to the unbreakable bond that transcended life and death.

The next morning, the unforgiving sun revealed a scene that froze Kharbanda's blood. The soldier lay sprawled lifeless on the desolate hillside, the NCO still strapped to his back. He had walked until his very last breath, a silent guardian to his fallen mentor.

This, in the face of war's brutal tapestry, was the brotherhood of soldiers. A bond forged in shared hardship, a loyalty that defied even death.

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