It was a fulfillment of a dream. A dream come true. As my Commanding Officer tossed the maroon beret and the Balidan Medal towards me standing right in front of the portrait of the persona I revere most, adorning the wooden paneled officer’s mess wall; and said “Welcome to Skull Dagger gang, you spoiled brat ! ”
I glided my gaze once more over to Capt Paul Bastine’s face in the portrait and kept staring at the eyes in a state of utter disbelief till the grand news slowly sank into me that I was now a part of Capt.Paul Bastine‘s battalion, thereby a skull-dagger guy!
During the ensuing break that I was granted on getting selected to nine, I reached home in Kerala and with the hunger of a seasoned historian started my compilation of facts and figures on Capt.Paul Bastine.
I could chronicle most of the enthusiasm; passion and dream which constituted Capt M Paul Bastine and while at it had the good fortune to interact with Sir’s blessed family members too. But when I placed this folder for the perusal of my CO, he just kept it to a side and said, “Son, he belongs to the skies, and don’t ever drag him back to the earth down below by mapping him.”
Yes. Capt Paul Bastine is consented to be a very prominent bright star in the skull dagger constellation up there in the sky by all the members of the gang worthy of their salt. He, with his matchless zeal and personality could whip up enough passion in the men he lead that they would spring out from the peace, safety and comfort of their cozy abode and set forth to face the challenges ahead unmindful of the grave personal dangers in store.
He was simply the man among men. A gifted leader who would lead from front and an adventurer who loved to face challenges head on. He could therefore, mould his team and raise them to such levels of detachment from worldly longings that they could bet their life on a flip of a coin, and be utterly unaffected by the outcome, all for the cause of national honor and mother India’s pride.
How do/ why do such people live? Live to die?
They live, so that they can serve, serve the country. Serve with honor and serve with pride.They die so that they can live for ever. In death they find life, eternal. For they hope to live in our thoughts, in our breath, in our minds. For generations and generations to come. Unless we decide otherwise.
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods……. Macaulay
And finally when the heavens required a hero up there, they chose, the best one around, they chose Capt. M Paul Bastine.
When I see the hoisted National Flag outside my office waving gently in the slow breeze blowing past it, its vivid colors of saffron, white and green shining in the golden sunshine of the young morning sun, my heart fills with the memory of all those soldiers known and unknown who gave up their todays to keep our tomorrows safe.
All those who gave their lives to keep our Flag up there, flying, until it dawns on me yet again that I am an Indian, first, and last. But, there is a small voice, right from an unknown corner of my heart that starts echoing the parting words of Rambo in First Blood – my childhood hero I grew upon, and it joins the chorus with all those brave hearts “the soldiers gone; Do our country love us as much as we love it ? But then Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to do or die.”
Lest we forget. I hope and pray.Not one more 26/11. Not on my watch.