Brigadier Kuldeep Singh Chandpuri (retd), war hero and lovable soul, has fallen to the ravages of time and a dreaded ailment which even he could not combat. His life and times were such that from humble beginnings he went on to become a household name, especially when his daring war time feat was memorably portrayed in the film Border. Sunny Deol essayed the role of the then Major Chandpuri who successfully battled enemy forces in the battle of Longewala when he and his men had hardly a hope of survival.

Brig Chandpuri was a national icon and his demise has been mourned by all sections of society. But only those who knew Brig Chandpuri personally understood the true stature of this humble hero. Whenever I met him he would be full of positivity and cheer. He would address many like me as ‘sir’ despite our protests. His laughter was an uninhibited guffaw, with charm and sincerity gushing forth from his being. I have often told his elder son Hardeep that I felt truly inspired by the great man.

I fondly recall the occasion when he and I were fellow judges for a national level competition. He exemplified tireless grace in the long hours during which we deliberated upon the merits of potential winners.

His persona held a disarming charm which was old world and dignified, with nary an indication of his valorous past. He was harmless and genial, hardly the sort of man who could be expected to kill, even in war. Yet, his bravery and doggedness in uniform is the stuff of legends.

Last year, he called me up from a government office where he had gone to sort out some paperwork. He was apparently sitting in the PA’s office waiting for the Sahib to summon him inwards to his cabin. Such was Brig Chandpuri’s humility that instead of feeling riled he was rather apologetic about the whole thing. As if  the government  was doing him a favour by providing him a service to which he was entitled!

Humility actually runs in the family. Hardeep Chandpuri is the doyen of radio jockeying in this region and runs a training institute for RJs. He too is the epitome of simplicity.

Real life heroes are obviously brave and accomplished people. But what really sets them apart is the inner calmness and humbleness which they possess. Common citizens who save lives by diving into a river or rushing into a building on fire seldom boast about their feats later. They play with fire as if it is their bounden  duty to do so. They are usually grounded, sincere and level headed people. Very few acts of bravery or selfless service come from the pompous and high-headed.

Those who crave for mileage and awards are perhaps lesser mortals, not having understood the fact that true following comes from intrinsic mettle and a down to earth approach to life. Flashes in the pan are common these days. Two  minutes of fame is easy to attain with digital media spewing forth in viral fashion whatever it considers transiently worthy.

But true champions, heroes who have saved or changed lives, never seek glory. Goodwill comes to them in constant unstoppable showers, like a pleasant drizzle which never ends. The memory of a fallen soldier who sacrificed his life for the nation, or of a fearless fireman who saved dozens but perished himself, can never fade away.

Young people growing up in this highly materialistic era would do well to read about and try to emulate the qualities exemplified by inspiring personalities.They need to be motivated like never before. Otherwise they will end up being the cynical sorts who couldn’t care less.

The heroism of a tireless and spotless official who gives his entire life for  the nation but hardly considers himself worthy of any praise, stating that it is only his duty to do so, should also inspire us all.

On humility, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A great man is always willing to be little!” When angelic heroes like Brig. Chandpuri choose to leave the world, they leave behind a glowing aura which refuses to fade away and leaves us feeling embalmed and grateful.

vivek.atray@gmail.com