Rachna Bisht Rawat was born and brought up in Army cantonments around the country – her father, Brig BS Bisht, was a paratrooper. Later, she married an Army officer – which means her world has always been olive green. She also saw the war unfold with her brother, Col Sameer Bisht posted in Kargil. As the nation pays homage to the martyrs on the 20th anniversary of Kargil War, Rachna gives an ode to the heroes in her latest book, Kargil – Untold Stories From the War. The author has tried to put together the lives of families of martyrs after their irreparable loss. Excerpts:
How and when did you decide to write the book?
Penguin Commissioning Editor Milee Aishwarya had been discussing a book on Kargil with me for quite some time. But since I had already written two books on wars, I wasn’t interested much. Then over a year ago, my book editor Gurveen Chadha came on board. She was very enthusiastic about a book on Kargil and some of her spirit rubbed on me as well.
I knew that Kargil had heart-breaking stories of young martyrs – my brother had fought Kargil, and as a reporter with the Indian Express in Ahmedabad, I had covered funeral processions of martyrs. So a part of me didn’t want to do it. I discussed the idea with my husband, Col Manoj Rawat, who advised me to go ahead. “Kargil heroes are still around. The war is there in public memory. If people don’t write about it, these sacrifices will slowly be forgotten,” he told me. We decided that the 20th anniversary of Kargil would be the right time to have the
After 20 years of Kargil, has anything changed at how we view martyrs now?
Nothing. We have always looked at martyrs with pride and a sense of gratitude. Unfortunately, we hardly look at them. We have to be reminded of what they did. The onus of keeping them alive rests on writers, filmmakers and the media.
On the 20th anniversary of the war, what message do you want to send across?
War stories sound romantic but war is terrible. It shatters families, kills some of our bravest young boys and leaves behind a legacy of sadness and hatred. Young women lose their husbands, children grow up knowing their father only as a stranger who left the house one day to fight for his country and never came back while parents grieve all their lives. It is the families of martyrs who pay the price for our national pride.
You have also included martyrs Saurabh Kalia and Vijayant Thapar in this book. Their stories aren’t untold...
I included the stories of better-known martyrs because these young men were barely out of college, and they died for us. I was humbled by the dignity with which their loved ones have accepted their loss. Their stories need to be told again and again – as loudly as we can. We need to assure martyrs’ families that we have not forgotten their sacrifices.
Writing such emotional stories must be exhausting…
Yes. More so since I have men in my life who have all been part of some kind of combat. I understand that it is just a matter of chance that they came back alive. Usually, after I finish a story, I take a break and focus on music classes, books and films besides spending time with family and friends. Only after the story is out of my system, I begin the next story.