Vivek Pradhan was not a happy man. Even the plush comfort of the air-conditioned compartment of the Shatabdi express could not cool his frayed nerves. He was the Project Manager and still not entitled to air travel. It was not the prestige he sought; he had tried to reason with the admin person, it was the savings in time. As PM, he had so many things to do!!

He opened his case and took out the laptop, determined to put the time to some good use.

“Are you from the software industry sir,” the man beside him was staring appreciatively at the laptop.

Vivek glanced briefly and mumbled in affirmation, handling the laptop now with exaggerated care 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.

He always found it difficult to resist appreciation. The man was young and well built like a sportsman. He looked simple and strangely out of place in that little lap of luxury like a small town boy in a prep school.

He probably was a railway sportsman making the most of his free traveling pass.

“You people always amaze me,” the man continued, “You sit in an office and write something on a computer and it does so many big things outside.”

Vivek smiled deprecatingly. “It is not as simple as that my friend. It is not just a question of writing a few lines. There is a lot of process that goes behind it.”

For a moment, he was tempted to explain the entire Software Development Life cycle 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 belligerence crept into his so far affable, persuasive tone. “Everyone just sees the money. No one sees the amount of hard work we have to put in. Indians have such a narrow concept of hard work. Just because we sit in an air-conditioned office, does not mean our brows do not sweat. You exercise the muscle; we exercise the mind and believe me that is no less taxing.” He could see, he had the man where he wanted, and it was time to drive home the point.

“Let me give you an example. Take this train. The entire railway reservation system is computerized. You can book a train ticket between any two stations from any of the hundreds of computerized booking centers across the country. Do you understand the complexity in designing and coding such a system?”

The man was awestruck; quite like a child at a planetarium.

This was 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, “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, wanting something else, and your boss, always expecting you to have finished it yesterday.”

Vivek paused in his diatribe, his belligerence fading with self-realization. What he had said, was not merely the outburst of a wronged man, it was the truth. And one need not get angry while defending the truth. “My friend,” he concluded triumphantly, “you don’t know what it is to 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 that 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 a vast expanse of time. “There were 30 of us when we were ordered to capture Point 4875 in the 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 ‘Tricolour’ (Indian National Flag) at the top only 4 of us were alive.”

“You are a…?”

“I am Subedar (Rank of a Junior commissioned officer) Sushant from the 13 J&K Rifles on duty at Peak 4875 in Kargil. They tell me I have completed my term and can opt for a soft 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 the 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 captain sahib (boss) refused me permission and went ahead himself. He said that the first pledge he had taken as a Gentleman Cadet (at the Indian Military Academy) was to put the safety and welfare of the nation foremost followed by the safety and welfare of the men he commanded…….his own personal safety came last, always and every time.”

“He was killed as he shielded and brought that injured soldier into the bunker. Every morning thereafter, as we stood guard, I could see him taking all those bullets, which were actually meant for me. I know sir….I know, what it is to be in the Line of Fire.”

Winners. In the line of fire

Vivek looked at him in disbelief not sure of how to respond. Abruptly, he switched off the laptop. It seemed trivial, even insulting to edit a Word document in the presence of a man for whom valor and duty was a daily part of life; valor and sense of duty which he had so far attributed only to legendary heroes.

The train slowed down as it pulled into the station, and Subedar 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 hoisted the Tricolour. Suddenly, as if by impulse, he stood up at attention 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 a true-life incident during the Kargil war. Capt. Vikram Batra sacrificed his life while trying to save one of the men he commanded, as victory was within sight. For this and various other acts of bravery, he was awarded the Param Vir Chakra (Medal), the nation’s highest military award.

About Dilip

An open mind! Love to share my thoughts and a keenness to learn. An engineer and a MBA I had a wonderful innings in the Army and later moved to consultancy and teaching. My current interests are music and growing culinary herbs. Love to play golf and do yoga regularly. I am serious on "Living life less seriously". A warm welcome to you be well and be cheerful always.

19 responses

  1. Shveta Vashist Gaur says:

    I read the story just by chance but what i fathom from it is something i have been pondering over for well, more than long…
    Sir i think we have an innate tendency to concentrate on the outcome,the result, the “what will i get from it” kind of thinking. It takes a conscious effort to enjoy the journey with an open mind, to be here right now. The downfall is that there sren’t many who enjoy what they do and do because they enjoy something. They just do cauz they are so focussed on what it is going to fetch them…in the end however the mind,body and soul still stand empty. I know my comment is slightly hovering away from your story but it provoked some thought that i couldn’t resist sharing…


  2. Ramya Sudarshan says:

    Quiet an intense article! Has left me with a lot of thoughts to ponder over…why does every person feel that they have made a lot of difference in the world…even if they have, why is there a necessity to be appreciated for the efforts that they have put in….The true difference between a person who works to meet deadlines and a person who puts his life at risk for the safety of his country beautifully elicits the amount of commitment and involvement in the work that they are entitled to perform…true satisfaction and fulfilment can be achieved only if the person’s really enjoys the work he or she is doing irrespective of the industry that he or she works in…further reassures the fact that being humble and realizing that we are only a minuscule being in the whole wide world and acceptance of the fact that there is a lot to learn will help us move away from our comfort zones and look beyond what we can see.
    Also , would like to mention Sir, that all the discussions that we have had in our classes were enriching and thought provoking and I’m really glad that I have been able learn from you.



    • Dilip Naidu says:

      Hi Ramya … welcome to my blog. You have brought out the classical difference between a routine and an inspirational approach beautifully. Yes commitment, involvement and humility are indeed great virtues.

      Learning and intellectual stimulation can happen in a class only if the participants are active and keen. Your own contribution I must acknowledge was always forthcoming,insightful and articulate.

      I thank you sincerely.

      (Kindly do visit my blog sometimes when you find the time from your future busy corporate life.)

      Kind regards and many smiles 🙂


  3. Manish says:

    Don’t you think the essence of Leadership has got lost in the current scenario where everything has become so materialistic and green-back driven. All what matters is how much do you earn and how do you flaunt it. All affairs of Heroism has become a matter of media attention and so short-lived. We are running not because it’s our hobby rahter because it’s necessary for keeping us going.


    • dilipnaidu says:

      Manish … I do respect your views that the essence of leadership has eroded considerably and it is quite understandable … especially due to the spate of examples of leadership failures witnessed worldwide in recent times ….however it is also seen that the gains of moral turpitude are only in the short term… and the way these leaders fell from grace along with their gigantic corporations proves the point…I do believe that a powerful change is happening and young leaders like you are taking on the challenge and upholding the principles of true leadership … that is to be always rooted to values and faith in goodness of the people you lead … I know there is the gap between doing and preaching is huge … but Manish we ‘gotta’ take on this challenge … I am confidant you will too…

      I am grateful to you for an immensely thought provoking comment …:)



  4. Ashim Choudhury says:

    I feel that to understand the true meaning of leadership one has to be exposed to extreme conditions. It is only in the most trying and challenging circumstances that the real quality and character of a human being come forth. Having experienced the Army and the corporate life, and having interacted closely with senior bureaucrats, I am convinced that all should compulsorily go through the rigours of army life for at least two years. This could even be spread out in four or eight tranches, like it is done in Switzerland. That would imbibe in all these people the spirit of comraderie, team spirit, sacrifice, honesty, diligence and loyalty.
    P.S. It was nice to see the first blog was also from a ‘Jabalpur-ia’


    • dilipnaidu says:

      Ashim … as usual you articulated your views so succinctly more so because you speak with your personal experience from both the worlds. Me and my blogger friends will surely enjoy and agree with you. Thank you. Dilip (P.S Yes what a happy coincidence the first comment came from a Jabalpur connection. :))


  5. dilipnaidu says:

    Your thoughts are echoed in my post on “what corporate can learn from the defense”. Thanks Ramesh.


  6. Ramesh Kundu says:

    A beautiful incident which reminds us the meaning of true leadership. Today in corporate world, we at times are so engaged in our job(s)/deadlines, that we become myopic, short tempered, and self centered.
    I think, every HR head should arrange to take team leaders from corporate(s) to difficult terrains where our soldiers battle it out with extreme conditions of nature. A true leadership is established only when going is tough. We can learn a lot about leadership ualities that way.


  7. Dilip Naidu says:

    Shantanu the spirit of the young girl is a poignant example of ‘divinity in a person’. Very touching and inspirational.

    And as expressed by Banu most of us tend to get so upset on the ‘My’ stuff.

    Thank you sharing your sentiments.



  8. Banu H says:

    There are so many people out there giving up so much of their freedom to ensure ours…I hope I can learn to look at the bigger picture and not get lost in “MY” stuff…Thanks for this..very inspiring.


  9. Shantanu says:

    the article is truly thought provoking.
    one thought that clearly came to my mind is that why is that “WE” think so highly of “ourselves”, ” MY JOB”, “MY RESPONSIBILITIES”, etc….

    Secondly, why is that more often than not most of us look towards the armed forces as the examples towards valor, courage, leadership etc.

    thinking on this one I would like to share an example:
    about an year ago, I was introduced to a society called MSSI ( Multiple Sclerosis Society of India) and I was a part of the team that helped the society that conducted a medical camp for these patients. In this camp i met this young girl suffering from this little know disease which has no known cure. she was very young to have contracted this disease and that was my reason for being very curious. later i got to know her background, she was 14 when i met her first and was an excellent student (in academics and as well as sports), and now she lay immobile that she could not even speak properly as she was progressively losing control of her own bodily functions. in this medical camp she was the person who was telling her fellow patients that show courage and smile. I was personally floored by the amazing energy, courage and strength of mind this girl had.
    I and my friends met her often when some event of the society organised.
    Last i saw her at a fun camp that was conducted by the same society and when we went there we could see that her condition was very bad and she was in last stage.
    but she had one thing that had not changed since the day I saw her first, that undaunted spirit, courage and strength.
    She was fighting every day and yet there was a smile, she was aware of her condition but there was a free spirit that knew no boundaries. seeing her i was in tears but she was singing and gave all of us toffees.
    about 10 days after the fun camp we got a call from office that she was no more.

    I see true courage and fighting spirit in this girl which is no less than any that i could see in this life.

    This is my personal experience. i hope that more people become aware of their surroundings than what a black box called the TV shows us. there are so many examples around just wanting to find a medium.


  10. dilipnaidu says:

    Great thoughts! Coming from a ‘TwinWellsGolfBud’ means so much. A golfer is a soldiers best friend :)Thanks.


  11. TwinWellsGolfBud says:

    Truly inspiring, it also shows how much we are drawn in our own everyday lives, the things we think are important like prestige, flying vs trains seem so trivial when you think of somebody fighting on your behalf to give you all those freedoms. Thanks for the “Thought of the Day” …


  12. dilipnaidu says:

    An inspiring response and so meaningful. Thanks a lot.


  13. Priya Bhinde says:

    Words, story narration and the reality communicated via this story is what I can say is today’s truth and many can relate themselves with this story as the message sent through this story has more meaning and if every individual understand the depth of it and implement same in their life can be surely called as “Supreme Leader”.


  14. dilipnaidu says:

    Chandan your remarks are spontaneous and thought provoking. We do need to remember and respect our soldiers not only in times of war but also in times of peace. What you say is true that ‘lines of fire’ cuts across all the sectors of our professions. And our responses need to be in the same spirit as revealed in the brave Captain’s supreme leadership.

    I am thrilled to note that you and I belong to the same engineering college. Wow technology does bring us together. Thank you.


  15. Chandan says:

    I salute Capt. Vikram Batra for his sacrifice.

    This incident tells a lot..
    1. What do we do for our country? Is that enough?
    2. Had the reaction of Vivek would have been the same, if the Sushant would have been Politician/IAS/IPS/Police-man…??
    2. not only that “..Responsibility only brings more work..” but what should be the duty of a captain(manager/leaders of india) when s/he and her/his team is in the line of fire..


    (Came across your blog/profile while i was searching for Government Engineering College, Jabalpur on Linkedin)


  16. Dear Dilipnaidu, I really like this story especially the effects of showing appreciation. Thank you for reminding me again. I wrote about the 10 secrets of leadership and one secret also is to value your employee (Read more here
    Best regards
    Dominik Godat