Cnversation Between A Soldier And A Software Engineer


 Vivek Pradhan was not a happy man.

Even the plush comfort of the air-conditioned

compartment of the Shatabdhi 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 stockily 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. Naive ness demanded

reasoning not anger. “ 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 Lifecycle 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.

Thousands of transactions accessing a single

database, at a time concurrently; data integrity,

locking, data security. 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


“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


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 at the top only 4 of us were alive. “

“You are a…? “

“I am Subedar 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


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 refused me

permission and went ahead himself.

He said that the first pledge he had taken as a

Gentleman Cadet 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. “

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; valour and sense

of duty which he had so far attributed only to

epical 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


PS:- The incident he narrated during the capture

of Peak 4875 is a true-life incident during the

Kargil war. Capt. 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, the nation’s highest military award.


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