New Delhi: Forty years to this day, India fought and won a war that would change the map of the world forever, the war of 1971 that saw the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan.
There were two Param Virs whose courage in the face of death has inspired the generation that followed.
Lt Khetrapal, who was 21-years-old at the time, was commissioned to the Army just six months before the 1971 war. His tank regiment, 17 Pune Horse, was tasked with securing a bridge on the Basantar river. On December 16, as the Pakistani's attacked , an intense battle ensued.
Khetrapal's tank was hit but he refused to retreat, instead he charged after the enemy. He secured the bridge head but dying doing so. His mother Maheshwari Khetrapal, now 89, says she's proud her son died a soldier's death.
"You know how I got him back? I got him back in ashes. He was such a young handsome boy. People asked me what I ate before I gave birth to him. Now I think to myself that may be he was born for that day, to fight for his motherland and die," said Maheshwari Khetrapal.
For courage in the face of death, Lt Khetrapal received India's highest gallantry award, the Param Vir Chakra.
Barely a kilometre away, another Param Vir was battling the odds. Maj Hoshiyar Singh of the 3 Greniders came under heavy shelling from the Pakistanis. Though he was seriously injured, he went from trench to trench telling his men to stand and fight, till they could repel the attack.
Lt Col Raj Kumar Dhiya, his son, who is now serving in his father's regiment says the quiet major never spoke about the war later on in his life.
"I Was eight when he went to war, the siren went up, my father fought and didn't see his own blood. All he was worried about was how he would cope. When the war ended we came to know from a newspaper about his valour in the war. But, he never said anything about it," Lt Col Raj Kumar Dhiya said.