New Delhi: Meet a soldier who took four bullets in his arm in a pitched battle with insurgents and saved the life of two critically injured children in Manipur. Eighteen years since the incident, Colonel DPK Pillay still shares a close bond with the people of the Manipuri village.
Colonel Pillay recalls that fateful day in Longdaipabram village, which is 22 kms from the district Headquarters Tamelong in Manipur.
"The militants were inside the room and rather than allow them to pick and choose and fire us at will I had to intervene. I had to enter the room. I broke the door open and I got a burst of AK-47. The first burst came on my shoulder. I got three burst here and that guy corrected himself and he got a shot on my chest. One of them hurl a grenade, I don't know how I saw the grenade in the darkness but instantly I kicked the grenade and the grenade blew on my leg, taking a portion of my leg away," he says.
This could have been every soldier's tale. But what he did next is what has brought him here today. Although wounded mortally in the gun fight, Colonel Pillay decided to evacuate and save the two children hit in the crossfire instead of his own.
"The nearest hospital was about 6 hours. There's no way the children would have survived. I think I knew that in me that I had 5 minutes of life left in me and said I can hang on extra bit. So I told the pilot not to worry me," he says.
The village has not forgotten his act of kindness. The entire village has gathered to show their gratitude to Colonel Pillay for saving the lives of Masebiliu and Dingamang. He has also been inducted as an important member of the local community. His family, too, is proud of his selfless act.
Sudha Pillay Tampi, Colonel Pillay's Cousin, says, "It's not everyday that you find somebody who is willing to die so long you save the child. This tremendous quality of kindness which I find in my cousin is very blessed and I'm so proud of the awards he won and at the same time he's so humble."
Although based in Delhi, Colonel Pillay's bond with the people of Longdaipabram village runs deep. And the good soldier is strengthening this bond by overseeing and contributing to the village livelihood programme. He has also been instrumental in bring a motor-able road to the village.
Brigadier BK Nair knew he had made the right choice when he posted the young Captain in the trouble-torn Manipur region. A North East and an Afghan war veteran, Brigadier Nair, unfortunately passed away recently.
Colonel Pillay's Uncle says, "I remember that night his mother call me up, who happens to be my sister and I think she cursed me saying that what you have done to my son. I said I made a hero out of your son, look what he has done."
At a time when the country is debating about a sense of alienation among the people from the northeast, the bond between the people of Longdaipabram and Colonel Pillay is an example of how an individual's act of courage and sacrifice can bridge differences.