Posted by: Myself | May 2, 2006

Live Humbly

Got a nice forward today … Do read if u have 5 mins for it.  

Vivek Pradhan wasn't a happy man. Even the plush comfort of the
First Class air-conditioned compartment of the Shatabdi Express
couldn't 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 guy, it was the savings in
time. A PM 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
detailed look.

He always found it difficult to resist appreciation. The man was
young and stocky 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. Naivety 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 came 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." "Hard work!" "Indians have such a narrow
concept of hard work. Just because we sit in an air-conditioned
office doesn't mean our brows don't sweat. You exercise the
muscle; we exercise the mind and believe me that is no less

He had the man where he wanted him 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 given
time; concurrency, data integrity, locking, data security. Do you
understand the complexity in designing and coding such a

The man was stuck with amazement, 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

"Oh!" sighed the man, as if the storm had passed over, "so your
life is easy now."

It was like being told the fire was better than the frying pan.
The man had to be given a feel of the heat.

"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 don't 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. And to tell you
about the pressures! There is the customer at one end always
hanging his requirements, the user wanting something else and
your boss always expecting you to have finished it yesterday."

Vivek paused in his diatribe, his belligerence fading with
self-realisation. 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

"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 tricolor 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
land 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 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 that
soldier into the bunker. Every morning now as I stand guard I can
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 his reply. 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; a valor 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 was the hand that had
climbed mountains, pressed the trigger and hoisted the tricolor.
Suddenly as if by impulse he stood 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 narrates during the capture of Peak 4875 is a
true life incident during the Kargil war. Major Batra sacrificed
his life while trying to save one of the men he commanded, as
victory was within sight. For this and his various other acts of
bravery he was awarded the Param Vir Chakra – the
nation's highest military award.

Live humbly, there are great people around us, let us



  1. Unfortunately you are one of the very few who actually read the mail.. 😦

  2. Didn’t read beyond the first line. The fist AC in train would cost much more than a flight ticket these days. The reason for not giving the air ticket is removed then. So whatever follows after that, must be flawed.

  3. Ah I take it back. Had nothing to do with the amount of time being spent in the train. 🙂

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