Being an ex-banker myself, I am glad and proud to post this article about Mrs.Anuradha Prabhudesai,an ex banker, who has taken a lot of courage and involvement in breaking the barriers between the Indian soldiers and civilians.
The Kargil War also known as the Kargil conflict, was an armed conflict between India and Pakistan that took place between May and July 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir and elsewhere along the Line of Control (LOC). The conflict is also referred to as Operation Vijay (Victory in Hindi) which was the name of the Indian operation to clear the Kargil sector.
The war is one of the most recent examples of high altitude warfare in mountainous terrain, which posed significant logistical problems for the combating sides.
To know more about Kargil war visit :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kargil_War
The guns have been quiet for more than a decade now but there is one woman whose voice echoes through the Valley - Anuradha Prabhudesai.“Thodi si mein wife hoon, thodi si mein nani hoon, lekin pehle Hindustani hoon,” says 57-year-old Anuradha Prabhudesai, an ex-banker, whose story dates back to August 2004 when she was in Ladakh on a holiday, with her with her husband and friends.
Anuradha was ambling along the roads of Drass, drinking in the friendliness of the locals and the soldiers in a war-ravaged town, when she first spotted an army caption that read, ‘I only regret that I have but one life to lay down for the country.’
Intrigued, she stopped an army Khansama who, in turn, unassumingly asked her “aapko pata nahi, yahan toh haazerein laashein giri thi.” That was Anuradha’s moment of introspection. She pondered about her comfortable life back in Mumbai, the brief news about Kargil (in 1999) and the pseudo patriotism she wore in her heart. Moved by what she heard, Anuradha, along with her friend Vikram Joshi, took an oath at Vijay Stambh (War Memorial in Kargil) to bring to light the sacrifices made by the Kargil soldiers and visit Kargil for the next five years.
Back from the trip, Anuradha wrote several letters to the army officials seeking permission to visit them during Raksha Bandhan in 2005. After some initial resistance, Colonel Jha finally conceded. The mission was possible but the trail ahead tough. Driving through rough roads from Manali to Sarchu and finally into Leh,
it all seemed worth it when, after tying rakhis and distributing homemade food, the soldiers expressed, “Aap jo pyaar dete ho rakhi ke zariye, woh hosla deta hai ladne ke liye.” The bond strengthened when she returned in 2006 with a group of 36 girls.
Anuradha has visited Kargil 14 times in the last ten years, and her work has been cherished by the army. She has published more than 400 copies of Hindi poems authored by her and several booklets on the Kargil martyrs.
“As Indians, we do not know the names of the Paramveer awardees of our country but we know the names of new-born star kids, film award winners etc. Where are we heading as a nation,” asks Anuradha, who is the only civilian and only woman with access to all the regiments in the Kargil region.
Having lived up to her five-year oath, in 2009, when Anuradha expressed her uncertainty to continue the mission to Brigadier Pal, he simply ordered, “Continue the good work.”
Subsequently, Anuradha formed Lakshya Foundation with her friend Vikram Joshi, who was part of the excursion that also included Prabhudesai’s husband Gurunath and Joshi’s wife Aparna.
The Foundation organises various activities to create awareness about the sacrifices made by army men and the tough lives that they lead, positioned at the borders.
To know more about Lakshya Foundation and its activities visit:
Participants of the Lakshya Foundation excursion
In her journey so far, she has travelled to Ladakh with 450 civilians giving them first-hand experience of army life, delivered 105 lectures across schools and arranged get-togethers of army wives and war widows.
Fondly called as ma’am, maasi and ma, by the soldiers, Anuradha’s role in their lives was expanding. On 26th July 2011, she received a memento from Lt Gn Dastane for boosting the morale of the soldiers and bridging the gap between civilians and soldiers. This memento, she says, is life’s best gift to her
Anuradha’s work for the soldiers through the foundation grew multifold. Their first activity was Diwali with Soldiers—an initiative to distribute sweets to the families of the soldiers. “Aaj kal insaniyat ki kami hai. It’s all about me, my family, my job,” she says voicing her pain. Sharing several anecdotes of soldiers’ lives who stay put at an altitude of 18,000 ft in bone-chilling conditions for several weeks, Anuradha urges, “If you find a soldier, give him respect and love. That’s all they need.”
Taking a leaf from the lives of the soldiers, today, Anuradha has evolved as a human being—less temperamental, more disciplined, calm and collected, and has a better sense of time. She has reoriented her life to a different compass.
Today, 26th July, Army Day, is incomplete without Anuradha and Lakshya Foundation. Leading two lives—one of a middle-class, hard-working wife and another of a woman who is a beacon of hope for our soldiers, in January 2012, Anuradha quit her job, “I wanted to work for my country,” she says.
Anuradha persists in her efforts to break the barriers between the soldiers and civilians. She believes her mission will be accomplished when every Indian dedicates five years of his life to the country. For Anuradha, it would mean a truly patriotic India.