Mushtaq Ahmed Lone, son of an Army porter, had resolved to take up his father's profession right from his childhood, which he spent at the barracks.
Now, he feels his choice had been correct, as the men in uniform became his saviours when he was battling frostbite and risked losing both his hands. A porter with the Army posted in the Handwara area of Kupwara district, Lone suffered third degree frostbite in the recent heavy snow while ferrying load to a forward post.
Army personnel immediately realised the gravity of the situation, relieved Lone of his load and administered immediate first aid to his hands which had by then swollen up. He was then airlifted in a Cheetah chopper to the Srinagar base hospital, where paramedics were waiting for Lone to provide him emergency treatment.
"The swift and decisive action at all levels saved my hands and I am sure I will work again for the Army," Lone says with gratitude writ large over his face.
"I am in safe hands. I know I will be able to carry loads again for the men who guard our borders," he told PTI at the Base Hospital where he is currently recuperating from frostbite.
Lone's story has given a boost to the Army's image, which had received a setback after the February 2004 incident in Chittibandy in Baramulla district in which six porters were killed during an anti-militancy operation.
The incident had caused a huge uproar in the valley with human rights groups alleging that porters were being used as 'human shields.'
"The Army has always been making a concerted effort on two fronts - to eliminate militants and to alleviate the problems of the people. The move is not out of the order as Army has proved it from time to time," Defence PRO Lt Col V K Batra said.
He said the humanitarian assistance provided by Army during natural calamities as well as during normal life has yielded good results in anti-militancy operations.