Gaurav Negi, in his quest to meet the brave men who put their lives on the line to defend India, tracked down Brigadier Kuldip Singh Chandpuri. Chandpuri is the real-life inspiration for Sunny Deol's character in the acclaimed film Border. The second in an ongoing series
The film Border was based on the real battle that was fought in Laungewala on the night of December 4-5, 1971, by 124 soldiers of the 'A' Company of the Indian Army's 23 Punjab Regiment.
The regiment was commanded by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri against the Pakistani assaulting formation, which comprised two infantry battalions, a regiment and a squadron of armour with 59 tanks. Actor Sunny Deol had played Major Chandpuri in the film.
Portraits of Valour by S S Gandhi once again proved to be of immense help. The book contains information on all gallantry awards given out before and after independence, with details of the brave individuals who have been honoured with the prestigious awards post independence. According to the book, Chandpuri, a winner of the Maha Vir Chakra, retired as a brigadier and is currently settled in Chandigarh.
The real-life hero who inspired 'Border'
I was able to get his address and contact number, and when I called him up a female voice on the other side confirmed that it was the residence of the hero of Laungewala.
I then spoke to Brigadier Chandpuri. I have to admit that I could not hold back my tears. This was the first time that I was speaking to a 'God in Uniform'. I just could not say anything worthwhile to him except "Thank You for what you did for us" and "I would like to meet you some time".
Brigadier Chandpuri replied, "Kabhi bhi aaiye beta (Come home anytime, son)".
We were scheduled to drive from Hyderabad to Kargil via Leh in August, and we had planned to visit Brigadier Chandpuri on our way back from the Drass war memorial in Kargil. Unfortunately, we could not reach Leh and Kargil. A day before we were supposed to leave, Leh was hit by a massive cloudburst, which caused large-scale destruction in the area.
On August 20, 2010, I drove from Delhi to Chandigarh to meet Brigadier Chandpuri.
Though he no longer wears his olive green uniform, Brigadier Chandpuri has not hung up his boots, literally. He told me, "Every morning I put on my boots and take them off only at night".
This septuagenarian is still as energetic as a young officer. He is a councilor in the municipal corporation of Chandigarh and had served as an advisor to the recently held Commonwealth Games in Delhi. The day I met him, he had been invited as a speaker in a seminar at Chandigarh.
The real-life hero who inspired 'Border'
I asked him what he felt when he faced his enemies in 1971. "Josh (vigour)," he said. "No army in the world can win without josh."
In the film Border, Sunny Deol, playing Brigadier Chandpuri, walks up to the last pillar on the India-Pakistan border, in spite of everyone warning him against the move as Pakistani snipers could shoot him. When I asked if Brigadier Chandpuri had actually done that, he said that he done that many times. "The enemy should know that I am there and not afraid of him. What does it mean to dominate? I cannot dominate the enemy by just sitting inside a bunker near him."
"We have the third biggest army in the world, bravest of brave soldiers and still our neighbours have the guts to trouble us," because, says Brigadier Chandpuri, "We do not retaliate."
He narrated an incident to emphasise his point. When he was a colonel, he was posted in Kashmir and only the Line of Control separated him from the enemy. The enemy once fired at his post and killed two of his men. Colonel Chandpuri retaliated and his men killed 14 personnel on the other side. After that day, Colonel Chandpuri continued to be deployed there for two years, but nobody dared to fire at him.
The real-life hero who inspired the film 'Border'
I would remember the few hours that I spent with him all my life.
Not being able to visit the Drass war memorial was a big disappointment. But I could meet my 'God in Uniform', the Hero of Laungewala, Brigadier Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, Maha Vir Chakra, Vishisht Seva (Distinguished Service) Medal.
An excerpt from Portraits of Valour.
Major K S Chandpuri was commanding a company of a battalion of Punjab Regiment occupying a defended locality in Laungnewala in the Rajasthan Sector. On December 5, 1971, in the early hours of the morning, the enemy launched a massive attack on his locality with infantry and tanks. Major Chandpuri exhibited dynamic leadership in holding his command intact and steadfast.
Showing exceptional courage and determination, he inspired his men; moving from bunker to bunker, encouraging them in beating back the enemy till reinforcements arrived. In his heroic defence, he inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy and forced them to retreat leaving behind twelve tanks. In this action, Major Chandpuri displayed conspicuous gallantry and leadership.