The Last Mile

The Last Mile

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By A Gunner Veteran

(these people were not gathered by political parties, not paid like the stone pelters of Kashmir but a spontaneous one to pay their homage to a DEFENDER OF INDIA) …..admin

The day dawned with a lump in throat. Since yesterday I had been bracing myself for today’s events…. Yet, I fell short at least on two accounts. Firstly, I had resolved that I shall remain composed through out the day, come what may. Secondly, I never imagined number of people who had turned up in such a big way. So many odds- its Mumbai, (well technically, Thane), busiest city of our Nation, a call for Bandh and the potent threat of heavy rains. Yet they all were there.

The atmosphere was sombre,… and it was not just the dark clouds in the sky above. The roads leading to Kaustubh’s home had swelled up with sea of humanity. Waiting patiently for their brother, friend, and their Hero.

Kaustubh’s journey today was just a mile from his home.

Again like yesterday, the place gave impression of being well organised and fully disciplined. Citizens were queuing up silently to pay their respects. Brigadier Roy was coordinating the things in the background. Madam- Mrs Kanika, Kashyapi, Kaustubh’s mother we’re standing by his side.

Col MK Singh, Kaustubh’s first CO, had flown in from Lucknow. His coursemates were all around to give a helping hand to the family. Saw them in larger numbers today than yesterday- Sharma, Gokhale, Karan Tambe and many others. There were a few Naval officers. An officer from 36 RR was a watching over others from a side.

Civil administration was at its best. The Police had kept neat and efficient arrangements for controlling the people. IG himself (Mr Nawal, if I am not wrong) had come to pay homage to the fallen hero. He too was seen keeping a watchful eye on overall proceedings.

Finally, the moment came to start Kaustubh’s journey, the Last Mile…

As Captain Salim Mansuri, my Gunner friend from bygone years and I started walking with Kaustubh we noticed extraordinary sights……

People from all age groups, all walks of life had lined up along the road. Some had climbed up roof tops and trees to have one glimpse. Some were offering flowers, some were offering garlands, … if there was one thing which was offered the most, it was free flowing tears,….some with folded hands, some saluting in military style ….. all eyes were damp. I too lost all my composure for the first time, and it was not the last time either.

All communities, I don’t mean this in sense of religion/ caste or creed, but by profession and the walks of life came as one, united in paying respects. A trader, (Akhilesh Trust) who had lost his son in Mumbai floods, had laid flowers on a stretch of road for our warrior. MRMPA and medical fraternity of Mira Road Bhayender have come up with a noble gesture, and they are not the only ones. Dr Amod Potnis, a paediatrician (Parijat Hospital,Borivali East) has offered his medical services for Kaustubh’s son, till he comes of age. More are coming forward. Met Mr Tamang, from NE, Iyer from Matunga, some ladies from nearby suburbs, school children in their uniforms…..

The volunteers in their uniforms- dark brown caps, white shirts with Georgette patches on collars, were helping In maintaining the pace of the procession. (I was told they are Khwaajaa Volunteers). There were Boy Scouts. Many others who didn’t belong to any particular class, just common citizens…. Were part of people assisting the Police and the Military officials.

At the gates of the crematorium, again there was a rush of people who wanted to go in. But again nowhere it was a mad rush. Only a few could be accommodated. I too had to flash my newly acquired Ex Service Man card to get in.
Major Pranjal was the coordinator here.

Eminent persons paid their homage. There were political leaders, Police Officers, Officers from the Fire Brigade and finally, the Military Officers.
The Colonel Commandant of GARHRIF (SWC Army Commander) was the last one to lay the wreath. The National Flag which draped Kaustubh was handed over to Madam by the Army Commander. The place was reverberating with people chanting ‘ मेजर कौस्तुभ राणे अमर रहे’,

As time for final goodbye approached, the Rain Gods of the Day, who had held themselves back, finally broke down. A gentle shower, allowed many like me to weep unashamedly.

‘Last Post’ was sounded….. and that was it. Soon to be followed by a call for ‘Reveille ‘ indicating Kaustubh’s beginning in the new world, brought a fresh deluge of tears. The

Bugler’s call confirmed the finality of the event.

Even the Rain Gods couldn’t hold themselves back as we saw heart wrenching sight ……Kaustubh’s father followed by Young Agasya, perched in his mother’s arms going around Kaustubh for one final time.

Kaustubh has moved on to the new world.

I wanted to share his Last Mile with you all as it was my longest mile I have ever traveled.