.A chat between a Solider and Software Engineer in Shatabdi Train
.An interesting and a must readl!
Vivek Pradhan was not a happy man. Even the plush comfort of the
air-conditioned compartment of the Shatabdi express could not 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 person, it was the savings in time. As PM, he
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 look. He
always found it difficult to resist appreciation. The man was young
and stockpiled built 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
Vivek smiled deprecatingly. Aliveness 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
This was not turning out as Vivek had thought. A hint of
belligerence crept 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. Indians have such a narrow concept of hard
work. Just because we sit in an air-conditioned office, does not mean
our brows do not sweat. You exercise the muscle;
we exercise the mind and believe me that is no less taxing."
He could see, he had the man where he wanted, 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 tr!
an actions accessing a single database, at a time concurrently; data integrity,
locking, data security. Do you understand the complexity in designing and
coding such a system?"
The man was awe stuck; quite like a child at a planetarium. This was
something big and beyond his imagination. "You design and code such
"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."
This was like the last straw for Vivek. He retorted, "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 do not 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. To tell you
about the pressures, there is the customer at one end, always
changing his requirements, the user at the other, wanting something
else, and your boss, always expecting you to have finished it
Vivek paused in his diatribe, his belligerence fading with
self-realization. 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 Vivek. "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 soft
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 Batra Sahib 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 and brought that injured
soldier into the bunker. Every morning thereafter, as we stood
guard, I could 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
Vivek looked at him in disbelief not sure of how to respond.
Abruptly, he switched off the laptop. It seemed trivial, even
insulting to edit a Word document in the presence of a man for whom
velour and duty was a daily part of life; velour 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 hand... had climbed mountains, pressed the trigger, and hoisted
Suddenly, as if by impulse, he stood up 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 narrated during the capture of Peak 4875 is a
true-life incident during the Kargil war. Capt. Batra sacrificed his
life while trying to save one of the men he commanded, as victory
was within sight. For this and 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 learn!
Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the