Col V. N. Thapar is the father of Capt Vijyant Thapar, VrC, who was a fourth-generation army officer. At the early age of fifteen, he was selected for the National Defence Academy and commissioned on 12 December 1962 in the Maratha Light Infantry. He commanded a battalion of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles. He was part of the 1965 War and Bangladesh War, and has operated in counter-insurgency operations. He is an alumnus of the prestigious Defense Services, Staff College, Wellington. He has written for media publications and is a motivational speaker at various forums, universities, colleges and schools.
Neha Dwivedi, a Kargil War martyr's daughter and an Armoured Corps Officer's wife, is a doctor by profession. She is an alumnus of DPS RK Puram and Lady Hardinge Medical College, Delhi. She sought solace in writing and found her strength post her father's martyrdom. She now lives in Mumbai, where she works as a childbirth educator and an infant and young child feeding specialist. She deeply believes in the healing and inspirational power of stories. This is her first book.
'By the time you get this letter, I'll be observing you all from the sky. I have no regrets, in fact even if I become a human again, I'll join the army and fight for my nation.'
This was the last letter Captain Vijyant Thapar wrote to his family. He was twenty-two when he was martyred in the Kargil War, having fought bravely in the crucial battles of Tololing and Knoll. A fourth-generation army officer, Vijyant dreamt of serving his country even as a young boy. In this first-ever biography, we learn about his journey to join the Indian Military Academy and the experiences that shaped him into a fine officer.
Told by his father and Neha Dwivedi, a martyr's daughter herself, the anecdotes from his family and close friends come alive, and we have a chance to know the exceptional young man that Vijyant was. His inspiring story provides a rare glimpse into the heart of a brave soldier. His legacy stays alive through these fond memories and his service to the country.
Kargil hero Capt Vijyant Thapar's life now relived in a biography
A famous last letter, an unusual friendship, an arduous journey, a bitter war... 'Vijyant at Kargil' celebrates the extraordinary life and death of a 22-year-old soldier
To the world, this is a remote Shangri La filled with scree-scattered hills, snow drifts and sky-blue rivers. In this landscape of geographical superlatives where the Himalayas envelop the Indian subcontinent in a fortified embrace, rests the legends of men as tall as the mountains.
Twenty-one years ago in the scorching summer of 1999, 527 young warriors of the Indian armed forces fought and died in these cordite-laced, desolate spaces in what was to be India's first televised war - Kargil. One among them was 22-year-old Captain Vijyant Thapar, VrC, (the Vir Chakra was awarded posthumously for gallantry in the Battle of Knoll) whose short life was one crowded with equal measures of valour, victory and kindness; one that best summed up the adage - "live life king-size" - something he urged his countrymen to do in his last letter to his family. It also said "Please come and see where the Indian Army fought for your tomorrow".
The letter has been shared millions of times on social media, books and at talks, and literally taken to heart by his 77-year-old father Colonel VN Thapar who has honoured his request these past two decades climbing 16,000 feet to the sangar where Vijyant died, and where his portrait now hangs alongside a goddess. Thapar has also looked out for Ruksana, a young Kashmiri girl who befriended Vijyant when she was a lost three-year-old.
These stories, and some of the lesser-known anecdotes from the Thapar family album are in the recently-released Vijyant at Kargil - The Life of a Kargil War Hero written by Col VN Thapar and Neha Dwivedi (published by Penguin Random House).
With a foreword by General VP Malik (retired), who was Army Chief during the war, the book follows the trajectory of Vijyant's life from his birth into a third-generation Army family to his death on a moonlit hill, with plenty of light thrown on a charming boyhood in 1980s India. Thapar, a retired infantry officer and war veteran, on phone from the family home in Noida, says, "The book has always been a dream. For the first three years, we struggled with the loss. But there was always curiosity about him - television series, print media, films, documentary... I was urged by some military authors to take on the book. My co-author was in Mumbai; I had to write long-hand and type it out. It was an enormous task for someone not tech-savvy."
No detail of Vijyant's life seems to have been left out - how he came to be called Robin at home, his foray into firing weapons as a teen, banter with his cousins, the dogs he loved, the paths he roamed, his one true love, his resilience when he failed to clear the entrance exam for the National Defence Academy, his quiet triumph when he was commissioned from the Indian Military Academy into the Army Service Corps and his tenure with the 2 Rajputana Rifles that paved his way for glory.
"I had collected everything that had been written about him. We also had his diaries, photographs and videos. So the book was almost ready for years. And, I have a diary that is my wife," laughs Thapar. "Most sons are known by their fathers. I am a father, fortunate or otherwise, who is known by his son. When he was alive we used to have the odd scrap, but after he went away I realised his life was rich although he died young. Those who knew him felt uplifted. There is no better monument to him than a book."
This is something that Neha Dwivedi, doctor and childbirth educator, Army daughter and wife, concurs with. Her father, Major CB Dwivedi, SM, also died in Kargil and Neha, 33, says, "it was only much later that I understood that you process grief differently when you lose a father or when you lose a son. But the common feeling of loss heals you."
Neha brings this sensitivity to the book. "When I visited the Kargil Memorial in Dras in 2016, I came away thinking of writing a 'Dear daddy' book because that was how I dealt with my loss, growing up. I have always found a lot of value in writing the stories of heroes. Those who've followed the Kargil war have heard of Vijyant. His back-story fascinated me. Col Thapar had most of the material ready, but it was from the perspective of a father. The book is about the man and what he meant to his school friends, coursemates, and cousins. That was the part I focussed on," says Neha who travelled across North India tracking down and meeting brothers-in-arms and family and friends scattered across the globe.
The Thapars keep an open house where Vijyant's room serves as an inspiration to those who drop by. "We have lost him physically but there's a lot of him still alive - his spirit that we must propagate," says Thapar.
The book roars to life with details of Vijyant's time fighting counter-insurgency in Kashmir and the battle on June 29, 1999, that brought down the curtains on his life.
But it is in the lines in between that the story inspires - that it is possible to have a frugal existence but a rich life, that the book is a daughter's tribute to all men who have raised the Flag, that a soldier's word should be honoured and why a father climbs the mountain to visit Robin's last nest.
|Title:||Vijyant at Kargil|
|Author:||V.N. ThaparNeha Dwivedi|
Neha Dwivedi, a Kargil War martyr's daughter is a doctor by profession and writer by passion. She is an alumnus of DPS RK Puram and Lady Hardinge Medical College, Delhi. Writing is what brought solace to her post her father's martyrdom.
She now lives in Delhi, where she works as a childbirth educator and an infant and young child feeding specialist. She deeply believes in the healing and inspirational power of stories and hopes to continue bringing more untold stories to the forefront. Her first book was Vijyant at Kargil: The Biography of a War Hero.