Bengaluru: On a cold and chilly December night in 2014, a low intensity IED blast ripped through one of the city's busiest roads, killing a woman strolling with her family. Many more were injured.
Two days after the blast, around 10 am, the DC team rushed to the spot on the Church Street off busy Brigade Road where the blast took place. It had been barricaded and cordoned off. Scores of journalists were jostling for the perfect spot to get the perfect shot, the perfect quote.
We had rushed there as the bomb disposal experts from National Security Guard (NSG) Elite Commandos from the Indian Army had flown in, to examine the site of the blast. The cordoned off area was crawling with men in uniform armed with gadgets, scouring the area, sifting through the debris, looking for clues.
Amidst the hustle and bustle my gaze through the lens settled on the tall and imposing figure of a young man who was intently watching the proceedings. Sporting a pair of slender reading glasses, and holding an I Pad, his keen gaze didn't miss a trick. He could have passed for any of the hundreds of IT geeks who throng our streets. But there was something different about him. His calm demeanour, his stance, well inside the cordoned area! And that's when it hit me - he was either an investigating top cop officer or from the Indian Army. As an army kid, I recognized the breed!
The other plainclothes men sporting bomb disposal gadgets were silently following his every command. When he came up close, I asked him "Sir, are you from the Armed Forces?" Without missing a step, he said that he was a technical consultant working with a major multinational company, and moved back into the cordoned area. That's when he shed his techie persona completely, and took charge. He gestured. A junior officer handed him a pair of rubber gloves and a gadget. This man with a charm of the boy-next-door must be important, I thought as I clicked away.
I made one more effort to engage him in conversation, and told him "you are definitely from the Army". And he asked why to which I said "I was passionate about defence and services and though I am a Photo-Journalist I am a son of a person who wore the uniform of the Indian Air Force". He replied "such passion is everywhere, the real passion is when you join the services." As he was leaving though, he made a point of walking right up to me and saying, pointing at my chest, "Soldier, No Rank, No Details, but I am NIRANJAN.!”
It was not until Sunday when I entered the house of the Pathankot martyr, elite NSG Commando Bomb Disposal Unit’s Chief Lt.Col. Niranjan Kumars' house at Doddabommasandra and saw his photograph hung up on the wall that I realized that this was the same super-smart man I had met on the night of December 30 at Church Street.
This man, who put his life in jeopardy for all of us, is my real hero, the star of our own "Hurt Locker" Story. How many valiant and brave Lt.Col.Niranjan Kumars', Major Unnikrishans', Lt.Col Jojan Thomases and Col. Vasanths from Bengaluru must we lose to the marauders who cross our borders with such murderous intent.
Lt Col. Niranjan, we doff our hats to you!...