Ashwani Joshi a Naval Veteran brings the unheard brave story of 5th May
Nawanshahr(Punjab): One of my cousin Brigadier Pawiter Mohan Bali relayed me a story of the day 5 for Five Zero I wish the fellow Indians must know the fine line between Death & Life!
Complete write up is here by the brave soldier himself unheard by us untill now
By Deep Bhagat
Exactly 27 years ago, on this day in 1996, I was sure to be martyred. If that did happen, I would have taken birth again and probably be a young man of 25 years by now. But someone up there spared Charu, my wife and my parents the agony and heartbreak of losing someone very close to them; and a lifetime of sorrow and pain. I was destined to grow old with them; and I was to father two handsome young boys in this lifetime itself.
The memory of that day still lingers in my mind. We were walking backwards on a forest track stealthily, facing the front, while the danger loomed in the dark shadows of the deep forest filled with thick bushes. There was a lull in the firefight with two Afghan militants. One of them was dead, lying on the track. The other had bravely tried to recover the body of his comrade but retreated under intense fire from us. We assumed he had fled.
We had searched t the dead militant and were making our way back on a forest track to our ambush site. My buddy Lateef was ahead of me. To my right was a steep climb. My rifle was on my rightg shoulder, facing the left, as that was the direction where the threat was most likely to come from. Everything was happening by the book. We were deliberate in our movement. We stopped, sat down, carried out surveillance, fired speculative shots to evoke response from any hidden enemy and kept taking steps backwards. Danger was lurking close by but not visible to the naked eye.
I was scanning the area in front of me and to my left, on high alert for any signs of danger. It was in that uncomfortable moment that I noticed a movement through my peripheral vision on to my right, and I suddenly turned my head towards that direction. My heart skipped a beat, as I found a militant lying in the bushes barely a meter away, with an AK-47 aimed directly at me. I was staring straight down the barrel of his rifle, towards my death.
Advantage Militant!! I was experiencing a familiar sinking feeling that I generally have while losing a Tennis match. This time around, the match was out of my hands, and I was about to pay with my life. Too bad!!
My rifle was pointing in the opposite direction, and it took me an eternity to swing to my right, one thousand nanoseconds. In this time, I was expecting the entire magazine of thirty rounds blowing off my head. Not even one bullet would have missed the target. The target was so close.
I was shouting for Lateef while I kept turning. My rifle was fixed on my shoulder. With my heart pounding, I emptied my entire magazine into the militant lying in front of me.
As I paused and changed my magazine, Lateef had taken over from me. I was shocked in disbelief to be alive. Why the hell didn’t he fire? I kept wondering. The mental trauma of going through such an experience was a nightmare. As I took control of myself, I was thinking of Charu. She would have been a widow today. What a tragedy it would have been!!
I spoke to Lateef loudly – Bhai, check kar ise. Fire kyun nahi kiya isne? (Check him brother. Find out why didn’t he fire?) I was keen on getting answer to this question more than anything else.
Then we found out how God intervenes.
He was the second militant who was involved in the firefight with us. He was a brave man and had not fled as we had assumed. He had laid an ambush on the track since he well knew that we will be using the same track to check the dead body of his mate. He was hit by a bullet in his thigh, and he had tightly bandaged his thigh with his turban. Another bullet had struck his rifle, got lodged in its firing mechanism and made the rifle useless. Lateef was showing the rifle to me, and I was watching it with utter disbelief. The militant must have pressed the trigger, but the firing mechanism did not allow the bullets to be fired.
Years later we were on a family vacation to Kodaikanal, a small hill station in South India. I was seated in a taxi watching the lake when a monk walked over to me from nowhere, looked at my face and said, “Hanuman ji ne jaan bachai hai teri, goliyon se bachaya hai tujhe” (Lord Hanuman has saved your life. You have been saved by bullets). I looked towards him, as a matter of fact and told him “Haan, mujhe malum hai” (Yeah, I know).
This event just humbled me more. It cemented my faith on the Almighty. I knew there’s a guardian angel that is saving me from any harm. I must be His favourite son!!
Yet, a peculiar pattern did intrigue me. That was the 5th day of the 5th month of 1996. I was commanding No 5 troop of Bravo team, and my call sign was Five Zero (50). Every year, 5th May never fails to evoke this feeling of being alive. Today is that day.
Number Five remains my lucky charm and I love being called FIVE ZERO.
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