A Mothers Dream – The Final Journey
The appointed day finally arrives on 08 Oct 2016. An Army Liaison officer pulls into Sub Maj AT Josephs home to escort them to Kochi. On their way they hear Radio Kochi Red FM. RJ Soumya airs their story interspersed with extracts of her interviews with them and some of ET Joseph’s buddies. They are received at Kochi airport by Shamsher and RD Chauhan, both course mates of their son. Gp Capt Manoj and another buddy now with Indigo ensures a red carpet welcome. Indigo staff have made all arrangements at the VIP lounge and the parents and sisters are treated with great respect. Famous Malayalam film director Major Ravi is present to express his solidarity and support. ET Joseph’s mother is simply awestruck at the meticulous manner in which Shamsher has planned their journey. As the flight taxies for take-off, Thressiamma closes her eyes; for her, it’s a long cherished dream coming…..
A dream that Mrs. Thressiamma Joseph had shared with Col Shamsher during his unexpected visit, two months ago. The heaviness in the heart that she had carried for over 24 years had seemed to lighten a bit after having spoken to one of her son’s mates who knew him so intimately. She remembered telling him how much she longed to see his grave which lay thousands of miles away at a place she wasn’t even aware of, faraway in the North East and how she always felt a vacuum never having had the opportunity to even place a flower on the grave, or bidding him good bye.
(Read how it all started here https://sajanspeaks.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/the-closure-a-mothers-dream/
Ever since his interaction with her, Shamsher, like a true soldier, had made it a mission in his life to ensure, that a mother’s dream would be fulfilled. His course mates had raised the funds for the journey. Robi, another mate had gone about with missionary zeal to locate the grave and make efforts to restore it to a state befitting a martyr. Shamsher had also conferred with Army authorities, right up to the Army Commander and they extended full support to ensure the visit was conducted with the decorum and grace it deserved.
The Request: ET Joseph’s ageing parents had made one more request – Would it be possible for their son’s grave to be shifted from the remote region of the North East to his home town at Kanjiramattom (a small town between Kochi and Kottayam). Although it was a humble request straight from the heart, the logistics involved seemed colossal. It appeared to be beyond Shamsher or his course mates. The effort involved the Eastern Army under which the grave presently lay and the Southern Army where the grave would ultimately rest. It also involved taking into account religious customs and rituals that needed to be performed to exhume the body, military honours to be coordinated, permission of the civil authorities in the State of Nagaland, and finally transporting the mortal remains all the way to Kerala. The coordination required was simply huge, very huge…..beyond mere mortals.
Yet Shamsher, The Sher did not give up. He requested his course mate Josef George to coordinate the religious aspects. Robi took charge of coordinating at Nagaland end. The Army Commander sanctioned the transportation cost of the mortal remains. Indigo airlines had already sponsored the tickets for the family. 2Lt ET Joseph’s sister confides, “Ever since Col Shamsher stepped into our home, we have only been hearing good news!”
Kochi to Kolkata: Indigo Flight 6E422 carrying ET Joseph’s parents and sisters lands in Kolkata. Thressiamma’s excitement keeps her awake. They step out of the aircraft and are received by some more course mates led by RN Chowdhury. They spend the evening in the company of Surinder, Darpan, Sooraj and RN, their son’s buddies. RN was in the same squadron with ET Joseph at the National Defence Academy and in the same platoon at Indian Military Academy. He narrates various anecdotes about ET Joseph’s stay at the two academies. No one could have narrated them with more accuracy than RN, he has known ET so very well. The family is all ears to hear first-hand stories after so many years. The wives of these officers who had accompanied their husbands to receive ET’s family, make sure that every need of the parents and sisters are taken care of. Thressiamma feels overwhelmed, getting all the attention from the huge Army family. Her son was indeed lucky to have such a band of brothers. She is immensely proud of them.
Kolkata to Kohima: Next morning, they are seen off with immense love and respect. Indigo Flight 6E605 takes them from Kolkata to Dimapur, where they are received again by the Army authorities. Robi is there coordinating every little detail. Onward they reach Chakabama after a long arduous journey of more than six hours by road. They rest for the evening, but Thressiamma is restless, knowing fully well that her son lies very close by.
Next morning, they rise early. Thressiamma, her two daughters and husband are received at the place where her son has been resting for the past quarter of a century. The climb to reach the place is steep. But her eagerness to see her boy, makes her energetic. When she reaches the top, the sight there is beautiful. Nestled amidst rolling hills, there is a very neat cemetery, with only a couple of graves. The Army has maintained it very well. She is astounded to see a number of civilians thronging the place, all seated in a disciplined manner. The Guard of Honour commences, and wreaths are placed on behalf of the Chief of Army Staff, and other dignitaries. Her husband places a wreath too. Thressiamma gets up slowly and places some flowers on her son’s grave. She is held by her daughters who are inconsolable, for they never imagined their mother’s dream would be fulfilled in this lifetime. Finally, ET too gets to be near his mother after 24 years and 4 months.
Rev. Father Felix Monteiro, commences the religious rites for exhuming the body. The tombstone is removed. All the mortal remains are gathered and placed in an ornate coffin arranged by the Army. Full military honours are observed, the Tricolor draped and the casket is transported to Dimapur.
Thressiamma feels as if a heavy load has been lifted. She thanks Robi her son’s course mate who made everything possible at Nagaland. The entire family shower praises on the tremendous efforts of her son’s friends, and the Army for conducting the events so very well. They rest for the day and depart for Dimapur. The ground staff of Indigo Airlines place a wreath and escort the parents onward to Kolkata. At Kolkata, their son is again given a Guard of Honour this time on behalf of Eastern Command. They spend another evening with her son’s buddies. Indigo Airlines again rises to the occasion and sponsors the transportation expenses of the coffin as well. It is an unparalleled gesture from Indigo Airlines, an airline that has truly always honoured the defence forces.
Kohima to Kanjiramattom: On 13 Oct, six full days after they left Kochi, Sub Maj AT Joseph and family return to Kochi accompanied by their son’s mortal remains. As Indigo flight 6E462 lands, Shamsher again is in the thick of things as the Army takes over. A Guard of Honour is presented as the mortal remains touches Kerala. A decked up cortege led by police escorts transports the remains to Kanjarimattom. The Ex- CM of Kerala, Shri Oomen Chandy, pays a visit to the parents and conveys his condolences. After all their boy has come home, after 8,890 days of Martyrdom.
On 14 Oct 2016, 2 Lt ET Joseph is finally laid to rest close to his house at Holy Cross Church, Kanjiramattom with full Military and State honours. A crowd of nearly 4000 throng his village – Politicians, MPs, Ministers, Serving Officers, Retired Officers, Police Officials and a large number of retired soldiers pay their respect.
From today, the mother can visit her son whenever she wishes and place flowers on the day of his martyrdom. Some of the tears in her weary eyes have been wiped. Her dream, fulfilled by her son’s friends who showed that when you set out to do a task selflessly, even the Gods ensure that everything falls in place. And every Martyr’s family can be assured that their needs will be met at any cost by the Army.
Shamsher and Robi, Virk, Viju, Vikram, Manoj, George, RN, Surinder, Sooraj and a whole lot of silent warriors of 78 NDA, 88 Regular, 71 Tech who fulfilled a Mother’s Dream – My Salute to you.
Rest in Peace my friend ET! You brought us all together even though you left us a long time ago.
(The author is ET Joseph’s proud course mate. http://www.sajanspeaks.wordpress.com)
Watch the Tribute to their fallen mates by the course in this video Click Here.
Watch the RED FM Cochin‘s soulful video presentation by RJ Soumya. Click Here
- Indian Express: Click Here
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- Rajasthan Patrika: Click Here
- The Times of India: Click Here
- Deepika : Click Here
- Kerala Kaumudi: Click Here
- Madhyamam: Click Here
- Mangalam: Click Here
- Malayala Manorama: Click Here
- Mathrubhumi: Click Here
- Veekshanam Weekly: Click Here
- Veekshanam Paper: Click Here