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The third time I could have died is not as dramatic as the previous two incidences. But I managed to cheat death this time as well, wondering, “Gods must be crazy!!!”
I was posted as a Second in Command of my battalion in Rajouri/Poonch area of J&K. As part of the training schedule and to give rest to the troops from the hectic CI / CT operations, we were told to go to our permanent location at Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh. There we stayed for 3 months, re-trained, refreshed, rested and most important… partied for 3 months.
We were to get back to J&K to continue with our deployment and operations. I was to lead the advance party, with most of the troops from Dalhousie to Poonch. We loaded up the previous night and had a good party way past midnight. Next day, early morning at 4 am, we moved from our battalion area with around 30 odd trucks. I was in a Maruti Gypsy, with my Sahayak and radio operator in the rear of the vehicle. The second in command was one Major, who was to be in the center of the vehicles column. After we crossed Buklow, we stopped for tea break and for the drivers to rest. Anyone who has been to that part of the country will vouch for the treacherous road from Dalhousie to Pathankot. It is a narrow winding road with numerous hair pin bends and steep mountain on one side and a deep valley on the other, both extending to kilometers each.
As we were waiting, one truck came from Pathankot side. While it was negotiating our halting place, the road under its left side tires suddenly gave away. The truck went toppling down for nearly 60-70 meters. It was filled with cement bags and the whole area was white with flying cement. My jawans immediately rushed down the steep valley and after an hour or so brought up the 2 bodies of the driver and cleaner. They had tried their best to revive them by giving mouth to mouth resuscitation. The injuries were too deep and fatal. However, we handed the bodies to the local police whom we had contacted and decided to move ahead.
The major came up to me and requested permission to drive my Gypsy so that we could have a chit chat during our journey. I agreed and we moved ahead. It so happened that the late night partying and early morning waking up took its toll and I snoozed off. Seeing this, my junior loyally followed me and did the same!!!
We woke up only when our Gypsy had left the road and was airborne!!!
We were staring at near death. The vehicle rolled 3 times and came to a halt on a small and a narrow ledge, precariously poised. We got out of it very carefully. All of us were in still in one piece, by the Grace of Almighty… but the same could not be said about the vehicle!
When I got out and surveyed the scenario, I realised how lucky we had been!!! Had the Major slept a second before or after he did, we would certainly have been at the base of the valley. Had the gypsy been a little faster, it would have jumped the ledge and gone down. Had there been stones/boulders en-route to the ledge, we would have smashed our heads since it was a soft top gypsy.
So, it was another halt for us to retrieve the vehicle to the road, keep some jawans for its security till it could be taken back to the battalion and move ahead to J&K for our Op deployment.
Lucky third time as well…Will see you next Sunday with another tale. Till then Jai Hind!
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All pictures courtesy Pixabay and Google image search