Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan - way ahead of time itself
Updated: Jul 9
Lately, it seems as if wellness is something I have to remind myself about. The need to take a deep breath. To feel energised, rejuvenated. It all sounds like a travel brochure, or something conjured up for a peppy advertisement. But yes, I do take 'chilling'more seriously than I did in the past. I'm aware of the irony in that sentence and in life itself.
After a particularly challenging week, I decided to see what Netflix had to offer to distract me. The film Major came on as a trailer and I became transfixed. Though the film's Hindi dubbing is not a 100 percent accurate as Telugu, the film gave me goosebumps. Major is based on the life and tragic death of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan who gave up his life couragreously during the 26/11 hostage situation in Mumbai. I'd read many real-time accounts of this noble human being in 2008 when the horrific events unfolded over our TV screens, leaving us speechless. He saved countless lives and was awarded the Ashok Chakra, the nation's highest honour for stopping things from getting much worse. The film does, (as all films do), over-dramaticise the fact that his life was less than perfect. I guess that is what drew me closer to this individual who seemed larger than even his own father could imagine. Major Sandeep (or Sandeep as I like to call him), always wanted to serve, in the Navy at first and then in the Indian Army. He was perhaps some could say a samaritan. Someone whom James Taylor may have sung, "You just call out my name and I'll be there," That's the kind of comradery he offered, complete strangers. He was once seen helping a victim of domestic abuse and getting hit as a youngster untrained in self-defense. By the admission of not just family members but the hostages that he saved from death's clutches, Sandeep risked everything to serve his country. It is the brief he followed his whole life. Pretty big shoes for any of us to fill. As much as I'd hate to offer retaliation as the solution to any problem, there is a certain necessity to own your ground. What I mean by this is it's ok to tell someone to 'back the hell away,' when they get into your personal space. It's a lesson I've had a hard time learning as well. I've always surrounded myself with people, photographs, family, and memories. I realise now that sometimes it is important to be your own hero. As someone who grew up in Mumbai, a cosmopolitan city where hundreds of memories, issues and people intermingle on every step of the pavement. The film and these events have been ingrained in my heart. I am still in shock when I hear the unfortunate tales of people who were trapped and others who carried on their lives in the next few days because they had no choice but to do so. It makes me proud of those who gave whatever they could and still do without waiting for accolades. Who are resilient, no matter what.
If you feel like people are stepping on your toes, step up and feel proud to do what you need to do. I salute the spirit of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan. One must not forget his comrades, many of whom are unsung heroes in the battle to reclaim what is our own. His loving parents, sister and wife have all gone through an ordeal few of us can comprehend. The legacy of this martyr makes me so happy to call him one of our own.
Text and images copyright of Abigail Mathias