Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bangalore boy’s supreme sacrific

Bangalore boy’s supreme sacrifice

The cold-blooded massacre of innocents in the country’s financial capital has not left Bangalore untouched. On Friday, a city lad died a hero’s death in front of the embattled Taj Hotel

Bhavya Thimmaiah & Niranjan Kaggere
Posted On Saturday, November 29, 2008

Death is something every soldier has to make a pact with, but that doesn’t lessen the suffering for families who lose their precious sons in the line of duty. One Bangalore family’s deepest emotions will always be inextricably entwined with this week’s terror outrage in Mumbai. On Friday, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan (31) of the NSG was felled by a terrorist’s bullet while taking part in the flushing-out operations at the Taj Hotel.

Entrusted with the task of evacuating the hostages, Major Unnikrishnan was coming down one of the hotel’s floors at around 6 pm when he came across an injured constable battling for life. In trying to shield him, Sandeep was felled by a terrorist’s bullet.

Speaking to Bangalore Mirror, Sandeep’s father K Unnikrishnan said he had called home on the night of Nov 26 to inform them of his assignment. “He was sounding very confident and telling us that the situation was one that would test his skills. He had also told us to watch the TV channels. But my sixth sense told me something could go terribly wrong.”

Sandeep had told his mother he would be coming to Bangalore on Dec 17 to attend a schoolmate’s wedding and would return on Dec 30. In fact, Unnikrishnan said, he had even booked the tickets for the journey. In anticipation of her son’s arrival, Dhanalakshmi Unnikrishnan had already started planning for his favourite dishes, considering that he came home only twice in a year. But Friday’s black news has put paid to her joyous plans.

Born on March 17, 1977, Sandeep came from a humble background. Despite his Keralite roots, his upbringing was in Bangalore as his father was working here as a personal assistant to the ISRO director. An alumnus of Frank Anthony Public school, he excelled in both academics and sports. After finishing school, he joined the National Defence Academy (NDA), where he was part of the 106th regular course and was attached to the ‘Juliet’ squadron. After passing out, he was commissioned in the 7th Bihar Regiment. During his brief stint there, Sandeep was posted to Jammu & Kashmir and was there till last year. His leadership qualities were noticed by his seniors during his J&K stint, and he was deputed to the NSG, based in New Delhi.

Sandeep was driven by the desire to join the armed forces from his teens, but his parents were opposed to the idea as he was their only son. “However, he managed to convince them of his dream of serving the nation rather than working in an office,” recalled Krishnan, a neighbour and family friend.

Pramod, a former ISRO colleague of Sandeep’s father, said, “Sandeep was a brave and intelligent lad. He always excelled in his studies and stood first in sports too. It is unfortunate that such a tragedy has hit the family.” Damodaran, a resident of ISRO Layout and a neighbour of the Unnikrishnans, said, “He was adventurous and always wanted to be in the middle of action. His leadership qualities helped him come out on top in difficult situations.” According to some relatives, Sandeep was married to Neha, a civil engineer and his former classmate, but the couple later separated.

‘He was innately patriotic’

Aditi Soni
Sandeep’s former headmaster at Frank Anthony Public School, Christopher Browne, remembers Sandeep as a teenaged braveheart with an innate sense of patriotism. A resident of Milkman Street, Ulsoor, Sandeep studied in Frank Anthony throughout — he joined the nursery section in 1981 and completed Standard 12 in 1995.

Describing Sandeep as a ‘brave all-rounder’, Browne said, “I joined as principal in 1994. Though it was just for a year that I knew him, he was an excellent student.” A favourite with his teachers, he excelled in all he did, be it studies or sports. “No wonder, in the Mumbai encounter he would have been the first to jump into it since he loved taking initiatives and had no fear,” said Browne.

Apart from being an avid science student, Sandeep took an active part in extra-curricular activities. Immediately after completing school, he cleared the exam for the National Defence Academy. “In just one shot, he got selected to the NDA. That itself shows how intelligent Sandeep was,” said Browne.

Two of Sandeep’s batchmates, Suresh and Deepak, are also Frank Anthony alumni. They too were part of the flushing-out operations in Mumbai.

Commenting on the motivational factor for the trio opting for the armed forces, Browne said, “All the credit goes to our first headmaster, H D’Souza, who was himself a Wing Commander. He made it a tradition that for every annual function, the chief guest would be from the armed forces. That was a big inspiration for the students.”


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