Mother's unique tribute on son's death anniversary

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Bhopal, Dec 9: For retired kendriya vidyalaya Economics teacher Nirmala Sharma life seems to be all about channelising negative experience into positive energy and an exhibition of her glazed ceramic pottery is a tribute to her only son Captain Devashish Sharma, Kirti Chakra, who made the supreme sacrifice on December 10, 1994 in the war against terrorism in Kashmir.

The event, entitled Aakar-Sukumar and inaugurated on December 7 -- Armed Forces Flag Day -- at the Bhopal District Sainik Board, showcased 72 items created by heating ceramic to 1,280 degrees Celsius in a 2 foot x 2 x 2 furnace at her nondescript bungalow near the scenic Shahpura Lake here.

''The furnace's interior is layered with glass wool for insulation,'' Ms Sharma told the sources. She has staged a total 20 exhibitions across India including ten in this City of Lakes. There have been mixed reactions from the public but Ms Sharma's sole intention is to collect funds for retired personnel and their families.

The furnace was assembled by ceramics artists Manna -- from the city-based Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya -- and Mukesh Prajapati prior to Ms Sharma's exhibition at Mumbai's Jehangir Art Gallery in 2001.

The objects d'art comprised small bowls, vases, a set of teacups, miniature creatures -- an elephant, a tortoise, a duck and dogs -- and decoration items. Prices ranged from Rs 50 to Rs 5,000 and, as before, the proceeds will go to the Flag Day Fund.

Ms Sharma's loneliness is compounded by the fact that her husband Jitendra Kumar Sharma, who was a poet and author and retired as Principal, Kendriya Vidyalaya, Hoshangabad, passed away on May 16 last year.

Also on display were 'Chhota Sa Haath' -- a poem penned by Mr Sharma way back in 1972 and containing vivid references to his son's childhood -- and 'Katha'. Fit to moisten eyes were the photographs of a smiling Mr Kumar with his son, young Devashish playing drums, along with parents, a dashing Capt Sharma in coat and tie, sipping a drink.

''While we were posted in Pachmarhi, Devashish was inspired by the drills and marching of the men in olive green. That was the birth of his dream to join the Army but he had an eye defect.

After he joined the Army Medical Corps, he made it a point never to wear the uniform at home. He would say, 'I've donned the uniform for my country, not for my mother','' she reminisced.

Capt Sharma was posthumously awarded the Kirti Chakra on the eve of Independence Day 1996 and his courage under fire would inspire every Indian...

December 10, 1994, Dangarpur village, Kashmir Valley. As a cordon and search operation progressed, 26 Punjab (26th Battalion of the Punjab Regiment) came under heavy fire from militants. Capt Sharma rushed to render medical aid to the battalion's wounded personnel but was himself hit.

As per the Headquarters, 8 Mountain Division, despite being mortally wounded the young officer -- who had undergone about a month's commando training at Lucknow -- shot a fleeing terrorist and continued to render aid to the soldiers.

Capt Sharma was also decorated with the Sainya Seva Medal, with a citadel on one side and a hill on the other, conferred by the Jammu and Kashmir government.

''We had saved about Rs 2 lakh for his marriage and he had already found someone special,'' Ms Sharma said. Capt Sharma (MR-6368Y) was the family's sole representative in the Indian Armed Forces.

''He had his primary education at Pachmarhi and was selected for the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) after he completed the first year of a BSc course at Hansraj College, Delhi. I desired to become a doctor but could not so I wanted him to become one,'' says Ms Sharma.

While attached to the 10 Garhwal Rifles, the officer even received the Chief of Army Staff's Commendation. ''Devashish was very happy with that battalion whose personnel did everything to shield him in adverse situations. 'Agar doctor hi nahi honge toh hamara kya hoga' (if the doctor himself becomes a casualty then who will look after us?), the jawans used to say,'' Ms Sharma added.

After the captain's martyrdom, Lieutenant-General D Raghunath -- who was the then Director-General Medical Services (Army) -- wrote to Ms Sharma.

''The courage and spirit of self-sacrifice displayed by Devashish is now a source of inspiration to young officers of the AMC. His name is spoken of with awe and a sense of pride... His name will be entered in the Roll of Honour in the AMC Centre, Lucknow.'' Ms Sharma also received communication dated December 12, 1994 from Major-General Sarabjit Singh Grewal, who was then the General Officer Commanding, 8 Mountain Division.

''The formation took immediate action in evacuating him by helicopter to the hospital. Devashish insisted that the other wounded personnel be evacuated first... He was evacuated to the base hospital by helicopter but succumbed to injuries en route.

As a brave soldier he also displayed exemplary courage in killing the terrorist inspite of having sustained serious injuries.

Devashish gave his life for the sake of the nation, a noble death for any soldier and a doctor,'' wrote Maj-Gen Grewal.

Commissioned in 1992, Capt Sharma's hobbies were singing -- mainly English pop -- and playing the violin. He had even joined a music group and performed in Mumbai. Capt Sharma represented Madhya Pradesh in swimming while at the AFMC. His mother has carefully preserved his uniform to this day.

Ms Sharma's hobbies are gardening and knitting. ''Despite difficulties, life is still interesting,'' Mother Courage added.

UNI

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