Is there a writer in u? Or are you in a mood to read some short interesting stories? Here's the Story Section for all tastes.

Vivek Pradhan wasn't a happy man. Even the plush comfort of the First
Class air-conditioned compartment of the Shatabdi Express couldn't cool
his frayed nerves. He was the Project Manager and entitled to air travel.

It was not the prestige he sought, he had tried to reason with the admin
guy, it was the savings in time.

A PM had so many things to do!

He opened his case and took out the laptop, determined to put the time to
some good use.

"Are you from the software industry sir," the man beside him was staring
appreciatively at the laptop.

Vivek glanced briefly and mumbled in affirmation, handling the laptop now
with exaggerated care and importance as if it were an expensive car.

"You people have brought so much advancement to the country sir. Today
everything is getting computerized."

'Thanks," smiled Vivek, turning around to give the man a detailed look. He
always found it difficult to resist appreciation. The man was young and
stocky like a sportsman. He looked simple and strangely out of place in
that little lap of luxury like a small town boy in a prep school. He probably
was a Railway sportsman making the most of his free traveling pass.

"You people always amaze me," the man continued, "You sit in an office
and write something on a computer and it does so many big things

Vivek smiled deprecatingly. Naivety demanded reasoning not anger. "It is
not as simple as that my friend. It is not just a question of writing a few
lines. There is a lot of process that goes behind it." For a moment he was
tempted to explain the entire Software Development Lifecycle but
restrained himself to a single statement.

"It is complex, very complex."

"It has to be. No wonder you people are so highly paid," came the reply.

This was not turning out as Vivek had thought. A hint of belligerence came
into his so far affable, persuasive tone.

"Everyone just sees the money. No one sees the amount of hard work we
have to put in." "Hard work!" "Indians have such a narrow concept of
hard work.

Just because we sit in an air-conditioned office doesn't mean our brows
don't sweat. You exercise the muscle; we exercise the mind and believe
me that is no less taxing."

He had the man where he wanted him and it was time to drive home the point.

"Let me give you an example. Take this train. The entire railway
reservation system is computerized. You can book a train ticket between
any two stations from any of the hundreds of computerized booking
centers across the country.

Thousands of transactions accessing a single database at a given time;
concurrency, data integrity, locking, data security.

Do you understand the complexity in designing and coding such a system?"

The man was stuck with amazement, like a child at a planetarium. This
was something big and beyond his imagination.

"You design and code such things."

"I used to," Vivek paused for effect, "But now I am the project manager,"

"Oh!" sighed the man, as if the storm had passed over, "so your life is
easy now."

It was like being told the fire was better than the frying pan. The man had
to be given a feel of the heat.

"Oh come on, does life ever get easy as you go up the ladder.

Responsibility only brings more work. Design and coding! That is the
easier part. Now I don't do it, but I am responsible for it and believe me,
that is far more stressful. My job is to get the work done in time and with the highest quality. And to tell you about the pressures! There is the customer at one end always changing his requirements, the user wanting something else and your boss always expecting you to have finished it yesterday."

Vivek paused in his diatribe, his belligerence fading with self-realization.
What he had said was not merely the outburst of a wronged man, it was the truth. And one need not get angry while defending the truth.

"My friend," he concluded triumphantly, "you don't know what it is to be in
the line of fire."

The man sat back in his chair, his eyes closed as if in realization. When he
spoke after sometime, it was with a calm certainty that surprised Vivek.

"I know sir, I know what it is to be in the line of fire," He was staring
blankly as if no passenger, no train existed, just a vast expanse of time.

"There were 30 of us when we were ordered to capture Point 4875 in the
cover of the night. The enemy was firing from the top. There was no
knowing where the next bullet was going to come from and for whom. In
the morning when we finally hoisted the tricolor at the top only 4 of us were alive."

"You are a..."

"I am Subedar Sushant Singh from the 13 J&K Rifles on duty at Peak
4875 in Kargil. They tell me I have completed my term and can opt for a
land assignment.

But tell me sir, can one give up duty just because it makes life easier. On the dawn of that capture one of my colleagues lay injured in the snow, open to enemy fire while we were hiding behind a bunker.

It was my job to go and fetch that soldier to safety. But my captain
refused me permission and went ahead himself. He said that the first
pledge he had taken as a Gentleman Cadet was to put the safety and
welfare of the nation foremost followed by the safety and welfare of the men he commanded.

His own personal safety came last, always and every time. He was killed
as he shielded that soldier into the bunker. Every morning now as I stand
guard I can see him taking all those bullets, which were actually meant
for me. I know sir, I know what it is to be in the line of fire."

Vivek looked at him in disbelief not sure of his reply. Abruptly he switched
off the laptop. It seemed trivial, even insulting to edit a word document in
the presence of a man for whom valor and duty was a daily part of life;

a valor and sense of duty which he had so far attributed only to epical

The train slowed down as it pulled into the station and Subedar Sushant
Singh picked up his bags to alight.

"It was nice meeting you sir."

Vivek fumbled with the handshake. This was the hand that had climbed
mountains, pressed the trigger and hoisted the tricolor. Suddenly as if by
impulse he stood at attention, and his right hand went up in an impromptu

It was the least he felt he could do for the country.

PS: The incident he narrates during the capture of Peak 4875 is a true
life incident during the Kargil war. Major Vikram Batra sacrificed his life
while trying to save one of the men he commanded, as victory was within sight.

For this and his various other acts of bravery he was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra - the nation's highest military award