On Kargil Vi­jay Di­was to­day, a look at Gurmehar Kaur’s video that has struck a chord with peo­ple on both sides of the Rad­cliffe Line


,, In­di­ans and Pak­ista­nis seem to get along all over the world ex­cept in In­dia and Pak­istan RAM SUBRA­MA­NIAN, founder-di­rec­tor, Hand­loom Picture Com­pany

She walks into the light, stoic and strong. She doesn’t speak but reaches out for the plac­ards that read, “Hi. My name is Gurmehar Kaur. I’m from Ja­land­har, In­dia. This is my dad, Capt. Man­deep Singh. He was killed in the 1999 Kargil War. I was two years old when he died; I have very few me­mories of him.” And that’s when, above the rus­tle of the pa­per, the mu­sic be­gins. Plain­tive notes that re­flect many emo­tions — loss and long­ing, war and peace and the pathos of a sub­con­ti­nent torn asun­der.

Sheet af­ter sheet asks ques­tions on why In­dia and Pak­istan have been kept apart, why our gov­ern­ments don’t want to solve the prob­lem, why we can’t build bridges with each other like France and Ger­many have even af­ter two world wars, and how it wasn’t Pak­istan, but war that killed her fa­ther.

The four-minute video unites the tragedy of Par­ti­tion and the emo­tions of griev­ing fam­i­lies of men lost to war.

Gurmehar’s fa­ther, Capt. Singh (from the 49 Army Air De­fence), died in what is per­haps In­dia’s most tele­vised war — fought in the sum­mer of ’99 on rocky bluffs and icy heights that killed many and made the Last Post a fa­mil­iar tune across In­dia.

“My dad was 29 when he died. From the conversations I’ve had with his batch­mates, I know he was shot in the heart while lead­ing the unit {4 Rashtriya Ri­fles} and this is some­thing that will al­ways in­spire me to be brave and self­less. I was two years and 10 months; my younger sis­ter was only four months. I’ve al­ways felt that no one should be de­prived of a fa­ther’s love the way I had been as a child and the video was the per­fect way to send the mes­sage out,” says Gurmehar, a stu­dent of English Hon­ours at Lady Shri Ram Col­lege, New Delhi.

Gurmehar did not al­low the loss to shadow her life. She moved to Har­vest Ten­nis Acad­emy, near Ludhiana, to pur­sue pro­fes­sional train­ing in ten­nis when she was 12. “Play­ing the game in­volved a lot of trav­el­ling, and it gave me the chance to in­ter­act with peo­ple from all walks of life.”

Gurmehar be­came part of the #Pro­fileForPeace move­ment, started by Mum­baibased Ram Subra­ma­nian, a 37-year-old ad­ver­tis­ing pro­fes­sional who heads Hand­loom Picture Com­pany and uses his time and skills to cre­ate cam­paigns that make a dif­fer­ence.

“My mother has never hes­i­tated to talk about my fa­ther or his death. There hasn’t been a day when I did not re­play his me­mories in my head. Dur­ing one of our conversations, Ram sug­gested that we make a video to share my story,” says Gurmehar in an e-mail in­ter­view.

Ram, who is hugely into arm­chair ac­tivism, “be­cause it gives reg­u­lar peo­ple a chan­nel to vent their angst against wrongs in the world, in­stead of build­ing it up within”, also runs a page called Voice Of Ram on Face­book.

“I wrote and di­rected the Gurmehar video,” he says via tele­phone. “I am a South In­dian. When I ini­ti­ated the #Pro­fileForPeace cam­paign, peo­ple asked me what I knew about the Indo-Pak prob­lem, the sac­ri­fices of those who had lost some­one from their fam­ily to war… So, I wanted to present Gurmehar’s story, so they un­der­stand too.”

He says his cam­paign is not dif­fi­cult to run, even at a time when Kash­mir is on the boil. “The truth is that there are more peo­ple in the world to­day who prac­tise non-vi­o­lence than vi­o­lence. Nor­mal peo­ple don’t want war… The enor­mity of the sad­ness is that the sol­diers and civil­ians who are dy­ing are both our peo­ple. In­di­ans and Pak­ista­nis seem to get along all over the world ex­cept in In­dia and Pak­istan. If the U.S. and Ja­pan can put their past be­hind, why can’t we?”

While both Ram and Gurmehar ad­mit that they’ve re­ceived some hate mail, which they have ig­nored, they have been del­uged by pos­i­tive re­sponse to the video from the world over, in­clud­ing some re­cip­ro­ca­tory ones from Pak­istan.

“I never thought I would re­ceive the love that I have. Some del­e­gates from Pak­istan made the ef­fort to bring a spe­cial sweet in a clay pot through im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms for me. Some of them are now good friends,” says Gurmehar.

“My Face­book pro­file is a place I go to when I need reassurance, be­cause there are so many peo­ple send­ing good wishes.”

Her fa­ther’s unit has also been a source of en­cour­age­ment to Gurmehar. “They are fam­ily,” she says. “Kargil Di­was means a lot to me. I’m so proud to be as­so­ci­ated with it at a per­sonal level and I am thank­ful to all those be­cause of whom we are here to­day. I wish to live in a world where there are no more Gurmehar Kaurs who miss their dad.”

Gurmehar Kaur in the video; Ram Subra­ma­nian

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