New Delhi: The year was 1994. An injured Indian Army Captain, D.P.K. Pillay, had saved the lives of two young siblings — a seven-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl — during a gunfight with militants in Manipur.
On Monday, nearly 27 years later, Pillay, a Shaurya Chakra awardee and retired Colonel, took to Twitter to share images of the boy, Dingamang Pamei, now 33, who got married in the Northeastern state last week.
Pamei, who completed his education from Manipal University, now works at a private bank in Imphal. His sister, Maseliu Thaimei, lives in Manipur.
Today in 1994 I had to make a choice-b/w life of a child Vs my own.I'm proud that the @adgpi credo "safety&welfare of my countrymen come before my own'. Happy to announce the wedding of that boy Dingamang who lived through an ordeal no child should. Pl bless the newly wed couple pic.twitter.com/nYwg1c5JkF
— Col DPK Pillay,Shaurya Chakra,PhD (Retd) (@dpkpillay12) January 25, 2021
In 1994, Pillay, then a commander of 8th Guards, was tasked with hunting down a group of NSCN (IM) insurgents who were planning to blow up a bridge and a communication tower to hamper movement of Indian Army troops in Manipur.
“Four militants were hiding inside a house at Longdi Pabram village in Manipur. I got hit as I tried to enter the house. I was wounded on my arm and chest, as a grenade was thrown at me,” Pillay told ThePrint.
But the 26-year-old captain also saw a young boy and a girl injured in the fight. Lying in a pool of blood, Pillay was ready to be rescued by an Indian Army helicopter when he made the choice of sending the young kids first.
“The helicopter pilot was my course mate and a friend. He asked me why I was trying to become Mother Teresa at that moment and what he would tell his mother if anything happened to me. I responded that my mother would be proud that I saved the lives of two children.”
Pillay was rescued two hours later, but he recalled the entire incident as a “near-death experience”.
“In the Army, we believe that the safety, welfare and the honour of the country and its citizens come first. In that moment, I realised that the lives of those children were more important than mine,” he said.
Found a ‘father-like figure’ in Col Pillay
After the 1994 incident, Colonel Pillay met Pamei’s family in 2010 with the help of one of his course mates who was posted in Manipur. They have been in touch ever since.
“Whenever I saw young children, I used to think about what would have happened to those two kids from that village. And I finally got to meet them 10 years ago,” Pillay said, while also expressing regret that he was unable to attend Pamei’s wedding.
Pamei, meanwhile, said he has found a friend and a “father-like figure” in Col Pillay. “I do not particularly recall many details from that incident, but I remember that I was injured and airlifted by a chopper. It was a horrific experience, but we survived and are forever grateful to Col Pillay for that,” he told ThePrint.
“Despite not being a blood-relative, I am very close to him. His guidance and support has helped me a lot in life,” Pamei added.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.