Op pawan – indian peacekeeping forces
Mrs Shobha Madhavan wife of (Late) Captain Sudhakar Madhavan, SM (Gallantry)
Dead upon the field of glory, Hero fit for song and story.
-John Randolph Thompson
Capt Sudhakar Madhavan was commissioned into 65 Armoured Regiment of the Armoured Corps, on 18th March, 1978 as Second Lieutenant at the age of 22 years.
Capt Sudhakar Madhavan married Shobha on 6th of Sept 1984. The officer was serving with his Regiment at Jhansi in 1987. Capt Sudhakar Madhavan along with a troop of tanks of “A” was deployed in OP PAWAN in Sri Lanka Oct 87. It was an act of comradeship, when during heavy exchange of fire some comrades got injured and some were trapped inside a tank. Capt Sudhakar Madhavan died on 18 Oct while trying to rescue the soldiers that were trapped. In the attempt of saving his soldiers he got severely wounded and succumbed to the injuries. He was bestowed with the gallantry award, “Sena Medal”, for his noteworthy and exceptional bravery during the IPKF operation
Capt Sudhakar Madhavan, is survived by his wife Smt Shobha Sudhakar, their son Shri Abhishek Sudhakar, their daughter-in-law Smt Chhavi Sudhakar and grandson Vansh Sudhakar.
To read all parts of IPKF- the Curates Egg:
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Readers should also watch this space for the forthcoming release of the book: ‘’Forgotten glory’’ on the IPKF
Goa Chronicle was honoured to interview Mrs Shobha Madhavan in an attempt to understand her travails after loss of her husband.
The interview comes at a time when the Indian Army denies information and full details of all killed in action in various wars (OP PAWAN is not classified as war even as gallantry awards at par with the major wars were awarded to IPKF) in response to an RTI filed by Lt Col Atul Kochhar, an IPKF veteran. Brig VK Bhatt CPIO opines that there is “no such information held/available with the concerned agency of IHQ of Ministry of Defence”
Goa Chronicle: Tell us about the aftermath of his posting to Sri Lanka? Why Late Captain Sudhakar Madhavan was nicknamed BLACK KNIGHT?
Mrs Shobha Madhavan: I still recall so vividly the excitement with which the possibility of the posting to Sri Lanka was viewed when it was heard and discussed with much excitement to go to buy the latest electronic gadgets such as video cassette players etc. and also the idea of foreign posting. I remember attending a dinner and the main discussion over the drinks was this. We had just got back to the Regiment after being posted at RATNUCHAK 3(I) Armd Bde from 1984 Sept to 1987 June immediately after our wedding.
Sudhakar was posted as Staff Captain “Q” and he was responsible for developing the greenery and landscaping of the Brigade Cantonment under the guidance of the Brigade Commander. I still remember Brig Saigal saying that Sudhakar was nicknamed BLACK KNIGHT because during the exercise when the black mask was tied only the eyes could be seen as the mask and skin colour merged, would come back to command the Brigade.
I was looking forward to a peaceful regimental tenure. I was not excited about the discussions on the impending deployment overseas. We moved into our temporary accommodation on 21 Sept 1987. We planned our first party on 06 Oct 1987 for the young bachelor officers. A dispatch rider came at 11 am requesting Sudhakar who had gone on official duty to Jhansi to report to the Commandant, Col S P Khanna immediately.
A sixth sense told me something is wrong and when he came to inform me that they had to leave immediately by Tamil Nadu Express same night to Chennai and thence proceed to Lanka as the ship was leaving on 8th Oct .He being the only available south Indian as Capt Alex had proceeded on annual leave.
I sent packed food to the mess and left at 2 am on 7th Oct to Jhansi to board the train wit, a heavy heart. Our son was Abhishek 2 years 3mths old. Throughout the journey, Sudhakar was excited about making a list of things to buy while I was upset and kept crying for no reason even as he promised we would be back at Babina after 6 months. Both our parents were shocked at his sudden arrival out of the blue. He insisted on going to my house and he left at 1.30 PM for reporting at the Port.
Anxious days, glued watching every news to know about the situation and as it became worse all of us were getting worried and Abhi kept asking, when will dad come? On Oct 12th got a call from Sudhakar saying he is in Jaffna and safe with not much activity. He said he had sent some toys for Abhishek through a jawan coming back. During this time my cousin Col Rajendran posted in EME called on me because he had not met me after my wedding.
Goa Chronicle: What happened on the night of 18th October at 8 pm, when u received a call from Sri Lanka?
Mrs Shobha Madhavan: On Oct 18th night at about 8 pm there was a call from Lanka in Hindi asking for my father Mr P P Nambiar which my father did not understand so he gave the phone back to me when they insisted that I give it to my father or any other person. I was so hopeful that Sudhakar was getting connected through the exchange. But my maternal uncle was shocked to hear the news that Sudhakar had been killed in action and that the body would arrive in the morning. I refused to believe it saying he had said he was safe and it must be somebody else and became hysterical, my parents and all my relatives were shocked. My in-laws had no phone and had to be informed. My father and my uncle went to Ashok Nagar my in-laws place and in between informed my sister-in-law to rush in. My son Abhishek was fast asleep.
We contacted my cousin Col Rajendran for support as we did not know the procedures to be followed. My mother in law like me did not believe it. Only after my father s uncle cousin confirmed after seeing the body did the news slowly sink in. My father in law was very clear that he should not be brought home and have the locals make a scene because the IPKF was portrayed as fighting against the Tamil Ellam in Lanka and at his insistence that Abhishek should not be taken because my FIL still remembers how when he lost his mother at 2 years and he was forced to perform all the rituals so he said Abhishek should always have good memories only. My mother went back home with Abhishek.
Goa Chronicle: What are your views on the Indian intervention in SL. Tell us about your journey so far as every year on 18th October you pay respects at the Hut of Remembrance inside OTA?
Mrs Shobha Madhavan: At OTA medical room where Sudhakar was kept, my MIL and I also refused to accept it was Sudhakar. We followed the gun carriage in a car and I still hear the words reverberating in my ears even after 34 years of people lined along the way some of them screaming, he killed our Tamils so he deserves to die and shouting slogans supporting the ethnic Tamil. Even today when I travel that road every year on 18th Oct to pay respects at the Hut of Remembrance inside OTA it flashes back making me angry against Rajiv Gandhi for signing the accord and taking off the peace and laughter from so many soldiers families.
Sudhakar was cremated with full military honours and a 21-gun salute. He had achieved what he wanted, to die with his uniform on fighting against a known enemy ie Pakistan and the irony was it was against an unknown enemy. I came home to receive Sudhakar last letter he had posted on 16th October where he had mentioned a black box of Major Subhash containing the will and all-important paper.Maybe he had a premonition because he was airlifted immediately after that to Urumpurai as Col Anil Kaul had been seriously injured and had to take charge.
Goa Chronicle: You went through a mix of emotions: what has been the source for your courage?
Mrs Shobha Madhavan: It was a stream of visitors and whenever an army jeep came, Abhishek used to rush to see whether his papa had come and I used to tell him he will take time to come. He used to lie in my lap because he used to get affected when I cry and slowly, I controlled my emotions and he was taken care of by my maternal Mammas and Mammis cousins and doted on. My father was the source of strength for my in-laws, also handling all the correspondences for them and my in-laws kept coming to reassure all of us. After the initial months, Abhi questions stopped and one day we heard him telling my cousin of 13 years “that he has no father and he got killed in a tank blast”. He at the age of 3 years had gathered the information lying in my lap. I feel Sudhakhar himself came and told him and gave him courage because being a complete PAPA s child.
Sudhakar was 30 years and me 27 years old then and had completed 3 years of married life but lived together only for 2 years .But those years we lived together were blissful and memorable.
Media used to blow up the IPKF operations in the Tamil press out of proportions .The attitude of the DMK govt was as if the IPKF belonged to some other country altogether.
There was a continuous flow of 65 Armd Regt officers and families visiting me and my in-laws to give solace and strength loaded with toys for Abhishek. Brig Mishra who headed the IPKF operations also visited along with all other top officers. The most touching was the visit by Maj Anil Kaul, VrC (later Col) and Mrs Rekha Kaul (both have since then left for their heavenly bode) immediately after he was able to travel after a series of operations and comforted me. I always wondered what happened to the families of the other troops in the tank.
Goa Chronicle: Several banks offered you jobs, did you go ahead with it?
Mrs Shobha Madhavan: Many banks offered me jobs which I was not keen on taking up as Abhishek was small but my mother and my mother in-law were keen that, I should work to gain confidence and become independent to bring up Abhishek securely. The pension was a great support.
With both, my in-laws working and Abhishek School being nearby I stayed back at my parent’s place. My father used to get all the correspondences typed from the office and I had to sign and he would post it. Col Rajeev Manali with whom we stayed when we moved down from Jammu coordinated the shifting of our belongings from Jhansi and the regiment was a font of support to my brother and uncle.
Slowly with Abhishek settling down to school routine learned the domestic ticketing course and started a part-time job. The banks who had offered me a job at that moment now spoke of rules and regulations for an appointment.
The IPKF with Rajiv Gandhi assassination returned to Madras with no welcome by the Ruling DMK party and the local Tamils considered it as a force sent to butcher the Tamil Eelam built up by LTTE and I heard that many officers and other ranks were lost in this ill-fated operation.
Goa Chronicle: IPKF had to fight the war without any knowledge of Sri Lanka. They were not provided with the necessary resources, as a common person and as a wife of a Braveheart, what were your feelings?
Mrs Shobha Madhavan: I was told not to say much about IPKF because of the possibility of being targeted by pro LTTE supporters. We were honoured to know that Sudhakar had been recommended for SENA MEDAL and on Jan 15th 1990 Army Day went to Bangalore to receive it from the then GOC southern Command accompanied by Col Khanna. If only Sudhakar was there to receive it in person.
Sudhakar always used to talk of his son joining the Air Force and becoming a fighter pilot. But Abhishek was not very keen. With the invisible support of Sudhakar and God, we slowly moved on and despite the Director of Rehabilitation request to rehabilitate war widows none came forward and in 1994 a good Samaritan Mr Gopalakrishnan Chairman and Managing Director gave me a job in Indian Bank as a clerical staff where I worked till my retirement in Jan 2020 without taking any promotion for fear of transfer.
Goa Chronicle: Tell us about Abhishek and how has he been doing?
Mrs Shobha Madhavan: As the years passed away with the unstinting support of my in-laws, parents and brothers families we moved on with Abhi finishing B.Tech at SRM University Chennai and MBA FMS Delhi under seats for battle casualty quota. He completed his course and joined TAS and then moved to Myntra.com and rose to become Senior Director with Sudhakar’s blessings.
Meanwhile, I lost two strong pillars of life, my father in 1994 and my FiL in 2000. I started attending army functions and became an executive member of War Widows Association, CHENNAI. The disregard for IPKF continued even after Jayalalitha came into the picture.
Abhishek marriage fixed with schoolmate Chhavi Vashisht ar Delhi and after sending an invite to the regt Col Sandeep Kapur then Commandant of 65 Armd in turn passed on the information to all those stationed in Delhi .It was a sweet surprise to see Col Khanna and Mrs Khanna attending the wedding and Col Anil Kaul at the reception. Capt. Mayank Awasthi (now Col of the Regt) represented the regt and a beautiful silver salver was presented to the newly wedded couple and cherished as a memorable memento of his Dad’s Regt. Two Lance Naiks escorts like Sudhakar wanted for his wedding were provided for Abhishek’s Baraat at Delhi.
When the Scarlett & Black WhatsApp group was started and Major Ashish Pundhir (now Col) added me and though I was scared to interact haven’t met any of them till Sept 15, 2015, at the raising day celebrations in Delhi but I was touched by the love and warmth showered on me and the dignified way I was guided when I made a protocol mistake.
Every Commandant starting from Col SP Khanna invited me to spend a few days at the regiment and finally, I could make it only for the Golden Jubilee celebrations at Mamun on 11 Nov 2016 where I was treated as VVIP by Col Rakesh Pachora and Mrs Kajal Pachora wherein I got the first opportunity to meet all the veterans in the Scarlet & Black family and their families whom I had interacted by WhatsApp. It was here I got the opportunity to meet Lt. Gen Taranjit Singh, then Col of the Regt and Mrs Taranjit Singh.
It was a great honour for Sudhakar to have his photo adorning the centre hall of the Regiment’s officers mess and to have Abhishek and me inaugurate MADHAVAN HALL with all the veterans around us who had more right to inaugurate.
There were many moments of sadness when IPKF and OPERATION MEGDOOT VEER NAARIs and the dependent families were given fewer privileges compared to KARGIL AND OTHER subsequent operations.
Goa Chronicle: Share your experience as a chief guest for Republic day and Independence Day celebrations at schools and your bank honouring you as a Veer Naari on Women’s day, in March 9th 2019?
Mrs Shobha Madhavan: As the years rolled by, I was honoured and invited as chief guest for Republic and Independence Day celebrations at schools and even my bank honoured me as a Veer Naari on the Women’s Day Celebrations on March 9 2019.
The respect given to a VEER NAARI at an army function or civil function is a very proud moment and an honour for my beloved husband Capt Sudhakar Madhavan. I am given that respect because of his supreme sacrifice for the mother land.
Goa Chronicle: Why was the battle casualty certificate invalid, which was given by the Regiment?
Mrs Shobha Madhavan: We realized that the battle casualty certificate given by the Regiment was not valid by the Civil law and the number of insults and disregard was show to us by the Tamil Nadu Govt and Chennai Municipal Corporation to scrounge for a death certificate saying we have to get it from Sri Lanka made all of us very upset whether it was worth giving up life for such a country.
Sudhakar always used to talk very highly and regarded that nothing is impossible for 65 ARMD REGT was proved when Lt Gen Taranjit Singh and Col Rakesh Pachora used their good offices and contacts to get the matter moved through the Ministry of External Affairs .Finally a death certificate was issued by the Indian High Commission in SL despite the pandemic in Dec 2020.
As a Veer Naari, there have been occasions when you feel lost frustrated and angry because you have been left alone to handle but I am very sure that the journey to what I am today would not have been possible without the invisible support of god and Capt Sudhakar Madhavan and all my family members, veterans of the S&B family, friends, relatives, well-wishers by motivating me and my son to move forward.
Every VEER NAARI should have an independent attitude and insist on doing their work by themselves by learning from others.
When we become strong the children also grow up more POSITIVE AND ASSERTIVE MAINLY AS THE TWO ROLES NAMELY DAD AND MOM are moulded in ONE so we should be firm as father and loving as mother.
The honour given to a “VEER NAARI” in service background is very moving and makes one feel so proud of our husband who gave us the honour.
VEER NAARI should maintain and keep herself occupied so that she does not get fall prey to self-pity, letting down the memory of the Beloved Husband.
[author title=”Shefali Kochhar,” image=”http://goachronicle.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Screenshot_20210321-160233_LinkedIn.jpg”]Journalist, Goa Chronicle .
I am an entrepreneur who has tried her hands on various ventures like Electric Vehicle Charging Station , Online Retail Store / Trading and few more ventures. I have done my entrepreneurship from Amity University Noida.
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