(With inputs from Aritra Banerjee, Correspondent, Fauji India)
Jitendra Singh is unlike any person I’ve met before. He is a forty-one-year-old security guard from Rajasthan with a thick moustache, which is not what sets him apart, what sets him apart is that even with this unassuming appearance, this man has done for the nation more than most of us, ever will. Jitendra Singh has written over 4500 letters since the Kargil War to the families of martyrs expressing his gratitude for their service and grief to the families.
The Turning Point
The Kargil war changed the course of the nation. And with that it changed the course of Jitendra Singh’s life. Unable to participate in the war due to medical rejection at a recruitment rally. He was forced to helplessly watch the consequences of the conflict through the side-lines. “My father was in the Mahar regiment and during Kargil War, he would mention that the martyred soldier was from his company. From there onwards, I decided to write letters to families to the martyrs,” narrated Jitendra Singh.
“I made a promise to those who did not return that their letters will not be the last their families receive! Their memories will live on forever; I will make sure of it” says Jitendra 20 years later.
“I had written to the brother of Devaram a martyr hailing from the Barmer District of Rajasthan, he was a soldier serving in the Jat Regiment and had lost his life in the war of 1971,” the patriotic security guard narrated. Continuing, he said, “His brother received the letter and contacted me expressing his joy and disbelief, he told me it’s been more than 50 years since my brother’s death and people of the country he fought to protect still remember him, I am proud and have no complaints from the nation!”
He also received an invite to Delhi by eminent military writer Rachna Bisht Rawat to the launch of her new book ‘Kargil: the Untold Stories from the War’, which Jitendra helped with. This trip brought Jitendra’s life to fruition. In his words, it is a trip he will forever cherish.
“The journey was excellent! The people at Indigo treated me with the utmost respect, I felt honoured nearly in tears! The people from Indigo received me at the entrance of Surat airport and took me straight up to the VIP lounge, and all the staff took pictures with me! They were very courteous; they never let me stand in line throughout my journey. The staff clapped at my arrival on board the plane. Both the pilot and the Air Hostess made announcements telling the rest of the passengers my life story; the pilot said I am a national pride! Everybody on board clapped,” said the national treasure about his travel to the book launch.
“Seeing all the passengers on board genuinely care about who I am and what I do was overwhelming, I got emotional and nearly broke down in tears! It was a moment of pride like I had achieved something, I’m not crazy!”
Jitendra said with a quivering voice, about his experience at the launch, “It was the most important moment of my life, I experienced my purpose in this world, as I looked at the crowd sharing my life journey, I went back to the day I started on this path and smiled to my younger self, it was surreal!”
Long Road Ahead
His vow has taken away everything from him-his health, his family, his youth but not his determination. Jitendra gets Rs.10, 400 as salary, despite the financial crunch, deteriorating eyesight, a result of writing letters in dimly lit areas and a family to take care of, his financial restraints have not once stopped him from buying postcards, even installing a stationary weighing over nine quintals. Expressing his difficulties in sustaining his efforts, he said, “When I started, one postcard would cost me around Rs. 15 paise and in last 18 years or so, the cost of one postcard has reached Rs.50 paise. I buy postcards every month.”
The mission of honouring and remembering martyrs means so much to Jitendra, that that he has even named his own son after Hardeep Singh, a martyr from Karnal in Haryana who sacrificed his life in 2003 fighting the terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.
He has written to the families of the Pulwama martyrs, with his efforts raising funds for them, but has refused any financial assistance for himself. Jeetendra Singh continues to show the world that you do not need to don a uniform to make a difference and touch lives, and that heroes are defined by their intention, not the profession they are in.
Even in these testing times, where a global pandemic has shut all postal services, this resolute man, continues to make efforts to contact the families of martyrs. The only difference is that he's now using the telephone as a medium to connect with them and speak his heart out.
“I just want to tell their families that there is one man in Gujarat who thinks of their well-being”, says the man with a golden heart who writes letters.
A Letter to The Man Who Writes Letters
Dear Jitendra Sir,
You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me. But I know you. And you’ve taught me in this brief period of research what it means to live a fulfilling life. It doesn’t mean money, it doesn’t mean fame, it doesn’t mean power, it means finding your purpose and doing it with all heart & honesty. And you’ve shown me that even when the odds are stacked against you, you must do what you believe in, with all conviction.
I’ve never met you but you’re a mentor to me. You’re Dronacharya to my Eklavya. And for that I am forever indebted.
I hope that you read this letter somehow, someday, and I just want you to know that there is a young kid in Mumbai who thinks of your well-being. I hope that all the lives you’ve touched find peace. And I hope your vision comes to life in all its glory.
Thank you for giving your all to those who give up their all for us civilians. The world will remember you.
About the 21 series:
On the 24th of March 2020, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi announced a nation-wide lock-down for 21 days to fight the pandemic that is the Coronavirus. Citizens mustn’t leave their homes unless absolutely essential. This series aims to bring to the readers 21 positive stories through this 21-day lock-down. Something to inspire them to keep at it and come back out of this horrific tragedy stronger.
If you have an inspiring story or know someone whose story the world must know, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org