“The inducement was asked for recently but I refused to oblige the official from the Shahpura Police Station,” Ms Nirmala Sharma told UNI this evening. She has been profiled on several occasions by UNI. In a heartrending instance of sheer irony, the Festival of Lights 2014 brought more darkness into Ms Sharma’s life as a cruel twist of fate – in the form of a brazen daylight larceny at her bungalow – deprived her of the Kirti Chakra that remains missing to this day... Every December, Ms Sharma invites denizens of the Madhya Pradesh capital to her exhibition of ceramic creations at the District Sainik Board premises where visitors' eyes never fail to moisten as they view the work of the artist whose son -- an Indian Army officer -- made the supreme sacrifice combatting insurgency in 1994.
The entire income from sale is donated to the Armed Forces Flag Day Fund. The lady, who taught Economics at kendriya vidyalayas, has a workshop at home. The ceramic is heated to 1,280 degrees Celsius in a 2 ft x 2 x 2 furnace whose interior is layered with glass wool for insulation. Her noble efforts have been aided by professional artists who pitched in by contributing their creations for the exhibitions. On some pots, Ms Sharma has painted lines of her late husband Jitendra Kumar's poems. A photograph of the lonely couple with a birthday cake in front of them would crack the hardest heart. Capt Sharma’s story resembles a ballad of heroism and sacrifice.
Here is a tragic flashback, December 10, 1994, Dangarpur village, Kashmir Valley. As a cordon and search operation progresses, 26 Punjab (the 26th Battalion of the Punjab Regiment) comes under heavy fire from militants. Capt Sharma, an Army Medical Corps officer, rushes to render medical aid to the Battalion's injured personnel but is himself hit. As per the Headquarters, 8 Mountain Division, despite being mortally injured the young officer -- who had undergone about a month's commando training in Lucknow -- shot a fleeing terrorist and continued to render aid to the soldiers.
In a Hindi letter – dated November 13, 2014 – to Ms Sharma, Colonel Sudhir Tokas Commanding Officer, 26 Punjab, wrote, "Let your blessings be forever with 26 Punjab. They are imperative for keeping our morale high... If you ever require anything, I will be found standing to serve you." A large portrait – by a major's sister – of Capt Sharma was unveiled on October 30 that year at the Officers' Mess in Dharamshala and the 'Devashish Office Complex' came into existence there. (UNI)