Raveena Tandon


I heard a delegation was going to visit the soldiers in Kargil. At once I said I wanted to be part of it. The injured from Kargil are taken for treatment to Srinagar. From there they're moved to Delhi. In Delhi they recoup and go back to fight if able.

I was completely overwhelmed as soon as I walked into Delhi hospital. I would've burst into tears but I knew people would say "she's acting." So I controlled my feelings, telling myself that I'm here for a job.

I went and sat with the soldiers. Some didn't at once recognise me, but then they said, "Yes, yes, you look different in your films..."

There was this Andhra soldier with whom I conversed in Telugu. I asked him if he had seen Banga burudu, my Telugu film. He said he had.

Then there were soldiers from Punjab and Maharashtra. All of us were from different places but we were all one there. Ironically, this fight has brought us all closer. I realised I hate war not only because it's loss of life but it's a loss of humanity, it's loss of love on this planet.

People might ask why did these artistes come here. But you should have seen how buoyed the soldiers were that we had come. I told them that we were able to walk on the streets because they were catching the bullets in their chests. I told them they were our brothers protecting us, and we had come to thank them.

I remember Ashish, a young jawan, who was paralysed. He was weeping. Not because of his misfortune. Not because of the excruciating pain he was in.

Ashish was weeping at his inability to get back to the battlefield.

I felt ashamed that I couldn't do anything. It gave me some measure of reassurance that I could at least create some awareness.

Since I came back it's been so much on my mind that everything else pales into insignificance. Everything else appears like we are jokers sitting here and crying about petty little sorrows. I felt so small. I felt that if I could use my face, my status to do anything to contribute to these people I would. It has absolutely changed the way I look at things.

We insisted on going to Kargil. Not everyone was given permission but we insisted and we had to sign that we were going at our own risk. We went to Kargil by chopper. From Delhi we went to Srinagar.

At 1630 hours we went to the Srinagar hospital. We heard incidents from the soldiers themselves. There was Captain Sangram, who had lost his leg. His wife was sitting with him. When I got up to leave would you believe what he told me? He held my hand and said:

"You know Raveena, I'm disappointed, I'd promised my head to the nation but those bastards only took my leg. I want to go back and give my head."

His wife started crying. I said, "Listen you should be proud of him, he is a hero."

When they saw Sunil Shetty they at once identified him as the actor in Border. "You are our son," they said.

I've taken all their names and numbers. I'm expecting calls and letters from them. There was this young soldier, Dipal, who had lost this right arm.

"I'm practising writing with my left hand and I will write to you," he told me.

I've already put across a proposal, wherein I'm going to organise with Pramod Mahajan's son to go there and entertain the soldiers. I'm planning to take a team there.

I could not see what happened in 1971 because I was born that year. I have never seen war. I'm seeing it now.

From Srinagar we flew over Drass, Batalik. We saw Tiger Hill from the army helicopter. We landed at Kargil. I remember thinking that it is all so beautiful till I saw the scars of war... Let me tell you about Angrez Singh.

He was walking behind his senior officer. Shelling was going on. One shell burst near him and blew off his leg. He didn't say a word, but picked up his leg, slung it round his neck and hopped to his destination. Then a bullet hit him and passed through his heart. But he's still alive.

"See, I didn't take the bullet in my back but right through my heart!" Singh told George Fernandes when he visited.

He has become a legend, a hero. This is the kind of spirit these people show. There are young boys, 18 and 19 years old -- and all they want is get well soon and get back. They were like us; they'd seen movies, they all knew my songs, and were just like anybody else. Yet, their spirit is amazing...

Just as we were departing, someone came and announced that we'd captured a new part. I cried so much that Salman Khan and Jaaved Jaffrey were hard put to convince me that they were going to be all right, that some of those injured would be okay again.

I want to tell everyone: Stop before we destroy this whole planet. Why are we doing it? WHAT FOR?

Actress Raveena Tandon spoke to Lata Khubchandani.