Sad about the loss, proud about the sacrifice

via VR Jayaraj | Kozhikode - Daily Pioneer published on November 26, 2009

The members of the Chellath family in Cheruvannur near Kozhikode are still struggling to come to terms with the reality that their dear Sandu is not among them. Since that terrible evening exactly a year ago when Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan of the NSG fell to the bullets of the terrorists at Mumbai’s Hotel Taj Mahal fighting for the country, neighbours have not seen a sign of joy loud talks from that house.

“We can’t still believe that Sandu is not with us,” said Asok Kumar, Major Sandeep’s uncle, who now occupies the Major’s ancestral house at Madura Bazar, Cheruvannur. “Only days before that evening, he had promised us to come home as soon as he got leave. But it was never to happen. He was settled with parents in Bangalore, but that had never prevented him from coming here whenever he was on leave from the Force,” Ashok Kumar said on Thursday.

The members of the family were not in a state of mind to receive visitors on Thursday, the anniversary of that cruel terror attack in Mumbai, which took away their Sandu. Still, relatives did come, especially children, to pay homage to Major Sandeep who died fighting for the country at the age of 28.

Relatives said they would never be able to forget November 27 any time in the future. “Those who had come across him even once would never forget him. He was so mild a character, soft-spoken and sweet. Still, we are proud that he died for the country, fighting to save lives,” Ashok Kumar said.

Children in the family paid floral tributes to major Sandeep before the lighted lamp and under the apple plant he had planted years ago when he had once come home. “He was always a sweet boy, who would never be the soldier who fought in actions in our minds. But I am proud he did not die for nothing,” said a relative.

Sivadas, a resident of Cheruvannur who lives some distance away from the Chellath house, said he too felt proud of being from the place of Major Sandeep. “I have never met him but I can visualize him in my mind as though he was my younger brother,” Sivadas, 34, said.

Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan was reportedly shot in the action at the Taj at around 7.00 pm on November 27, the second day of the terror siege on Mumbai, but the NSG officials had confirmed death only on the next morning.

Sandeep had joined the Indian Army in 1999 with commission, and was attached to the Bihar Regiment. His efficiency, discipline and devotion to duty took him up to the rank of Major, and these were the basic reasons for his deputation to the National Security Guards where he was attached to Special Action Group 52. He was deputed to NSG some one-and-a-half years before the terror attack.

When terrorists struck Mumbai, Major Sandeep was in Delhi, and there was not much time left for the usual calls to friends and relatives before leaving for action when the call of the last duty he would ever attend came. Major Sandeep had settled down at Ilahanka in Bangalore with father Unnikrishnan, who had retired from ISRO, and mother Dhanalakshmi.

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