Thirty-nine-year-old Lt Col Robert TA was a loving son, husband, officer, friend, comrade, dear senior and so much more. He bid the world adieu for his second innings, leaving behind a tale of camaraderie, brotherhood, compassion, and an envious smile few can boast of!
Col Robert was martyred when an avalanche hit a patrol party in Lugnak La area of north Sikkim on May 14. Hailing from Senapati district in Manipur, he was the first officer from the Maram Naga community to join the Army’s technical wing.
“I am deeply aggrieved to learn about the sad demise of Lt Col Robert TA of the 3rd Engineers Regiment of the Indian Army. Apart from serving the Indian Army in different capacities in different parts of the country, he was associated with different sporting events and brought laurels to his regiment… May his soul rest in peace,” the Manipur CM, N Biren Singh, said in a tribute.
A heated confrontation recently took place between the Indian and Chinese soldiers in north Sikkim, resulting in injuries to troops on both sides. Despite a warning from the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment of an avalanche in the region, ground commanders knew that keeping all roads open was an operational necessity. With this objective, Col Robert and his team went ahead with snow clearance, while planning for weather and enemy contingencies.
“The news of the avalanche flashed and we learnt that Robert was missing. The other soldiers had been found and evacuated. We hoped that Robert would be all right. When the news of his supreme sacrifice came, it was hard to believe. The ever-smiling, the ever-enthusiastic Robert was no more,” a close friend shared.
They weren’t there hiking or trekking, but to open a road axis rendered non-operational due to snowfall. They knew their life was at stake, yet they went about their task with unflinching devotion. Col Robert was a highly motivated officer, leading from the front. A football wizard, he could ‘bend it like Beckham’.
Robo, our hero, will live in the hearts of friends and family. “An irreplaceable loss, our God of football, humane and compassionate… he was like a big brother,” said another grief-stricken friend.
Like many who gave up their lives for their motherland, we do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens.
In all this din, when the country is busy combating Covid-19, some other heroes have bid adieu forever, silently. They are not just Indian soldiers; they are the true pride of every Indian. We citizens must remember all those brave souls whose sacrifices went unrecognised — they were as brave as the ones we honoured.
Dear Robo, your impressions of life will forever colour the journey of those who came across you.
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