Tale of two bravehearts from Calcutta

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  • Published 1.12.08

Calcutta, Dec. 1: Ryan Chakravarty, 28, was so busy at work last week that he could not call his anxious parents in Patuli for 60 hours. He was hunting down terrorists in Mumbai under siege for three days.

Amitabh Sharma’s relatives in Bangur had no idea that he was flying high on Friday, air-dropping commandos on to the roof of Nariman House in Mumbai in an Mi-17 helicopter.

Both Ryan’s and Amitabh’s families on two ends of the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass are proud of what their boys have achieved but petrified at the thought of what might have been.

“We had no idea what was happening till Ryan reached Delhi and called us to say that he was okay and in one piece,” said Shyamal Chakravarty, Ryan’s father, a retired police officer, recounting what was for him and his wife the longest 60 hours of their life.

Ryan, an ex-student of St. Xavier’s Collegiate School, was the leader of a team from the 52 Special Action Group, the counter hijack task force of the National Security Guard, that participated in rescue mission in Mumbai.

“They fired on us and we fired on them incessantly. We intercepted every possible escape route. I think everyone who was involved in the mission did a fantastic job,” Ryan told The Telegraph on phone, not wanting to divulge details of the mission.

Protecting the country was what Ryan wanted to do from a very early age. And for him it had to be the army not the police even thought he idolised his father who was a police officer.

“He knew he wanted to be in the army from the age of three and that is what he did much against my wishes,” said Wendy Chakravarty, Ryan’s mother who is yet to recover from the nerve-wracking week.

An athlete and house captain of Loyola House in St. Xavier’s Collegiate School Ryan, who studied commerce, spent his free time in the library learning physics and chemistry, something he would need to crack his UPSC exam.

After three years at the National Defence Academy, Ryan chose to join the Indian Army, spending another year and a half at the Indian Military Academy in Dehra Dun.

He was commissioned in 2003 and opted to join the “2 Ladakh Scouts” and was posted in Ladakh for more than three years after which he opted for the NSG and went through year-long commando training.

Ten months into his career with the NSG, Ryan got detailed for the operation in Mumbai. The naughty boy from school with a penchant for offbeat books and English music, who had his wife Archana and two-year-old son Agasthya waiting at home, had no qualms.

“We have been on the field. When you are given a job you do it, you don’t think,” said Ryan.

The same goes for Amitabh. For the 40-year-old, who spent his college years in Calcutta living with his aunt and uncle, doing something for his country had always been his priority. His dream came true after he graduated from Scottish Church College and got a call for the Indian Air Force.

“We did not even know he was preparing for the entrance examination. He just came in and told us that he had got a call,” said Sheila Sharma, Amitabh’s aunt.

Amitabh, who was born in Calcutta, became the quintessential north Calcuttan hanging out with his friend for adda outside his college or near his home on Madan Mitra Lane.

“He has always been obsessed about fitness, exercising incessantly to keep himself fit and his favourite pastime was moving around on roller skates,” said Suchin Sharma, Amitabh’s cousin, who called Amitabh “mom” because he was very protective.

Since he was commissioned in 1990, the Vayu Sena gallantry medal winner has been posted on peacekeeping missions in Kashmir and Tripura as well as rescue missions in Assam and Amarnath. He was also part of the United Nations deployment to Congo.

Amitabh Sharma

Amitabh, known as Kukker Sharma by his batchmates because of his love for chicken, was posted in Mumbai, where he lived with his mother Sneha Sharma, wife Jyoti and kids Ayush and Isha, when he was called to the war zone. And he flew to the rescue in his Mi-17 helicopter, air-dropping commandos on the roof of Nariman House.

“We are proud of him, every single day, and not just because of the role he played in freeing Mumbai from the clutches of terrorists,” said Ashok Sharma, Amitabh’s uncle.

Watching him save so many people’s lives is worth the tension that goes with it, says the Sharma family.

“And after 18 years, we are getting used to it,” said Sheila.