While a lot of people undertake cycling tours, retired Indian Army Major General Somnath Jha moved each and every Indian citizen with his unique and heartwarming gesture for all the martyred soldiers of the country since Independence.
Major General Jha (58), after his retirement on September 30, 2016, undertook a cycling journey to pay homage to all the martyred soldiers since 1947. The number of fallen soldiers since 1947 is over 20,600 and the retired officer wanted to pay respect to each one of them. He started his journey with the mission to cycle for 2 minutes for every hero who died serving his country.
“When in the army, one has to go through a lot of combat and action, which invariably leads to death. When I was close to retiring, I used to think about how fortunate I have been amidst all of this to stay alive,” the retired Major General said about his journey.
Exact 19 days after his retirement, the officer started his adventurous journey. It was indeed a long one which would cover a massive 12,000 km distance across the 29 states of India over a period of 7 months.
Accompanying him in a car was his wife, Chitra Jha who took care of all the logistics. From planning his every move to taking care of all the media/ social media interactions, Chitra supported her husband in his endeavour wholeheartedly.
“A lot of thought went into the mission. I found myself lucky to be retiring after serving the nation for 37 years. But a lot of my buddies, peers and superiors were not so fortunate and fell fighting for the country in various operations and wars. At first, I thought I should run for them but then I got a figure that represented the total number of fallen Armymen and that came out to be around 20,600. So I made it a round figure to arrive at 21,000. My plan was to pass through every state because our soldiers come from every state,” he had said when he started on his mission.
The journey started on October 19, 2016 from Ambala cantonment, which was his last posting and from where he had retired. He finally concluded the homage trip in Delhi on April 20, 2017. No organisation supported or sponsored the event, which was planned and executed by the Jha couple.
But once he started the journey, he received extensive support from all the sections of the society. He was warmly welcomed by the defence personnel and common people alike.
What left everyone wonderstruck was the fact that the Major General and his wife gave up everything they owned and embarked on their journey.
“Philosophically speaking, the cycling endeavour marks the beginning of our vanaprastha. We do not own a house and have given away most of our belongings. We do not even have a home right now but that’s what life should be all about. We have lived our lives to the fullest and now have embarked upon a journey that is so satisfying,” Chitra Jha had said when her husband began the tour.
One man can make a huge difference and Major General Jha (retd) stands as testimony to the fact that a soldier remains a soldier for life. Perhaps one of the most emotionally stirring event of this journey was the one he shared in an interview with Indiatoday.in.
Here is the entire incident, in his own words: ”It was in Bihar and we were extremely tired from travelling. A Muslim man welcomed us with tea and charpai (cot) to rest on. While leaving, I bid him Khuda Hafiz, but do you know what he replied with? ‘Jai Hind’.”