Monday 10 August 2020

Major Gen Cardozo, who cut his own leg with kukri in 1971 Indo-Pak war

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Major General Ian Cardozo AVSM  SM is a retired Indian Army officer. He was the first war-disabled officer of Indian army to command a battalion and than a brigade. He is an amputee due to injury in action, a landmine blast during the 1971 war. He served from 1954 to 1993 in the forces.His is an inspiring story of guts and courage who fought against all odds to convince the army top brass about his physical fitness and mental toughness to take charge and command the troops once again.

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You must have read or heard about extraordinary acts of bravery and courage during war, but nothing will come close to the bravado of Major General Ian Cardozo, who amputated his own leg after stepping on a landmine. It takes guts to do what he did during the action in Bangladesh war.

Carodozo was called Cartoos Sahib by his Gorkha troops. And cartoos in Hindi means bullet. Ian Cardozo was born to Vicent and Diana Cardozo in 1937 in then Bombay. He studied at St Xavier’s College, Bombay. Cardozo graduated from the National Defence Academy and then attended the Indian Military Academy. He is the first NDA cadet to receive both Gold and Silver medals. The gold medal is given to the cadet for the best all round performance. The silver medal is given to the cadet who is first in order of merit. For the first time in the history of the National Defence Academy, the cadet who was awarded the gold medal was also first in order of merit.

Later he joined the 5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force). He was commissioned and commanded the 1st Battalion of the 5th Regiment of Gorkha Rifles. He has also served with 4/5 Gorkha Rifles. And he has fought two wars – India-Pakistan war of 1965 and 1971, and exhibited his ability to lead his troops to battle.

During the outbreak of Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, India was waging a war with Pakistan to hasten the liberation of Bangladesh. And Cardozo, who was a Major then, was attending a course at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington. His battalion, 4/5 Gorkha Rifles was already deployed in the eastern theatre of operations, East Pakistan. The battalion’s second-in-command was martyred in action, and Cardoza’s posting was cancelled and was ordered to replace him immediately. As per the order, he arrived and joined his battalion in time to accompany them on Indian Army’s first heliborne opearation during the battle of Sylhet. His timely arrival was of immense boost as the battalion was short of manpower. He was popularly called Cartoos Sahib by his Gorkha regiment as they found it difficult to pronounce his name. Cartoos means cartridge in Hindi, which also denotes toughness.

As the Indian Army was pushing the Pakistanis and inflicting damage, they were on the defensive. Through a swift military offensive that lasted only 13 days, India successfully defeated Pakistan and liberated Bangladesh. And this war witnessed Indian Army’s first-ever heliborne operation. In fact, the battalion of only 480 men charted history when they accepted the surrender of about 1500 men that include three Brigadiers, a Colonel, 107 officers, 219 Junior Commissioned Officers and 7,000 troops from the Pakistan army. That is is the impact and fear they created on the enemy.

After the fall of Dhaka, when the Indian Army was rounding up the prisoners of war, Major Cardozo met with an accident that would change his life forever, he stepped on a land mine and his leg was badly injured in the resulting blast. A part of his leg which was attached to his body could not be amputated surgically because of  the war situation and war wreckage all over. Due to non-availability of medical anesthesia or surgical equipment, and absence of medics at the scene of action, his leg could not be amputated surgically. He asked his orderly to cut of his injured leg, who refused. He subsequently asked for a kukri to amputate his own leg. Cardozo cut it off himself  and ordered the orderly to go and bury it. It takes a lot of courage to cut ones leg. Cardozo was a mentally tough man. And in the course of the battle his unit had captured a Pakistani Army surgeon, Major Mohammad Basheer, who later operated on Cardozo.

He was a war casualty and this incident would have meant end of field duty and going to be demoted and assigned staff duty. After his amputation, Cardozo had a wooden leg. He was not the one to give up. Despite this, he maintained his physical fitness levels and beat a number of able-bodied officers in battle physical fitness tests. Since he was keen to join action on the field, he then put his case to the then Chief of Army Staff, General Tapishwar Narain Raina. He asked Cardozo to accompany him to Ladakh. After seeing his zeal and impressed by his resilience, observing that Cardozo could still walk in the mountains through snow and ice, General Raina allowed him to command a battalion. History was created when he went to become the first war-disabled Army officer to command not just a battalion but also a brigade.

The incident repeated itself when Major Cardozo was considered for the brigade commander’s position. He reasoned that if he was capable of commanding a battalion, so should he be capable of commanding a brigade. He was promoted to Brigadier on March 1984. For the uninitiated, brigade in the army is typically composed of three to six battalions plus supporting teams.

Thanks to Major General Cardozo, three other army officers later went to become army commanders. In fact, one of the officers, who was a double amputee, went on to become the Vice Chief.

Cardozo is married to Priscilla and has three sons and resides in New Delhi. After retirement, Major General Cardozo served as the Chairman of Rehabilitation Council of India from 2005 to 2011. A recipient of military decorations like the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) and the Sena Medal (SM). One of his sons, Sunith Cardoza is in the army too.

He is an athlete, a marathon runner, and regularly takes part in the Mumbai marathon on his prosthetic limb. It's very rare that you come across such a person so courageous, who had the guts to fight all odds despite losing a leg. India salutes this brave army officer!

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This is an interesting and touching story.

Break the chain!

An elderly couple, both Mr and Mrs Pai worked for the bank and retired. They had only one son who was married and settled in USA. They lived in a flat in Mumbai. For the first few years of retirement, they were happy enjoying their retired life, doing things at their leisure.

Later after a couple of years, they were bored and loneliness set in. For a change Mr Pai suggested to his wife, let's go to Sawantwadi and stay in our house for a few months. His wife agreed and got busy packing. And after a few days, left for Sawantwadi where Mr Pai grew up. Both were excited to go there. On reaching their house which had been locked for a long time, got busy cleaning and dusting the place.

As they were busy cleaning, he heard somebody calling from outside. He saw an elderly man. He was thrilled to see his childhood friend Prasad who got the information about his friend's arrival. He joined them in the cleaning and had a long chat of the good old days. Once all the cleaning done, he left promising to come the next day.

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Prasad arrived the next day, the couple enjoyed his company and had a long chat. While leaving in the afternoon, he told the couple - Tomorrow you both should come home for lunch. Mr Pai said, let's join you later during Ganesh festival or some other festival. Prasad said, my wife too insisted you come tomorrow for lunch. And they agreed.

Next day the elderly couple reached Prasad's house before 1 in the afternoon. They were welcomed by Prasad, his wife and daughter in law. His son was married a couple of years ago.

Prasad informed them that is son too will be coming before 2 to see them. Besides his married daughter too, staying close by would be joining them for lunch.

Both Prasad's son and daughter arrived before 2. All sat down round a big table, chatted, laughed and enjoyed the lunch. After a good meal and chatting, the couple left for home. On the way back home, Mr Pai was quiet. His wife found it strange that while having lunch, he was cheerful and talking. After a while, he told his wife, how nice it was at Prasad's house full of people, with laughter, talking and fun. But our place only we two and quietness around.

Since that day, Mr Pai was quiet and withdrawn. He also thought about how would his wife manage all alone if he is no more. His health deteriorated. He fell sick, and with the help of Prasad his wife admitted Mr Pai to the hospital. Doctor said, he his fine, nothing to worry about, but he suffering from anxiety. His son who was informed, called and spoke to his wife. She told him all about the visit to his friends place and how he longed for company of his family. After a couple of days in hospital, he returned home.

His son called from USA to inquire about him. While talking to her son, there was a big smile on his wife's face and she handed over the phone to her husband. The son said, next month I am coming to India. Mr Pai said, don't rush, no need to come, I am fine now. And the son said, baba I am coming to India for good with my wife and son. I want to break the chain now, or else my son too won't return and later we too might be alone. We're coming, we will stay together in Mumbai and visit Sawantwadi periodically.

There was big smile on Mr Pai's face and a new glow. He turned to his wife and said, our son is coming back to us. Now there will noise, joy, chatting, laughter in our house!

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Picture Post:
 Sri Krishna Mutt, Udupi, Karnataka, India

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