The PSWHMM promises to give visitors a visual, aural, motivational and emotional experience like few others
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An Ode to Matchless Heroism

The PSWHMM promises to give visitors a visual, aural, motivational and emotional experience like few others

Maj Gen Raj Mehta (retd)

Let me begin at the beginning. It wasn’t auspicious; not by a long shot. Sounded by the then Director Defence Services Welfare, Punjab, sometime in 2014 for joining an ‘experts team’ of generals and historians for setting up a Punjab State War Heroes Museum and Memorial (PSWHMM), I looked forward to reliving the passion of creating museums.

Posted in the war zone in Kashmir, I had been nominated by my Corps Commander, Lt Gen. (now Governor, Manipur) Nirbhay Sharma, GOC 15 Corps, to help conceptualise and build ‘Ibadat-e-Shahadat’, a war-cum-Kashmiri culture museum that he wanted created at BB Cantt Srinagar against a murderously tough timeline. Completed in less than four months from visualisation of need to delivery, it was inaugurated in December 2004 by President APJ Abdul Kalam. The memory of the iconic, erudite and kind President spending over an hour walking through the museum, asking amazingly deep, sometimes innocently curious questions from me as I briefed him and the kind words he spoke and wrote in the Visitors Book will remain with me till the end. ‘The National War Museum,’ he had written in part, ‘should one day be made like this…’

Thereafter, as Chief of Staff 9 Corps, I helped revive a defunct war museum at Yol Cantt in 2006; the revival function being attended by ex-army chief Gen. V.N. Sharma, brother of Maj. Somnath Sharma, PVC (P) and the scholarly parents of Capt. Vikram Batra, PVC (P). That was the day I hung up my uniform, that misty, late afternoon under the lengthening shadows of the cedars in Yol Cantt, the lap of the Dhauladhars.

Picking up the narrative, here, in otherwise dynamic, energy-driven Punjab which was clearly on a mission to highlight its ancient heritage of heroism against all odds, there was disappointment afoot for me, and in plenty. We all know that reality is a bit different from actuality. The rhetoric and promises made were quickly forgotten so far as my involvement with Punjab’s tryst with heroism was concerned. I was left out in the cold — and minded it. I sulked. My notes made at museums in India and in Turkey, Israel, UK, France, UAE, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bhutan remained just notes.

Months later, and without a preamble, things turned for the better. I was back at the high table and asked to join an ‘Ideas Exchange’ on the museum. The museum’s foundation stone had by then been laid and the museum storyline was now needed to be formalised. The thought of exchanging ideas with experts from Punjab, Punjabi and Guru Nanak Dev universities was irresistible and I expectantly plunged into the deliberations. The die was cast. Nominated the project coordinator in March 2015, I was allowed to recruit a team of young researchers across gender to convert the approved storyline into implementable gallery-wise action plans for thoughtful, objective multi-layered execution involving existing and emerging media.

And so it came to pass that by end March 2015, the selection process was over and April onwards, a 10-member research team (RT) was working under me.

An Ode to Matchless Heroism

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