Their two storey home is a virtual museum, with the major’s childhood trophies and his music collection preserved as if he were still around.
If Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan would have been alive today, he would have been 41 years old. The major was gunned down when he led a team of NSG commandos into the iconic Taj hotel to flush out the 10 Lashkar-e-Tayyiba trained Pakistani militants who held Mumbai to ransom from November 26 to November 29.
He was climbing up a darkened stairwell in the belly of the Taj, instructing his fellow commandos to weave this way and that as the Pakistanis rained bullets and death. As his comrades-in-arms fell, he soldiered on, only for the brave Black Cat to be brought down, the grenade pin still in his mouth, by a Kalashnikov bullet to his head...
Here in Bengaluru, Mr K Unnikrishnan, father of Major Sandeep, is the man that everyone calls, little realizing how painful it must be for a father to relive the day that the fateful call came, the enduring sense of loss that will never go away.
He had little clue that his son was even part of the team that was sent into the Taj. “He never said he was going for the operation. We never knew he left for Mumbai ,” says the older man.
Their two storey home is a virtual museum, with the major’s childhood trophies and his music collection preserved as if he were still around. Major Sandeep’s friends call every year at around this time. “The entire Indian Army is in touch, they remember him,” says the gruff Mr Unnithan, adding “ we had nobody but him, he was everything to us, it was a total loss.”
This year too, as they have done every year, Mr and Mrs Unnithan will head for the remembrance day function in Mumbai. But the memory that warms their hearts is the special applause that rings out when their son’s name is called out. For the Ashok Chakra. And simple functions at schools.
“That clapping is very, very different,” he says.