The chronicles of Indian Army are full of the daring act of the soldiers, who have shown impeccable valor and courage during the catastrophic situation and have earned a stature which is unachievable by common people.
One such soldier of Indian Army is officer Major General Ian Cardozo who during the 1971 war did something which a normal person wouldn’t even dare to do. In the war, the then Major Cardozo stepped on a landmine and had to cut off his badly wounded leg with his own khukri.
He was later operated by a captured Pakistani doctor. Major General Cardozo continued to serve the force with full passion and determination, he did not let his mind except that he had become a physically handicapped, instead he trained his body with his wooden legs and attained such a fitness level that on several occasions he has defeated the able-bodied soldiers and officers in the various fitness test.
Major General Ian Cardozo was a young Major serving in 5 Gorkha Rifles at the time of 1971 war with Pakistan.With a swift military offensive, India had defeated Pakistan within 13 days, liberated a region and led to the creation of Bangladesh.
During the war, Major Cardozo stepped on a landmine. As a result, his leg blew off. A Bangladeshi saw this happening and took him to the battalion headquarters.
Here is the conversation that Major Cardozo had with doctor present in the headquarters as written by Claude Arpi for rediff.com:
I told the doctor, ‘Give me some morphine.’ They had no#8800 it had been destroyed during the operations. ‘Do you have any Pethidine?’ ‘No’
I told him: ‘Could you cut this off?’
He said: ‘I don’t have any instrument.’
I asked my batman: ‘Where is my khukri?‘
He said: ‘Here it is, Sir.’
I told him: ‘Cut it off.’
He answered in Gorkhali: ‘Sir, I can’t do it.’
I told him: ‘Give it to me.’ I cut my leg off and ordered: ‘Now go and bury it.’
Major tells people that he was embarrassed to tell the story because he thought it was nothing at all.So, when the reporter asked that what was his first thought?
He says that he first thought was for her (pointing to his wife, Priscilla). I thought, ‘What a stupid thing happened to me. It was beyond my control, it just happened.’
He was reluctant on being operated by a Pakistani doctor, below is the conversation which took place between him and his Chief Officer:
By the time, he himself chopped off his leg, the CO had arrived. The CO told Major Cardozo, ‘Ian, you are very lucky, we have captured a Pakistani surgeon. He will operate on you.’
‘Nothing doing, Sir, I don’t want to be operated by a Pakistani doctor. Just get me back to India,’ I answered.
I then told the CO: ‘Two conditions.’ He immediately said: ‘You are not in a position to put conditions.’
I told him: ‘OK, two requests. One, I don’t want Pakistani blood.’
He retorted: ‘You are a fool.’ I said: ‘I am prepared to die a fool. My second request, Sir, I want you to be present when they operate on me.’ The CO asked: ‘Why?’ I answered: ‘You know why.’ (There had been cases of torture). So, he agreed.
In his interview, General told the reporter that:-
Though he was a Pakistani doctor he did a very good job. Doctors are doctors despite being enemies and Pakistani surgeon Major Mohammed Basheer did what doctors do- saved his life with a surgery. Though Major Cardozo did thank him then and he regrets it. ‘Thank you.’ I owe him a thank you, but it is not easy (to find someone in Pakistan].
After the war was won and Pakistani Army surrendered themselves, Major knew that he has a very difficult life ahead adjusting a lot of things which were much easier earlier.He had to learn how to live with an artificial leg. Major kept in mind that wooden or flesh, he still had two legs. He dreamed that he would command a battalion with his wooden leg and he invested all he had to prepare himself for a job that’s almost impossible for any mortal.
But Major Cardozo was made of different material and he started running everyday early morning and took a rigorous battle fitness tests in which he left behind even able-bodied officers.
Once he was asked to accompany the Army’s Vice-Chief to J&K and the VC’s helicopter landed on a helipad 600 feet above the army camp. Major Cardozo climbed 600 feet height from the road to the helipad.
When Vice Chief of Army Staff arrived, he asked the General: ‘How did you come here?’
Major answered: ‘Sir, I climbed from the road.’
The Vice Chief of Army Staff was left dumbstruck. It was indeed the demonstration of superhuman strength and unparallel human endeavor.
The promotion followed soon and so did his dream of commanding the force. He was made to command a Gurkha Battalion, then a Brigade followed by a full Division.He was the first disabled officer to be approved to command a battalion and later a brigade.
The Indian Feed salutes Major General Ian Cardozo for his daring act and exemplary courage and valour. He is a true inspiration for millions who face the trauma of losing vital body parts and lose hope in their life.