When 58-year-old Major General Somnath Jha retired in September this year, he didn’t want to simply hang up his boots the usual way. Being a third generation soldier of the Indian Army and having spent 37 years of his life serving the nation is surely a great deal, but Maj.Gen. Jha is far from retiring. Age is just a number for him.
“The scars of soldiering carry the memories of many friends and peers who fell in battles and combat defending the honour, integrity and freedom of our country. Hence, before I put my military career behind me, I have decided to undertake one last mission,” he says.
Maj.Gen. Jha has several challenging achievements under his belt — like scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro at the age of 54 and learning para-gliding at 56, to name a few.
He is also a cycling enthusiast and has undertaken cross country cycling trips in his spare time. Which is one of the reasons why he came up with a unique idea after retirement.
His latest mission is a personal homage he wishes to pay to all our fallen heroes and martyrs; numbering over 20,600 since Independence. This homage will be rendered by cycling two minutes for every fallen hero. The journey will see him travel over 12,000 km on his bicycle, touching every state in the country over a period of seven months or so.
His tribute is not only for the martyred soldiers but also for their families who suffer unimaginable anguish, pain and trauma after the loss of their loved ones.
The journey will commence on October 19, 2016, from Ambala Cantonment, Haryana, which was his last posting before retirement. He will then head eastwards through the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. After travelling the North-Eastern states, he will continue down the east coast and then up the west coast, all the way to Jammu and Kashmir. And then he will head southwards to conclude his homage journey at the Amar Jawan Jyoti (War Memorial) in New Delhi.
“Freedom, that we all take for granted, doesn’t actually come for free. It’s been paid for by the lives of our gallant soldiers. Paid forward by them, for us to enjoy. It, therefore, deserves to be respected, honoured and upheld in its true spirit,” he says.