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Colonel Sundeep Berry…..a life lived kingsize

By Priti Prakash | PUBLISHED: 21, Jun 2023, 21:01 pm IST | UPDATED: 21, Jun 2023, 22:05 pm IST

Colonel Sundeep Berry…..a life lived kingsize
heart pained, my eyes welled up. News came in the morning that Sundeep Berry was no more. Cancer had claimed another casualty. After a suffering of years he finally succumbed on June 20, 2023. I am in dearth of words to describe Berry (so was he called by all of us). The purest of souls, greatest human being, a doubtless friend, downright professional, a soldier unparalleled. The picture above was the only one that we had that shows Berry on the left in his army fatigue during NDA days.

A man of very few words, with a voice so rich that it commanded audience. To me he was a friend and brother. Prakash (my husband) and Sundeep spent almost half their life together….... cycled together back & forth from school, qualified for NDA together, trained for fauj together, even motorcycled to meet their girl friends together. Both opted for The Jat Regiment (Jats) in the Infantry to be together. But as luck would have it Berry got Jats, Prakash got AD, they finally separated to be allotted different corps.

When I got married he & Sabrina (Berry’s wife) were the first ones to host us at their ancestral home. The warmest hosts ever. Both of them loved partying and had endless dear friends. Always ready to help anyone even going out of their way, very caring, were endeared by all. During postings we kept meeting over time.

An exemplary & promising career in the Indian Army that got snapped for a reason that at best vouched for Sundeep’s integrity, grit, concern for his troops and highest degree of undaunted courage and bravery. He was a HERO, in life and in death too.

Every soldier in the Defence Forces faces tough situations and tougher decision-making moments that go to define their future in some way or the other. A soldier at the core, Berry too may have had many of them. One such story of his resolve and loyalty surely needs to be told (as told by him)…......

India was in the midst of Kargil war. Berry’s Jat battalion had just moved in to the Kargil sector from another field assignment. Just two days on they were tasked to go for attack on a post, at a height that was occupied by the enemy soldiers other than Tiger Hill in Drass sector. The orders came from the Brigade Commander to the CO. Considering the challenge of acclimatization and inadequate logistics like boots and other high-altitude kit the CO suggested that the troops may not be able to take on the attack at that height immediately. He requested for two days and then they would be ready, meanwhile the other unit stationed alongside for a little longer could be sent. When ordered, saying that he cannot send his troops to die in the hostile weather conditions for the lack of logistics and physical preparedness, the CO refused to comply to be immediately sacked by the GoC. Sundeep Berry, 2IC, who was already sitting approved as a full Colonel took over the command of his unit and was asked to lead the attack. With the feeling that his men cannot be sent in a day’s time at the punishing heights, as a moral perspective and duty towards his troops, he too refused to send them for the attack. He had to pay the price. He earned an adverse Battle Performance Report. Knowing it was a decision that could put an end to a promising career he put the life of his men before his. Not that he was any way less brave or lacked courage. Standing true to the credo he learnt and imbibed at the Indian Military Academy, he always had the nation and the men he commanded upmost in his mind and soul. The thin line of duty on both sides has a delicate balance to be struck. Sundeep was demoted and his career was sealed. We won Kargil conflict though.

Sundeep still hung on for some years in India. Later he joined his wife at Canada and settled there finally. Unfortunately he was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago.  He was undergoing treatment and seemed to be stable at a point in time too. But within a matter of a year or so we heard his cancer had spread from his lungs to his spine & brain. The last I talked to him was a month back. His voice was as rich but this time I just wanted to hear him speak, not me. He said I am in my last stage and will end anytime. Tears rolled down my eyes. This time too he was a bundle of courage. We had assured of talking every week. His life was slipping. He even talked to his coursemates four days ago on the group chat. And lo, he was finally liberated of the horrendous pains the disease gave his mortal being. For me he will always be a HERO.

May god give his soul peace. Such people are not born often. Colonel Sundeep James Berry was grace, courage, uprightness, compassion, reverence personified. He will be forever missed.
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