Date: 4th July 1999
Location: Tiger Hill, Kargil
Task: Capture three strategic enemy bunkers located at the top of a treacherously vertical, snow covered 1000 ft high cliff face. Task Assigned to: Ghatak Force Commando Platoon, Indian Army.
Time: Early Morning Hours
A 19-year-old newly enlisted 18 Grenadiers soldier, Yogendra Singh Yadav, volunteered to lead the assault in the most severely life-threatening circumstances. He had to not only climb the cliff face but also install ropes that would allow further assaults.
It was a steep uphill stiff climb with the enemy having full clear view on us and the soldiers below just grappling their way up the dark to a most certain death. Halfway up, as expected, the enemy attacked the platoon with machine gun fire and rocket attacks. The platoon commander and two others were killed instantaneously. Yadav was hit by multiple bullets in his groin and shoulders. Inspite of being brutally injured and having lost lot of blood, Yadav climbed the remaining 60ft & reached the top. Summoning extraordinary grit and courage, he crawled to the first bunker, lobbed a grenade which killed four enemy soldiers and neutralized their firing power giving the rest of the platoon the chance to climb up the stiff cliff.
Yadav by now was hit by almost 21 bullets and had lost lot of blood. He could only see dead corpses around of his people, blown to bits, and life threateningly ebbing out from himself. He summoned the remnants of extraordinary determination laced with outstanding courage… charged at the second bunker and engaged with the enemy in hand-to-hand combat… inspite of having shoulder that was smashed with machine gun fire and a body that was filled with 21 bullets with lots of blood lost… he killed 4 enemy soldiers with his bare hands and the platoon succeeded in capturing the Tiger Hill.
When he was awarded the Paramvir Chakra – India’s highest military decoration – awarded for displaying extraordinary acts of valour during wartime – it was awarded to him posthumously before it was discovered that he was alive and recuperating in an army hospital. His PVC citation states that Yadav displayed the most conspicuous courage, indomitable gallantry, grit and determination under extreme adverse circumstances.
What really triggers this kind of mindboggling determination to achieve the set goal in a human being, inspite of the most adverse extreme brutal slaughtering of fate that one can wildly imagine?
It’s your Sisu.
Sisu is a Finnish trait that the Finns have declared as their national character. While it unfortunately doesn’t have a literal English equivalent, Sisu is described as the extraordinary determination in the face of extreme adversity, and courage that is presented usually in situations where success is considered impossible. It’s the trait that summons the tenacious resolve and resolute determination in us, otherwise lying dormant. It provides us with that continuous burst of steely strength to face exceptional odds, helping us decide a course of action to face impossible situations inspite of repeated failures, in pursuit of our set purpose.
In 1940, the Time magazine first time acknowledged the word in English, reporting it thus: “The Finns have something they call Sisu. It’s a compound of bravado, and bravery, of ferocity and tenacity, of the ability to keep fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win.”
This was a direct result of what the Finns had displayed a month ago. In the bone chilling – 40° winter of Nov 1939, the predatory neighbor of an unprepared, unequipped weak & fragile Finland… the mighty Soviet Union, 66 times their size, attacked them with 7.5 Lakh soldiers armed with 6500+ tanks and backed by a fleet of close to 4000 fighter aircrafts.
Finland was backed by an army of 3 lakh untrained, largely inexperienced reservist soldiers who were rather their peace loving agrarian citizens. They did not even have equipment or uniforms and had to use their own clothes. Against a might of the 6500+ soviet tanks, the Finns had just about 32 tanks and against the 4000 soviet fighter aircrafts, the Finns had dilapidated 114 aircrafts.
Yet despite such a superior mindboggling military strength, in the Winter War, the Soviets suffered incomprehensible losses at the hands of a small insignificant weak nation that was one sixty-sixth their size. By the time the Sisu enabled Finns were done with them, the Soviets had 3.8 lakh casualties against a total of 70,000 Finnish casualties. The Soviets lost 3500+ tanks & 500+ aircrafts.
Whatever could be imagined as superlative strength or superior might was on the Soviet’s side. Yet the David against the Goliath here were the Finnish. It was an easily pre-determined victory for the Soviets. Then how did they get routed and wiped out so heavily? How did the tallest ferocious wild giant of its time get its nose bloodied and punched by the circus dwarf? What fuelled the Finns to face such an unprecedented adversity where the odds of surviving itself were below nil… as minus as the climate of a bone chilling – 40° winter.
It’s the Sisu in us that propels & breathes life into the untapped beast of aggression against unforeseen brutal adversities that threaten to subdue our will to succeed against odds and achieve our dreams. It’s the Sisu in us that feebly whispers in us to keep moving on even if fate repeatedly has dealt us bloody blows and defeat has become the way of life. It’s the voice of tenacity in our soul that we usually strangulate with the manila rope of societal conditioning and circumstantial beliefs. It’s the voice that few out of billions pay heed to and go on to achieve the extraordinary impossible that the rest of us thereafter make motivational fables and stories to recite passionately to our friends, children and relatives or make viral through exciting forwards.
Sisu is the strength that propels you never to give up. It is the single free neutron of resilient determination that strikes against the nucleus of the atom of epidemic epitomes of accepted impossibilities. In this process when one or two neutrons are set free with their achievements which in turn releases the energy of possibilities…. this chain reaction sets of the nuclear fission of unprecedented energy and success that hitherto seemed highly improbable. To break that first neutron of rock-hard mindset of survival mediocrity, one needs the Sisu. Only then the chain reaction of possibilities can be set free.
Across the timelines many souls have discovered their Sisu and triggered that fissionary reaction of monumental energy within themselves that has given impossible momentum to their wings of desire.
After guarding the prestigious JNU campus as a security guard for over four years, Ramjal Meena cracked the entrance exam to the very university that he guarded and became a student there. Lekhraj Bheel, an 18-year-old youth and the son of MNREGA labourers from Rajasthan, hadn’t even heard of the JEE-Main exam till a couple of years ago. Now he has become first from his tribal village in Rajasthan to crack the exam…Middle class privileges leaves us blind to how difficult things are for those who aren’t as fortunate as we are… Like Sreekant K who worked as a coolie at Ernakulam Junction for five years, using the free railway wifi there to eventually clear the Kerala Public Service Commission Exam & become a Civil Servant…. Or Satendar Singh whose eyesight was lost as a result of a wrong injection.. but did not lose hope… cracked the toughest exam in the country – UPSC Civil Services Exam…Or the 18 year old Rekha who ran away from home in a small rural village in Karnataka to escape getting married and with the assistance of a friend scored 90% plus in her 12th …. Or 20 year old Asharam Choudhary who inspite of being a rag pickers son and living in absolute penury and suffering cleared his AIIMS entrance in first attempt all by himself…
There are millions of us who summon small amounts of Sisu everyday and fight the battles of our lives as we weave our way through making a living, reaching our workspaces and fighting to survive against all odds, giving food and security to our families and quality education to our children, millions of us who work as doctors, engineers, social workers, manual scavengers, teachers, soldiers, mill workers, farmers, insurance agents.. and millions of what is considered as menial jobs … that hold the structure of the society intact and keep the wheels of progress moving at its minuscule speeds.
But if we want to achieve the astounding, create history in a single lifetime that the universe has blessed us with, battle with the impossibilities of life and win against all odds against the most adverse extreme brutal slaughtering of fate that one can wildly imagine… then we will have to summon extraordinary determination and courage … the tenacious resolve and resolute determination in us to face impossible situations inspite of repeated failures, in pursuit of our set purpose…. Our Sisu
Can you discover & activate your SISU?