Emotions ran high at the 169th Founders’ Day celebration at the Lawrence School, Sanawar, at the mention of Param Vir Chakra Awardee Arun Khetarpal who was from the batch of 1966 and died during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. A total of 32 members of the class of 1966 were present at Sanawar for their golden jubilee. His batchmates described him as “a very shy guy”, “very quiet” and someone who was dedicated and friendly.
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Arun joined the Army in June 1971. In December, he was sent to Battle of Basantar in Western Shakargarh where he died. He was 21 then.
“We were both in a band and we both played Alto Saxophone (the smaller one). When I heard the news about his martyrdom and what transpired on the battle field, I was shocked because he was very shy, he spoke softly. Going by all that, I thought he will be the last person to do something like that. Moreover, we were from different houses so there was always this competitive spirit between us and he was very competitive at everything he would do,” said Amar Talwar, a batchmate of Arun, who also is an artiste and a Bollywood actor.
Retired Wing Commander Inderash Babbar of Indian Air Force said, “It was the shock of my life when I heard the news about Khetarpal. We shared a great bond together. He was very dedicated when it came to studies, especially with regard to training or sports activities. He used to always wear a smile on his face and was a friendly person. He would always encourage us to strive for more as he had very big desires and was always very clear about what he wanted from life. He wanted a Param Vir Chakra and the rest is history.”
Mukesh Khetarpal, the younger of the two brothers, said, “The commanding officer of the regiment told Arun that he was too young to go to war. But Arun insisted on going by saying it was his time to attain glory.”
Mukesh added, “He had put off his transmitter so that he did not receive any further orders to evacuate his tank as his gun was still firing. Otherwise, it would be disobedience which is not what you do in the Army.”
“My father Brig M L Khetarpal had decided that one of his sons will join the Army while the other will become an engineer. Following what he said, I went to IIT, Delhi, to pursue mechanical engineering and Arun to the Army,” Mukesh added. The school used to give a bravery award every year in the name of Arun Khetarpal. From this year, however, the award would be given to the student who is the best bandy, part of the school band.