Sepoy Diwan Singh of the 14 Grenadiers washes tea cups for a living. Hands that once proudly held a rifle now pick leftovers off used vessels as he scrubs them clean. The olive green shirt of his youth, worn out with time, clings to his thin, drooping shoulders. And eyes that once gleamed with pride are stony with cataract. The 1971 war hero can barely drag himself, crippled by shrapnel which cut through his stomach and liver in the Longewala sector. He sits in a muddy corner, scrubbing tea vessels, while his wife tends the stall. The Army sent him home with a pension of Rs 75 per month.

The country might have won the war, but Singh was defeated the moment an injury incapacitated him. ``With three daughters, an illiterate wife, and no property in my village in Kumaon, I came to starvation,'' he mumbles. After a long struggle, managed to get a `Jai Jawan' stall on rent.

While patriotism is whipped to a frenzy in the backdrop of the Kargil conflict that has once again taken its toll on the young, veterans who have seen it all before, are not moved. The country has a short memory and an even smaller conscience, they say. Even as Diwan Singh lovingly wipes the dust off a framed photograph of late General K Sundarji having tea at his stall, he hopes history won't be repeated.