It all began on Baisakhi, 35 years ago but the occasion was anything but celebratory—altitudes in excess of 20,000 feet, rarefied air, sub-zero temperatures, treacherous terrain and weather that could fluctuate any moment. On April 13, 1984, Operation Meghdoot was launched—India’s longest military deployment, one that continues to date. The idea was to take control of the Siachen glacier to prevent any Pakistani misadventure. So what was it like to be pitted against those hostile conditions, armed with a soldier’s resolve and the call of duty? In this exclusive interview, Nitin A. Gokhale travels back in time with two Siachen bravehearts—Lt Gen. Sanjay Kulkarni (retd) and Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd)—who fondly recall their experiences at those dizzying heights to get India the early, first-mover advantage.