Wednesday, 24 July 2013

[] THE INDIAN SOLDIER - Kindly give five minutes to read


A mother writes:-

My son, Arjun, has been fascinated by life in the uniform ever since I
can remember. He used to pick out fighter jets from toy stores at two,
choose books on tanks and naval ships from book stores at three and he
could sit through an entire republic day parade at the age of four!
Many of his painting are about soldiers or about fighter jets and
battle tanks. There is no blood and gore in them though. His soldiers
smile as they march along holding the Indian flag aloft. The skies are
blue, the grass is green and the sun has a big smiley face! I have
never bought Arjun a gun as a toy, but he continues to be mesmerised
by military life.

When I realised that he was genuinely interested in knowing more about
military life, I tried to channelize this interest. I took him to
visit the NDA, the Tank Museum in Ahmednagar, bought him books on
military life and took him for aerobatics shows. 'Mamma, I want to be
a soldier painter when I grow up,' he used to tell me, his face
shining with determination. I felt proud. His grandfather, my
husband's father was an officer in the Indian army, while my father
was one of the celebrated freedom fighters of Goa. My son had
inherited the fighting gene from both sides of the family. His father
and I felt a quiet surge of pride when he declared his intentions to
be a soldier though we never said it out loud.

These days though, I cringe visibly when he talks about becoming an
Indian soldier. Someone once said that a nation that cannot respect
its fallen heroes has no right to be free. I think India has reached
that sorry stage. A group of enemy soldiers violate a nine year old
ceasefire, walk into our land with impunity and kill and behead two of
our soldiers. The head of one soldier is never found. Yet, all our
'honourable' polity can say is that the attacks were highly
'provocative'! Provocative? Really? So when are we going to be
provoked into retaliation? When a few more soldiers lose their limbs,
lives and heads?

And this is not the first time either. Remember Capt. Saurabh Kalia?
Yeah, the same Indian officer who was captured by Pakistani soldiers
and subjected to tortures that I shudder to even mention to myself!
His old father is made to run from pillar to post as he tries futilely
to hold the state of Pakistan accountable for what they did to his
son. The Indian state just does not care. Forget the state, even the
privileged citizens of India do not care. Our idea of patriotism is to
light a few votive candles, buy tickets in black for India-Pakistan
cricket matches and wave a few cheap plastic tricolours! Once the
match is over, we can then trample those very tricolours beneath our
feet and go home and sleep in our cosy beds, our role as a cheerleader
for the Aman Ka Tamasha show over for the moment!

India is a country where everyone has human rights. Rapists,
murderers, child molesters, serial killers, terrorists, Maoists.
Everyone. Except soldiers! They are paid to fight, remember? It is
their JOB to die unsung and unlamented, to have their eyes gauged out,
to have their dead bodies returned to their families headless!

A few years ago, all major newspapers in India splashed a picture on
the front page. It is a picture that still haunts me in my darkest
dreams. Some BSF soldiers were ambushed by a bloodthirsty mob of
Bangladeshi villagers. The soldiers were killed after being subjected
to the most inhuman tortures. The very telling photograph showed a
dead soldier being returned to India slung on a couple of bamboos,
like he was some kind of a dead animal! Yeah, that is the respect we
bestow upon our fallen soldiers.

Even now, when I close my eyes and think of that picture, I feel like
throwing up. I feel revolted by the attitude of our emasculated,
spineless political leadership, by the selling out of our media that
can fund meaningless extravaganzas like Aman Ka Tamasha, but does not
have the will to follow up a soldier's story. I feel revolted by the
attitude of our thinkers, writers, film-makers, human rights
activists, lawyers..all the people who don't give a red farthing for a
soldier's suffering. I feel revolted by the Indian people, whose idea
of patriotism is to light a few candles and paint their faces in the
colours of the Indian flag as they cheer the Indian cricket team at an
Indo-Pak match and I abhor myself, abhor my sterile helpless, ugly
rage that cannot do a thing to change any of this!

There was a movie called Dhoop that was released a few years ago, a
very sensitive portrayal of the struggle that a fallen soldier's aged
parents have to go through to establish ownership of a petrol pump
allotted to them. There is a scene in that movie that continues to be
etched in my mind indelibly. The dead soldier's parents are visited by
their son's comrade-in-arms, who fought along with him in his last
battle. The mother cannot bring herself to speak for a long time.
After a long, oppressive silence, she asks only one question, ' Did my
son eat anything before he set out for his last battle'? The visitor
merely shakes his head and she breaks down completely. She can only
say one thing over and over again, ' My son went to fight on an empty
stomach. He was hungry when he fought his last battle'! I have tears
in my eyes even as I write this.

I am that mother. I am every mother and I will never ever be able to
tell my son with all my heart that if he chooses to become a soldier,
his father and I would be very supportive of him

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