My grandfather was a colonel in the Army and his three sons joined him there. My earliest memory is how alive the house seemed with all these four 6 footers together. Larger than life with fierce moustaches of all types…my nana amd mamas were my earliest heroes. I extended this same unconditional love to the Armed Forces. The olive greens, the black boots lined up in a military row, gleaming like only a soldier’s boots can, the dress uniforms with the polished gold bottons, the solitary camp cot whose narrow confines held all of us wriggling in it like puppies, the white enamel mugs which seemed to hold the very essence of this glamorous life….I think I loved all of it with a white hot intensity.
My father was also in the Forces…I saw another aspect of the Forces with him…fearless warriors patrolling the very skies….I grew up on campuses and I did not know what fear meant. We were the military kids and we were the protectors. I remember being puzzled when adults questioned me “who are you?’…I actually replied that I was an Indian. I got married outside the forces and saw a different side of life…but my love affair with the Forces never came to a halt. I have seen life come a full circle…when I was really young, the finest of the fine entered our Armed Forces. It was a matter of pride and honour to serve one’s country. And those who joined here could be spotted a mile off…they never tolerated any injustice , they were truly fearless…I had one mama who must have been in his late forties, who while escorting me beat up a guy who said something very nasty to me and who had made the mistake of thinking that I was traveling alone! The way my mama thrashed him with just his bare hands was a sight to behold. The predator turned prey did not have breath in his body to beg for mercy! Contrast that to the hordes who pass by when a woman is being molested and choose to keep mum! I have countless such stories…my nana aged but he still remained a lion. When one walked with him, one could sense the aura of powerful protection he exuded!
Then I saw how people began avoiding a career in the Forces. To become a soldier was now associated with foolishness…keeping pace with the marching materialism, fighting for one’s country was equated with outdated notions of idealism. What place does idealism have in our lives today? What do we teach our kids…do we teach them at winning is what counts or do we teach them that losing gracefully too is an art? Money is the biggest motivator for us today…money and the soldier are opposing forces. A Soldier cannot be money minded! A business man is money oriented, so is a trader, so is a householder! A soldier protects and defends…he fights. No more and no less!
And what do we give him in return? I ask you this question…how do we repay a man who takes up arms in our defence? How can we repay them? These questions are so relevant today because we see it for ourselves that our systems are collapsing but our Armed Forces still stand tall. Give a soldier his due. He asks for nothing so should we take him so much for granted? While rescuing frightened people during the Mumbai attacks in November, a soldier told them “Do not fear! To get at you, they will have to get me first,”….just one line but what a world of meaning!
If we all did our duty as bravely and unflinchingly as the soldier, we would be in a far happier position today. For to live life with honour is still one of the finest tenets to follow!