Freedom doesn’t come free.
Happy Independence Day 2017. India celebrates its 71st year of independence and amidst all the celebrations I urge you all not to forget our heroes that made this very freedom possible. The fallen ones. Our sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, friends who willingly went on to take up the job no-one else wanted to do – march into a gunfight knowing they might never come back and indeed some did not come back, ones who did come back and will go forth again tomorrow. It takes nerves of steel to do that. So next time when you listen to songs like “Ek sathi aur bhi tha” (movie – LOC Kargil) or “Ae mere watan ke logon” on your Independence Day / Republic Day playlist – do listen to the lyrics carefully.
Why do I call it an unwanted job/the last resort? Not because I believe it to be so, but because unfortunately some of us Indian do have that kind of thinking. I fortunately was born and raised up in an army family and I love it to bits and the ‘army way’ is the only way of life I know. So for those of us who feel joining the Army was an easier option because we couldn’t secure better places in IITs and other Ivy-league colleges let me just state some simple facts. NDA (National Defence Academy – the alma mater of most of our officers) is ranked the 8th toughest college in the world to get into. Of the 3,00,000 or so students that appear for the entrance exam for NDA only about 350 are called in final merit list and the training itself is another matter altogether. So for people who believe we joined only for the “free” rum, ration and the subsidised canteen items, rest assured that is most definitely not the case.
But you get paid for doing your job, you say. Yes we do and we do our “job” happily. All we want in the bargain is a little respect and a little dignity. Because the pay that a soldier gets is definitely not commensurate to the hardship he or his family faces. How many of you know that Maj Akshay Girish, martyred in the Nagrota terrorist attack had a 3 year old daughter who will never see her father again or what about the numerous others who could not reach on time when their wives were in the labour room or who never even got the chance to see their kids’ faces and the children who will grow up only hearing about their “missing” father. We would readily bargain the “perks” that we supposedly should be grateful for if it meant celebrating festivals with our families and the chance to be able to see our children grow up and not miss annual days and birthdays while we sweat it out in the unrelenting heat of the desert or the unforgiving cold of the mountains patrolling the wilderness on the lookout for infiltrators.
In times like today when we are in a state of a constant non-conventional war with our enemies, the rest of the nation is fighting and striving to remove the “entitled” rations (and being successful at it) and to lower the pay grade of the Army to maintain the distinction between a Civil Services Officer and an Armed Forces one tends to dishearten a soldier. Its not about the financial nitty-gritties of it rather it has more to do with how much respect a soldier gets in his country. I am not a disgruntled soldier – just a saddened one, still a fiercely patriotic one. So the next time a kid says I want to join the forces and someone says why? Just say why not?
Remembering Maj Akshay Girish.
Maj Akshay Girish was martyred on 29 November 2016 in a terrorist attack in Nagrota and is survived by his parents, his wife and a daughter. His mother writes a blog in his memory which acts as an inspiration for many. Do pay a visit.
I remember the conversation I had with you Akshay and I remember how proud you were of your academy (NDA). I remember when I told you that my brother had joined NDA and you had smiled and said good decision. I remember how you told me to follow my dreams and passions and be more outgoing, how you read my poems and encouraged me to publish them even though you yourself were never willing to do so because some things are just meant for friends and family. I remember how you dared me to go skydiving or something that would get my adrenaline pumping, sorry still not courageous enough – but one day maybe. I feel sorry now that I couldn’t meet when you were in Mhow for your Junior Command course, I was not in station buddy but you know that and I know you would say it’s ok but that was the last time I could have met you. I know that you wanted to meet Baby R but never got the chance – he’s two and a half years old now. I know we did not really spend a lot of time together but whatever times we had together were super fun – be it class, course, games, parties whatever it was it was all good. Thank you for standing by me when I was having a tough time making some important decisions in my life and thank you for believing in me. I am glad I got to know you and that I could call you my friend.
Cheers to you mate. You will always be loved and remembered.