I will be completing 10 years in service this March and still the first question that anybody who meets me for the first time asks is – Why did you join the Army being a girl?
I have heard this question so many times now that my auto response these days is “Why not?”
It might sound a bit rude but I can’t help it. I am a third generation true blood fauji and if a doctor’s kid can be a doctor or a businessman’s kid can follow the family business without being questioned so why can’t a fauji’s kid (irrespective of gender) be a fauji? My reasons of joining the Army if I have to list them out would be:
- Family Tradition. I am a third generation. Did I tell you that already? Yes? Well, that was the main inspiration. Army is home. My father, grandfather, uncles, cousins, friends’ dads, almost everyone I know is in the forces. I have grown up all over the country, studied in so many schools, been a part of so many cultures that entering any cantonment is like coming home. As simple as that.
- The Uniform. There’s no denying the fact that the Olive Greens look amazing. The stars on your shoulders make you feel on top of the world. And the best part is that you can’t buy them, you have to earn them.
- Salary. You have a job security in a Government job in today’s day and let’s admit it, the salary ain’t bad either.
- Free Travel. While it is true to a large extent that Army uproots you every two-three years and forces you to lead a nomadic life, we learn to love it after a while and eagerly look forward to the next place after a while. It is a boon for a traveller spirit like me.
- Patriotism. Lastly, the most important aspect for me, I get to serve the nation. How many of us can actually say I have done something constructive for the nation and say it proudly every single day? I am not talking about the occasional patriotism that grips our countrymen on 15 Aug and 26 Jan and then the flags are littering the grounds. No, I am talking about the goosebumps you get every time the notes of the national anthem reverberate in the air or every time you see the tricolour fluttering in the wind.
But the Armed Forces is not for the weak at heart. Let me give you the reasons for that as well.
- Firstly let me start by addressing an intellectual who I came across on Facebook who said that the Army is not a good career for city dwellers who are from good families and travel by cars. Though I can give a piece of my mind to the gentleman on his sentiments let me assure you that if you are addicted to AC, can’t travel without chauffeur driven cars, can’t go to schools without AC and can’t relocate far from home where air connectivity might be an issue, in that case stay at home. Although the Army has everything mentioned above and a lifestyle way above mediocre, it is the feeling and sense of duty that counts. The first thing you do while commissioning is take an oath that says
“… and go wherever ordered, by land, sea or air, and that I will observe and obey all the commands of the President of the Union of India and the commands of any officer set above me, even to the peril of my life.”
We live by this oath. Every. Single. Day. So if you don’t have it in you then please let it be but don’t malign the integrity of those in service.
- You will be needed to make independent decisions. A newly commissioned officer is incharge of 30 men under him and one wrong move may even lead to someone’s death in a sensitive area. Learn to take responsibility for your actions. Mom/dad won’t come to your rescue. That is why the training is so hard and that is why it is expected that people will follow orders without questioning why, be it you or your junior. So next time you say that the training at the academies is inhuman, barbaric and draconian, remember that war is still inhuman, barbaric and draconian. Also before questioning the years old traditions of the forces learn the history and logic behind those traditions.
You will see death. This is the fact of Army life. We fight to protect and we train to fight. In my 10 years service (almost), I have lost 2 friends in action. Major Akshay Girish, while saving families in the Nagrota terrorist attack and Major Abhijai Thapa who diverted his helicopter to a deserted area to avoid a crash in a crowded city. Abhijai was awarded the Shaurya Chakra posthumous. Akshay’s mother writes a blog to keep his memories alive. Do take a look at Memories and more. They continue to live in our thoughts.
There will be comrades you lose, you will be a part of funerals held in honour of the martyrs, you will see your father/ husband/ brother/ friend willingly go for the next sortie or the next recce or the next mission knowing fully well that he might not come back and your heart will break every time you meet his innocent little kid. But that is what we signed up for and that is what we willingly do but every time someone says “they get paid to die” it surely hurts. But that is my angst speaking and I had taken it out in Lest we forget. Do Read and share your feelings. I might be getting sentimental I admit.
Finally let me list out and clarify a few assumptions people have about females in the Indian Army.
- They are given sheltered roles and not posted in field/difficult areas. This one is simply not true. While the entry for women officers is limited to the services side of the army and amongst the arms (actual man to man fighting forces) only Corps of Engineers is open to ladies, we do get posted to the so called difficult areas. I have served in Ladakh region (and travelled by road from Rajasthan in the military convoy to reach there – but that is a story for another time) and so many course mates of mine were posted in the Kashmir Valley and a few of them have even had tenures in Congo and Sudan. My course mates have even been on the Mt Everest expedition team (voluntarily). So yes, you do have to go wherever ordered.
- Spouse posting is a matter of right. Again not true. while the Army makes all efforts to post you and your spouse together, the organisational requirements come first.
- Women officers are not accepted by the men/troops. A strong no to that as well. I have spent all of my career in the units where there was no other lady officer besides me, in Ladakh there was no other lady besides me in the entire unit in fact. But never ever in my entire time in Army have I felt that the men do not accept or respect a woman officer. If you are sensible in your orders and the troops know you mean business they have no qualms in following you wherever you lead them. It is all about building trust irrespective of gender.
- Army is not for the intellectuals or is only for those weak in studies. Yes I have heard this one and I can’t stop laughing. There are numerous tests – promotional tests, mandatory courses, extra career trade specific courses, also for everyone’s information all the business terms have been derived from military strategies and logistics so go figure.
I shall stop my rant here before you start calling me crazy. Trust me it is just my passion speaking, nothing else. Also since I have completed my term in the army and will be leaving this way of life that has been me for ever since I can remember I feel more strongly about it. Never fear though, hubby dear is still holding the fort, so are a lot of my friends who I am immensely proud of.
I am adding a few links to some of the videos/ talks that I absolutely love, including one hosted by a radio channel which showed how everyone respected the army but nobody wanted to be a part of it. Do watch and let me know what you feel.
- Five life lessons from the Indian Army Life by Captain Raghu Raman, Credit – Josh Talks Josh Talks is a platform for motivational speakers, something on the lines of TED talks. Amazing talks trust me.
- Pushing yourself to your limit by Wing Commander Pooja Thakur.
- Three reasons why you should join the Indian Army by Captain Raghu Raman, what can I do, this guy is amazing.
- Respect Indian Army but will not join survey by Radio Mirchi
- Lastly there is a video which I saw last year (not sure who gets the credit) and have seen so many times since then but I still love it. Tu Chalta Chal