The Price of Freedom & Of Promises Not Kept

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, sacrifice leaves a memory no one can steal.

Before we treat 15th Aug 2018 as another holiday (mid week, albeit), let us stop for a moment to pay homage to thousands of soldiers who have paid the ultimate price of giving & maintaining for us that holiday. Going back 72 years, we hoisted the Tricolour in Delhi and declared our “tryst with destiny.”

Seven decades has seen India through tremendous changes in some parts of the growth landscape and stagnation in some other parts. Deterioration in a few. The Armed Forces of India has gone through its fair share of ups and downs. We have developed as a force to reckon with with the tag of being one of the most professional armies in the world. Our track record as Peacekeepers in the UN Peacekeeping missions across the world is phenomenal and our soldiers have done us proud. Historically, Indian soldiers fought under the British rule in both the World Wars before 1947 to keep Britain safe. Post independence, we fought Pakistan and China to protect our sovereignty and safeguard our national interests. In the last 70 years plus, Indian Army has also battled insurgents across the country to keep citizens safe. They continue doing so in different parts of the country.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance and that vigil is maintained by our Armed Forces. They sacrifice in more ways than one. Not staying with their families, not watching their children grow, not being around for milestone days, and, finally, the ultimate sacrifice of signing off their life to protect us.

Are we worthy of that sacrifice?

Indian Army has answered this country’s call several times and will continue to do so. It is engaged in both military and civil operations whenever & wherever necessary. It is time to honour that commitment & dedication. Every soldier who serves unflinchingly & every soldier who pays the ultimate price expect only one thing – respect & honour for the work done by the Armed Forces. The Services must know we are a grateful nation & are thankful to them.

We, in India, do not have a National Military Memorial where one can go and pay tribute to the brave hearts. There are a lot of people who ask the question – why do we need one?

War memorials are erected world over as a mark of respect & remembrance for all those who died in the service of the nation. Each memorial is unique and acts as a historic touchstone. They link the past to the present and remind every generation to remember & respect the sacrifice of those who died, fought, participated and affected by the conflicts.

Eight years ago, the Government of Karnataka, made a commitment to build a National Military Memorial. This was not at the behest of the Indian Armed Forces or the Ministry of Defence. It was an initiative taken by the state government. Personally, I was very happy that there was one state government  willing to take the first step to honour our soldiers. While the Memorial Park has come up beautifully with lush green landscaping, a central exhibition hall with models of warfare technology, a 210 foot flagpole with a 78×48 feet flag next to the names of 22,600 martyrs, the Veeragallu (literally meaning the Heroes’ Stone)  is still incomplete and yet to be installed.

The soldier never asked for it. The citizens did not even know about it. Yet, a promise was made. We urge the Government of Karnataka to honour that promise and complete the project with a committed deadline. We owe a debt to all the fallen soldiers that we can never fully repay, but, we can honour them & their sacrifices.

Come, join us this 72nd Independence Day, as we celebrate the freedom we have, because of the heroic sacrifices of our brave hearts. Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream Every generation must fight for it, protect it and hand it to the next one, for them to do the same.

Happy Independence Day to all! Jai Hind!



Hyphenated Indians – Building A Sense of Pride

I have to thank Theodore Roosevelt for the above phrase. He used the term hyphenated American when he said, “In this country we have no place for hyphenated Americans.”

I could immediately relate this to the movie “Chak De”. In the scene where Kabir Khan, the coach for the Indian Women’s Hockey Team asks the team members to introduce themselves, each player introduces herself and the state she plays for The only exception being Vidya Sharma, who says she plays for India. Every single player in that team was a hyphenated Indian. indian-patriotism-22654920

As I was watching the Republic Day parade this morning and listening to a host of panel discussions on different channels, I was struck by the fervour of nationalistic pride I heard in the commentary. I was also shaken by some strange criticism that was aired by television channels with regard to improving our Republic Day Parade standards. This led me to ask a number of questions to myself.

1. Is this sense of pride visible only on certain days? Republic Day, Independence Day?

2. What happens to this sense of nationalism or patriotism on other routine days?

3. Is this pride demonstrated only by waving out tricolour on 26th Januaru and 15th August?

4. Last but not the least, are there other ways to show that we are proud Indians?

Earlier, a large part of India used to treat both these days as just national holidays. Republic Day and Independence Day badge_logowere like an unexpected Sunday. Make the most of it…watch a movie, sleep, finish odd jobs around the house, catch up with friends, etc. Let somebody else hoist the flag! I am not saying people still don’t do the former. However, I have sensed more and more people participating in social/welfare/developmental activities on these two days. Very heartening and very inspiring! How do I sense this? Thanks to social media…one gets to see what is happening in different parts of the country, not to mention the world.

I have always found older generations lamenting about the younger generation not respecting our country enough, not empathising with the way we got our independence or remembering our freedom fighters, etc, etc. Have we, as the older generation, done enough to instil a sense of pride about our “Indianness” among the younger generation? Persoanlly, I find a lot of the youth today are proud of  being Indian. They may not appreciate our legacy, our cultural & historical inheritance. However, we are to blame for that. How many of us have shared that wonderful national heritage with our children by way of stories, travel, or movies? We may have done it in a very parochial sense, which never gives the holistic picture in any case.

If we haven’t, then we are responsible for grooming another generation of hyphenated Indians.

Hyphenated Indians can fall into different categories – religious, linguistic, caste, creed, state wise, district wise, city wise, sport wise, qualification wise, career wise and the list can go on. Today, it’s a tight rope walk to bring up just Indians, when there are so many dichotomies being politicised. Here is where something magnificent like the Republic Day Parade can make a difference. Watching the parade with our children, explaining to them what the tableaux mean, sharing little anecdotes and stories of our beautiful country and her history…all of that becomes the foundation. Of course, there are other channels that need to contribute to this national pride. In my experience, it’s always the home where the child learns such values. We all did 🙂  liberty-the-secret-of-happiness_1859060793

Our education system is another great leveller as far as building such a pride is concerned. The syllabus in our school and college must include various aspects of our legacy in a manner that will appeal to this generation. Remember, today’s youth and children are amazingly tech savvy, information savvy and well connected. They read, watch and observe. Hence, they also ask very different questions from what we did. We, as a society, must be prepared to answer those questions.

I can confidently say that we are on a roll today. The world is watching us. The world is also waiting for us to deliver on our promises. The world is waiting to see whether we will stumble and fall. My response to that is what our Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi said in his Independence Day speech last year –

“The world has undergone a change. My dear countrymen, the world has changed. Now India can not decide its future by remaining isolated and sitting alone in a corner. The economics of the world have changed and, therefore, we will have to act accordingly. Government have taken many decisions recently, made some announcements in the budget and I call upon the world and call upon the Indians spread world over that if we have to provide more and more employment to the youth, we will have to promote manufacturing sector. If we have to develop a balance between imports and exports, we will have to strengthen manufacturing sector. If we have to put in use the education, the capability of the youth, we will have to go for manufacturing sector and for this Hindustan also will have to lend its full strength, but we also invite world powers.

Therefore I want to appeal to all the people world over, from the ramparts of Red Fort, “Come, make in India”, “Come, manufacture in India”. Sell in any country of the world but manufacture here. We have got skill, talent, discipline, and determination to do something. We want to give the world an favourable opportunity that come here…”

The Prime Minister has shown us many ways in which we can display we are proud Indians – Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan, Make in India, Beti Bachao, Adarsh Graam Yojana. There will be many more coming. Let us pick one project, associate ourselves in any which way we can, involve our families and contribute. Walk the talk is the best way to build a culture of Jai-Hind-Independence-Day-Wallpaper-To-Printnationalistic pride. To quote Mr Modi again, “This country has been built on such foundation of ancient cultural heritage, where we were told of only one mantra during Vedic period, which is indicative of our work culture, which we have learnt, we have memorized – “Sangachchhdhvam Samvadadhvam sam wo manansi jaanataam.” We walk together, we move together, we think together, we resolve together and together we take this country forward.”
Let us live for & serve our country in a manner in which sentiment of love, the sense of fellowship  binds together all the Indians, cutting across all man made barriers that stop us from growing, developing, progressing…
Jai Hind!