Gratitude To A Soldier for Life

“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
–General George Washington,
November 10th, 1781

14th January is celebrated as Veterans Day and 15th January is Indian Army Day. Both days are significant because Field Marshal Kodandera M. Cariappa’s (then a Lieutenant siachen-1General) took over as the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from General Sir Francis Butcher, the last British Commander-in-Chief of India, on 15th January 1949 and the same Field Marshal Cariappa retired from the Indian Army on 14th Jan, 1953.

Life in the military makes you a multi disciplinary professional. The five pillars on which your life will revolve is so ingrained in you that you cannot think otherwise. The pillars are service before self, mental & physical toughness, a spiritual not religious approach to life, trust & faith, social contribution. You will see this in varied shades in every soldier.
The Army makes you a soldier for life. Which is why, so many Veterans find it difficult in the initial years of retirement to adjust to civvy street. The punctuality, discipline, a methodical approach to doing things and the very thought process itself is very very different.
Indian Army has answered this country’s call several times and will continue to do so. It is engaged in both military & civil operations whenever & wherever necessary. It is time to honour that commitment & dedication of our soldiers. Every soldier who serves unflinchingly expects only one thing from us – respect & honour for the work done by the Armed Forces. The Services must know that we are a grateful nation and are thankful to them. However, the relationship between the Indian soldier, government & citizens is a sad testimony.
Time and again it has been observed the ignorance and worse, apathy towards most things military. I will not comment on the bureaucracy – politicians – military relationship. There are enough experts who write on it regularly. I am more interested in bringing the awareness in a common citizen. Hence, I relist 50 things we can do for our soldiers to show them the respect and honour they so richly deserve. This list is from an earlier blog of mine.
  1. Listen to their stories with interest. If they have fought wars or are a war-veteran they have seen things you will never see. Listen & learn.
  2. Initiate a special talk by anyone from the armed forces fraternity in your schools or colleges.
  3. Greet a soldier in uniform or a veteran with a smile and a thank you.
  4. Start a social drive for them. Gather people in the neighbourhood or like minded people and work on a veteran oriented project.
  5. Make greeting cards and post them to the soldiers, veterans and their families you know.
  6. Send e cards using social media.
  7. Post messages of gratitude in social media pages dedicated to the Indian Armed Forces. Some of the pages are Indian Defence Review, Defence & Security Alert, Indian Defence News, Indian Defence, etc
  8. If there are veterans & their families in your neighbourhood, acknowledge them on special days like Indian Armed Forces Flag Day, Republic Day and Independence Day.
  9. Invite veterans, soldiers and their families to give a talk on those special days. army women
  10. Those of you who knit, sew or embroider, make something for veterans or their families and gift it to them.
  11. If you are dining out or having a coffee or a drink and you know there is a member of the armed forces (serving or retired), invite them to join you. I promise you…you will have a great conversation.
  12. Do a random act of kindness for the members of Indian Armed Forces.
  13. Visit War Memorials in different parts of India, whenever you travel next. You will also meet some of the serving soldiers then. Talk to them…listen to them.
  14. Talk to your children about the pride we have and ought to have in our military. Instil in them the value of being a nationalist and a patriot.
  15. Open your homes on festivals for soldiers on leave, veterans and families. Make it an occasion they will not forget…neither will you.
  16. As parents and teachers, encourage your young ones to write about the Indian Armed Forces. Post it on social media.
  17. Whenever & wherever you hear our national anthem playing, stop, stand and give a thought to our security forces. They have sacrificed for us hear the national anthem. join-indian-defence-forces
  18. Employers – look beyond the usual hiring process and re-employ veterans. They can truly bring a lot of strength to your organization.
  19. Organizations – do not stereo type members of the Indian Armed Forces. You do not know what potential they bring to the table. Think out of the box…they did when they had to save your freedom.
  20. You will find a lot of car stickers that say Army, Navy, Air Force or Armed Forces. Leave a thank you note on the windshield. You will make their day.
  21. Find out which businesses or companies support veterans in your areas or communities. Become their customers.
  22. If you are running a business yourself, offer discounts to your veterans, soldiers and their families.
  23. Check if the local armed forces hospital will allow you to spend time with recovering soldiers and families. Become a support system there.
  24. Do you know parents of soldiers or veterans? Thank them for raising India’s true heroes.
  25. Proudly display “I love Indian Armed Forces” “I support Indian Armed Forces” stickers on your vehicles. Saluting Our Heroes
  26. If there is a military member at the same restaurant as you, send across a drink or dessert expressing your gratitude.
  27. Support war widows in their endeavour to stand on their own.
  28. Find out Ex Service Men organizations that support children of our martyrs. Work with them in enabling and empowering those children.
  29. Become part of developmental projects in villages and towns our war heroes come from. One such project is the Vir Sainik Graam Yojana.
  30. With the help of your local corporator, mayor, panchayat head, district officer or politician organize an event acknowledging and rewarding our veterans.
  31. With the same people helping, you could also organize a pot luck lunch and invite the local community and veterans.
  32. Take a couple of veterans and their families out for a picnic. Swap life stories…you will realise how different their lives are.
  33. Get in touch with local army schools and see how you can help in some of their projects.
  34. Talk to the local army formations and see what kind of community initiatives they run. The Indian Army has some projects going on where they work with civil society. Become part of those.
  35. A number of Ex Service Men organisations also work with local army formations for certain initiatives. Connect with them and contribute your time and skills.
  36. If you have a special talent, offer to teach that talent to children of soldiers and veterans.
  37. Donate your “air miles” to a veteran family you know.
  38. It is not the job of a military man to campaign or publicize what they do. We can do it for them. It also shows how proud we are of them, what they do to protect us.
  39. A group of like minded people can come together and hold an exhibition with the help of veterans on a particular military theme.
  40. As civilians let us ensure our government does it’s duty, so our Armed Forces can do what they do best – protect our country.
  41. During a family union, please raise a toast to the veterans in your family – immediate and extended. Express your gratitude.
  42. Teach children and the youth of our country India’s proud history and legacy. We have much to be proud of and this legacy we have to pass on to our next generations.
  43. Pass out small flags on Armed Forces Day in your neighbourhood. Share small stories that you know or get people to share those stories with you.
  44. Dedicate a patriotic song in honour of a veteran or active soldier on your favourite radio channel.
  45. Offer a pick up or drop to the airport or railway station to your veteran neighbour and their families.
  46. Encourage your kids to spend time with the veterans or active soldiers whenever there is an opportunity. They will learn a lot. martyrs-day
  47. Teach children patriotic songs and get them to sing them on various occasions.
  48. Employers & Companies – host a special lunch for your veteran colleagues. Acknowledge their contribution to the growth of your company and your country.
  49. Vote. Exercise your franchise. Don’t let their sacrifices come to a naught. A good citizen votes to protect the freedom of our country. Do not take that freedom for granted. Our soldiers have paid with their lives for that freedom. Value it, cherish it.
  50. To truly honour our armed forces make the best of the opportunity the sacrifices of our fighting men and women have provided. Love India with passion, and do what you can to make it a better place.

Who is a military man? A military man – whether active duty, retired or in reserve or re employed – who at one point in his/her life signed a blank cheque made payable to the “Republic of India” for an amount of “up to & including his/her life.” That is honour. A lot of people do not appreciate or acknowledge or understand that fact.

Let us stand up for them, raise our caps, raise a toast and salute the honour and integrity of these brave hearts.

Happy Army Day!

War Does Not Determine…

War does not determine who is right…only who is left.

Vijay Path

Vijay Path & Tololing Range in the background

1999. Kargil. 527 brave-hearts dead. 1367 injured. Rest of us are left…far behind.

Two years ago I wrote a piece – A War…Hundreds of Martyrs…A Lifetime Of Memories – when I made my trip to Kargil after 15 long years, to pay homage to our martyrs, among whom were friends I lost. Today, marks the 17th anniversary of the Kargil War.

17 years and the souls of our dead soldiers turn to us to ask. What did they fight for? What did they die for?

  1. They died protecting the land that would have been with Pakistan today.
  2. They died protecting the people who would have suffered in the hands of those Pakistanis soldiers & eventually Pakistani administration.
  3. They fought to retain the freedom of the land which is ours…the freedom & the land.
  4. They fought so people in Kargil, Dras, Leh and the surrounding areas could live peacefully. Not just our generation, but the future generations also.

Are we an ungrateful nation? Yes and no.

No, because there are some who have not forgotten the sacrifices made by the Indian Army. There are some who continue to fight to protect the same land & freedom. Not necessarily from the borders or in Jammu & Kashmir. Some of us fight battles in towns & cities to educate the rest of the population about being grateful. About being thankful that they are Indian & free.

Yes, we are ungrateful, because there is a section in our society that does not think national interest or national security. The ungratefulness comes to the fore when terrorists are eulogised and their killing is called unconstitutional or human rights activists are holding placards asking for humane treatment of those terrorists. My question to such people is have you lost someone close to you, someone who died simply because he wanted to protect you? Quite a few of us have. So, listen to us. For we will tell you what it means. What it means to hear that he will not come back again to meet you, to laugh & share a drink with you, to plan important events in life, to get married, to have children, to eat what his mother cooks, to support his father as he gets on in years…in short to experience life.

Yes we are ungrateful when we allow misguided citizens of this country to take the security forces for granted. Aren’t the security forces human? What gives anybody the right to harm them? And, when they are harmed, why should they not protect themselves? Would you and I not protect ourselves if somebody pelted stones at us? Would we not defend ourselves? Let us allow our defence & security forces to protect the country, instead of protecting themselves from an ungrateful nation. Remember, there is no flag large enough to cover the shame of a thankless country.

As parts of the country gear up to honour our martyrs & their families, it is time for the rest to pause & think about the dead soldier and how it is not enough to win a war; it is more important to organise the peace. Peace has to be organised, otherwise war will not end; and if war doesn’t end, we end as a country. That is not acceptable to a large majority of us.

Sometimes, you have to pick up a gun to put the gun down. I will not mourn our soldiers who die protecting us. I am thankful and grateful we are still a nation that produces such heroes!

We Serve With Pride

 

No matter how much frustration there is,
Fear, trepidation, anxiety or unease.
Despite all the hardships  & adversity aside,
As long as I wear the uniform I endure all with pride.
For service and loyalty are what matter to me,
Honour, courage, respect and integrity
Are the armour I wear to counter all foe
They give me strength when into enemy land I go.
I depend on my comrades, and defend them I must,
They in turn they depend on me keeping the trust.
Together we shall overcome the toughest of test,
Our resolve will never waiver as we all give our best.

Jai Hind Ki Sena! Salute!

 

 

One & Only…Field Marshal Manekshaw

On his 102nd birth anniversary…Sam1

It’s true when they say God doesn’t make ’em like him any more. India’s first Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, popularly known as Sam Bahadur, was truly a quintessential soldier and a gentleman. Those who are part of the armed forces of India and their families will know of this great man. Those outside, may not even be aware of what his contribution is to the history of India & Indian Army.

Without delving too much into his early life, I would like to share some incidents & situations that made him who he was – a legend. Spanning four decades, his career began in pre independent India. Capt Manekshaw, fighting in WW II, led his company in a counter-attack against the invading Japanese Army and despite suffering 50% casualties the company managed to achieve its objective. In the counter attack, Capt Manekshaw got hit in the stomach by a machine gun fire. The General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Division, Maj Gen David Cowan, having witnessed Capt Manekshaw’s valour, rushed to his side. Fearing that the young officer would die, the general pinned his own Military Cross ribbon to Manekshaw saying, “A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross.”

Capt Manekshaw was evacuated to Rangoon, and, when the surgeon asked what had happened to him, he replied that he was “kicked by a donkey”.

In 1961, his outspoken frankness got him into trouble with Defence Minister V K Krishna Menon and Lt Gen B M Kaul. He refused to toe Menon’s line and was sidelined, albeit temporarily.

Manekshaw was vindicated soon after when the Indian army suffered a humiliating defeat in North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), now Arunachal Pradesh, the next year, at the hands of the Chinese leading to Menon’s resignation. Prime Minister Nehru rushed Manekshaw to NEFA to command the retreating Indian forces. This had an electrifying effect on the demoralised officers.

In no time, Manekshaw convinced the troops that the Chinese soldier was not “10 feet tall”. His first order of the day said, “There will be no withdrawal without written orders and these orders shall never be issued.” The soldiers showed faith in their new commander and successfully checked further ingress by the Chinese.

In 1964, he took over as Army Commander, Eastern Command in Kolkata. He successfully responded to the insurgency problem in Nagaland, dealt with the Mizo uprising and strived to bring normalcy to the North East. It was here that my father, serving as ADC to Maj Gen KP Candeth, ( commanding 8 Mountain Div) met his Army Commander for the first time. This interaction also taught a lesson that my father has handed down to the next two generations in our family. It so happened that after the day’s work, both Maj Gen Candeth & Lt Gen Manekshaw were relaxing that evening in the GOC’s quarters. My father, being the ADC wheeled in the bar trolley and lifted the bottle of whiskey to pour a drink for both Generals. Lt Gen Manekshaw saw the way this young captain was holding the glass and the whiskey bottle and asked him a question, “Young man, how long have you served with Unni (GOC’s nickname) and do you have a girlfriend?” My father replied, “I have been with Gen Candeth for 8 months Sir. And no Sir, I don’t have a girl friend.”

The Army Commander winked at my Dad and said, “It shows that you don’t have a girl friend by the way you hold the bottle. Remember, always hold the bottle by the neck and your girl by the waist. Never the other round…you will get a kick in the wrong place.” That priceless lesson was handed down to my brother and me and that was the first thing I noticed when I fell in love with my man. He got the permutation right!

As the 8th Chief of Army Staff, Gen Manekshaw’s experience was going to be put to test in 1971 when we went to war with Pakistan. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was yet to understand her Army Chief. When she asked him if we were ready for war, Sam Bahadur’s classic reply was, “I’m always ready, sweetie.” It makes me smile every time I think of the PM’s reaction to a statement like this. Having said that, he also pointed out that our armed forces had to be readied for war and that would take time. He said he could guarantee victory if she would allow him to prepare for the conflict on his terms, and set a date for it. The PM acceded to this and thus, Bangla Desh was born. When the PM asked him to go to Dhaka and accept the surrender of Pakistani forces, Manekshaw declined, magnanimously saying that the honour should go to his Eastern Army Commander, Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora.

He was the epitome of soldiering with dignity. After the 1971 War, he was visiting our injured soldiers in hospitals. He met a young man who had three bullet wounds and quipped, “You received three at this age; when I was of your age, I received nine bullets and look—today, I am the commander in chief of the Indian Army.” He ensured that the 93,000 prisoners of war were treated with utmost respect. Officers who served with him were told to maintain the dignity of the captured soldiers. He personally supervised some the PoW camps, which led to even some of the Pakistani officers salute him for is humane approach.

Handsome, charismatic and a razor sharp wit characterised Field Marshal Manekshaw. That he held politicians in disdain is no secret. He was blunt about the views he held of them, the most famous one being, “I wonder whether those of our political masters who have been put in charge of the defence of the country can distinguish a mortar from a motor; a gun from a howitzer; a guerilla from a gorilla, although a great many resemble the latter.”

On another occasion, PM Gandhi asked him whether he was planning to take over the country. Pointing to his long nose, the General replied: “I don’t use it to poke into other’s affairs. I don’t interfere politically as long as nobody interferes with me in the Army.”

Suave in all his social interactions, Sam Bahadur could charm the pants off anyone, including Bollywood stars. This incident was in Nov/Dec 1999 in Mumbai. A talk & ceremony was organised to honour the heroes, martyrs and war widows of Kargil. The theme was “Lessons from Kargil” and Field Marshal was the main speaker that evening. My Dad had the opportunity to share some of his thoughts and we were in the audience. Some of our Bollywood stars like Raveena tandon & Nana Patekar had visited Kargil just before this event and were also present. It is was an emotianally charged atmosphere and Raveena in her exuberance declared that all soldiers of the Indian Army were like her brothers and wanted to tie a rakhi to Sam Bahadur. He promptly got up from his chair, hugged her and said, “Raveena, a pretty girl like you should tie rakhi to this young General and not me. You and I are friends.” The young General was my father, pushing sixty at that point!

Such a hero was treated shabbily by the government as they did not give him his dues as Field Marshal. His death also showed us how this country views it’s soldiers. Irrespective of how he got treated by the politician & bureaucrats in his life or death, Sam Bahadur will always be loved and respected by the likes of us who have known him or known of him.

And to think he wanted to become a gynaecologist when he was 15 years. When his father refused to send him to London to study, Sam Bahadur rebelled and applied for the entrance examination of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) Dehradun.

Thank you Uncle Sam for rebelling when you did…because India got one her best and most celebrated army officer!

Quintessentially Indian Army…

“You have never lived until
You have almost died,
And for those who choose to fight,
Life has a special flavor,
The protected will never know!!!”
-Capt R Subramanium Kirti Chakra (Posth)images

Happy Army Day!

Saluting the Indian Army, to which I owe a lot in my life, I have put together some amazing facts for everyone to read. The more I dug into my research & reading, the more I found…I can’t really do justice to what this proud institution has done for Indians & for India. This is merely an attempt to educate the people out there…

  1. Indian army has close to 1.3 million soldiers, making it the second largest army in the world. Numbers do matter.
  2. Indian Army is located in some of the most inhospitable terrains of the world and have never buckled under pressure.
  3. Every scenario encountered in these terrains have been battled and faced by our armed forces.
  4. It is a united army not based on any social, economic, religious or cultural divide.
  5. We are considered to amongst the best in high altitude & mountain warfare.
  6. We are regarded as the best army to deal with counter insurgency operations.
  7. Indian Army controls the highest battlefield in the world – Siachen Glacier.
  8. We have fought four major wars and helped in the creation of an independent Bangla Desh.
  9. The Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 ended with the surrender of about 93,000 combatants and officials of the Pakistani Army. This is the largest number of POWs taken into custody since World War II.
  10. The Portuguese ruled Goa for more than 461 years until 1961. They refused to hand over Goa to India even after the Indian independence. The locals were resisting the Portuguese, but even after many diplomatic efforts, Portugal did not alter their stand. in 1961, India with a massive force outmatched the Portuguese force 10:1 and annexed Goa in just 36 hours.
  11. Battle of Longewala was fought in December 1971 between India and Pakistan, in which just 120 Indian Soldiers with 1 jeep mounted M40 recoil-less rifle held the fort against 2000 Pakistani soldiers backed by 45 tanks and 1 mobile infantry brigade. Indian soldiers held their grounds the whole night giving the Pakistanis the impression that there were around 500 Indians soldiers. When the fire was brought from the sky by Indian Air force in the morning, Pakistani soldiers fled their positions leaving behind 34 tanks.
  12. The Indian Army built the highest bridge in the world. The Bailey Bridge is the highest bridge in the world. It is located in the Ladakh valley between Dras and Suru rivers in the Himalayan mountains. It was built by the Indian Army in August 1982.
  13. The Indian army has a horsed cavalry regiment. It is one of the last three remaining of such regiments in the world.
  14. The Indian Army is respected because it is one army that knows, understands and fights terror on its own soil, daily. We have combat commanders that actually experience  others shoot at them, and soldiers who actually experience the sheer chaos when thousands of men and machines try to kill each other.
  15. Indian troop commanders develop doctrine-strategy-operations-tactics based on their actual combat experience.
  16. India’s unique positioning allows its army to enjoy some of the best of what both West and East have to offer.

The Indian Army is a powerful one, not just in terms of numbers, but also in its resilience siachen-1and ability to handle stress. Our soldiers complete a minimum of 2 years tour of duty as opposed to the American system of 6 months. I have always wondered whether soldiers from other armies would actually survive a 3 month tenure in Siachen?

Leadership in the army by and large focuses on the psychological & emotional well being of the soldiers. Yes, I know the question of soldier suicides is bound to come up here. Very rarely is this work related. Most of these cases are related to problems at home pertaining to spouse, family feuds & financial dealings. It is here that the rich tradition of regimental life has stood the test of time and the strong bonding woven in an army unit, results in high levels of camaraderie. For those interested in reading more about this, I would recommend Lt Gen Ata Hasnain’s blog – http://www.ibnlive.com/blogs/india/lt-gen-syed-ata-hasnain/why-the-indian-army-handles-stress-better-than-all-other-armies-14405-1153882.html

Indian Army has its share of problems and challenges. However, I do not think this is the 20141213_LDD-VSK-MN_POP IMA-11a-1-kuFD--621x414@LiveMintday to highlight those. Today, we celebrate the 68th Indian Army Day and raise a toast to all those who fight to keep us alive.

When you see a soldier…
Be sure to shake his or her hand,
Let that soldier know you’re grateful,
For the protection the military affords our land.

But most of all express your thanks,
For every soldier’s personal sacrifice.
In order to serve our country,
They risk their entire lives!

Jai Hind ki Sena!

Living…with a dash of sass

There’s something about the year end that puts most of us in an introspective mood. This year end is no different. There have been ups & downs, mostly ups, which include my girls doing well in their respective lives, a brilliant holiday we all enjoyed together, setting up a second home in another city and the launch of a couple of new businesses. The downside is realising that we are fast losing one generation of people to the inexorable process of ageing. While on one hand, I understand this is part of life’s cycle, it nevertheless saddens me that this process deprives us of one of the most extraordinary generations that India has seen. The veterans of World War I are no more and the people born during World War II are in their late 70’s or early 80’s.

I have spent time with that generation. I have sat through their stories of growing up in an India that you and I can only visualise and never experience. This is not to undermine any other generation’s experience. I am writing to share what I have learnt from these septuagenarians and octogenarians. This particular blog is dedicated to all those who belong to the 15th Course of the National Defence Academy for you all have influenced me to lead a rich life!

Find Ways To Do

One of the easiest and simplest thing is to find reasons why we can’t do things. They are called excuses. My biggest lesson from these stalwarts is to find one simple reason to do things. That one overwhelming “why” that will ensure the barriers come crumbling down. Living in different cities, leading hectic lives make it difficult to meet close family & friends. However, the older generation has taught me that it’s important to cherish those relationships. I still see them make an effort to be a part of everyone’s lives around them. new-year-quotes-07

Share Your Life

My parents have shared their lives with my brother and me. It just made communication so much more easier for all of us. I never had a problem expressing to my parents what was going on in my mind and why. I also realise that this was only possible because they were genuinely interested in our lives and shared activities with my brother and me. A lot of things I do now in my life are because of activities initiated by my Dad and his friends, while I was growing up.

Choose Happiness

Almost everyone I have met in that wonderful age group focus on quality of life and they choose happiness as the one determining factor. Most of them have gone through some kind of illness/surgery/treatment in the recent years. They see a sense of fragility that belongs to these experiences as directly contributing to their ability to savour life. “Tomorrow is unknown, future uncertain at our age. Lighten up and live life completely today.” Wise words from wise people. Rythm

Accept Life & Connect With Yourself

The terrace at my parents’ place offers a lovely view of the green canopy of trees in a quiet residential area. A wall of windows at my second parents’ home overlooks a lovely verdant patch of lawn bordered by flowering shrubs and lemon tree. Having spent ample time in both places, I see that later life has brought all four of them a sense of wholeness, acceptance, and the ability to enjoy small pleasures. They love the place they live, people visit them and are always welcomed, they entertain the way they want to and not because they are expected to…a complete sense of liberation & contentment.

Build A Life With Someone You Respect & Love

It sounds simple. Yet, very few can say this. Most of the couples I know, in their grand old 70’s and 80’s are the ones who have celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. What I have observed and learnt can be succinctly shared in the following words…you have to like each other. Be friends, try to get past the initial heaving and panting, and make sure there’s a real friendship underneath that. I don’t think identical interests are important, but shared values are. That is the bedrock of the relationship. And critical. Build on that a set of dreams that both cherish & work towards.

And as my soul mate and I complete three decades of knowing, understanding, accepting & loving each other, I can happily say, we both love certain kinds of things. We both love movies, good movies, and part of our courtship involved staying up all night and talking out what an Ingmar Bergman film really meant. We both love to read, and we love to talk about what we read. A similar sense of humour — that is a very important part of our life together. The ability to make each other smile and laugh has seen us through some difficult times. story3

Here’s wishing all of you all a magnificent 2016 and praying that Santa Claus fulfils your dreams (incidentally, I still believe in magic and miracles for my life has been so). I sign off with C Joybell C’s quote, “The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”

 

 

 

A Soldier Never Gives Up…Saving Naushera

Today, as the new government took oath in Jammu and Kashmir, I was thinking of the price we have paid as a nation for this to happen. Even as the debates ranged from what will be priority, to AFSPA, to the new Chief Minister’s statements, to Sajad Lone becoming part of the government, my thoughts turned back to the time when the problem in Kashmir first hit us.

There never was a good war or a bad peace – Benjamin Franklin.

Starting in October 1947, Pakistan employed regular troops along with militants to attack and capture areas in the Kashmir Valley in different sectors. Pir Panjal Range divides Jammu & Kashmir into two halves. Srinagar Valley is on the north east part and Poonch Valley is to the south west. The Pakistani army and the Raiders had attacked the Uri – Baramulla sector in Srinagar Valley first, where they were defeated and evicted. They started making advances in the Poonch Valley, massacring non Muslims in Mirpur, Kotli, Jhangar, with the aim to capture Naushera. If they had captured Naushera, the entire state, south west of Pir Panjal would have been effectively cut off.

Brig Mohammed Usman

Brig Mohammed Usman

It is important to understand this background before reading about how the Indian Army saved Naushera and the courageous acts of our soldiers.

By 25th December 1947, Pakistani army had deployed troops around Jhangar and had captured it. They planned to attack Naushera from the Mirpur – Jhangar axis and capture it. To save Naushera, the axis and the road had to be denied to the enemy. This task was given to Brig Mohammed Usman, one of the 16 Brigadiers of the Indian Army at that time. He was given command of 50 Para Brigade in December 1947 and was asked to cut off the link for the enemy soldiers.

Major General Cariappa had told Brig Usman that Kot, the feature dominating Naushera, had to be captured and secured. The determined Brigadier launched an operation in early February 1948, code name, “Operation Kipper”. Kot

Operation Kipper

Operation Kipper

was secured and played a significant role in inflicting heavy casualty on the infiltrators, who numbered up to 10,000 just a week later. In one of the firecest battles fought, over 900 enemy soldiers died and the attack on Naushera was stopped. This became a major turning point in the First War of Kashmir and Brig Usman came to be called as Naushera ka Sher or the Lion of Naushera.

The next step was to reclaim Jhangar. This was an important junction joining the roads from Kotli and Mirpur. Thus, “Operation Vijay” was launched in March 1948. He wrote a letter to all ranks of his Brigade, before they attacked. It read, ” Comrades of 50 (I) Para Brigade, time has come for the capture of Jhangar. It is not an easy task, but I have complete faith in you all to do your best to recapture the lost ground and retrieve the honour of our arms. We must not falter, we must not fail. Forward friends, fearless we go to Jhangar. India expects everyone to do his duty. Jai Hind.”

Three days later 50 Para Brigade successfully moved into Jhangar, reclaiming lost territory. This irked Pakistan so much that they announced an award of Rs 50,000 on Brig Usman’s head, while he asked for a charpoy and slept peacefully in months.

Unfortunately, the fruits of success were short lived as far as the brave Brigadier was concerned. The continuing fight with Pakistan denied him the pleasure of basking in that success and he died in heavy artillery shelling on July 3rd, 1948, at the age of 36. His last few words before dying were, “I am dying, but let not the territory we are fighting for fall to the hands of the enemy.” His death was a blow to the Indian Army and his state funeral ceremony was attended by the then Governor General Lord Mountbatten, Prime Minister Nehru, Union Minister Maulana Azad and Sheikh Abdullah. For his bravery of exceptional order, dedication and valour, he was decorated with Maha Vir Chakra. J&K04low

An inspiring leader, he believed in walking the talk. He set an example of personal courage, great qualities of on ground leadership and devotion to duty. His memorial in Jamia Milia University stand testimony to this true son of India.

The battle of Naushera saw some fantastic bravehearts, who laid down their lives to help us save the Valley. Subedar Gopal Singh of 3 Rajput, undeterred by the numerical superiority of the Pakistanis, with his men fought valiantly for seven hours. He and his men were responsible for inflicting heavy causalities on the enemy. He led a bayonet charge to separate the attackers. He got isolated and was wounded in the ensuing fight. Sepoy Sikdar Singh found him and carried him back to his platoon. Havaldar Mahadeo Singh assumed command and continued the firing. However, enemy fire killed him on spot. All three were decorated with Vir Chakra.

Jadu_Nath_Singh_Portrait

Naik Jadunath Singh

Lt KS Rathore of C Company, 1 Rajput was yet anther hero who defended Taindhar Ridge and kept the fight on against approximately 1500 Pathans who had crossed over. He moved from bunker to bunker, aggressively encouraging his men to keep up the good fight. At one stage, the enemy came within 50 yards of of the bunkers. Havaldar Dayaram, part of C Company, adopted an ingenious method of firing 3 inch mortars without secondary charges. He started dropping the bombs within 50 yards of the bunker lines without any regard to his safety. This thwarted the enemy approach and also killed many of them. Naik Jadunath Singh was another determined soldier from C Company who displayed great valour and exceptional leadership. He moved his men to additional trenches that were prepared, in such a way that his small group of men, with controlled firing, brought down the Pakistani army from which ever side they attacked.

At the most critical stage of of the battle to defend Taindhar Ridge, Naik Jadunath Singh, left with no option, came out with his Sten gun and started firing into the enemy lines. The surprised enemy fled in disorder and this valiant Rajput met a gallant death as two bullets hit him squarely in the chest and head. He had made the ultimate sacrifice. Naik Jadunath Singh was decorated with the Param Vir Chakra. Lt Rathore and Havaldar Dayaram were awarded the Maha Vir Chakra.

The threat to Naushera was eliminated over months and months of fighting in sectors and finally on 20 November 198, Poonch was freed and a link up took place.

The battles to save Jammu and Kashmir have been fought over a period of 60 years. What started as overt fighting, today includes covert fighting to a large extent. We are in a constant state of conflict with Pakistan over this issue. In the bargain we have lost hundreds and thousands of precious lives – on both sides. Today, we have enormous possibilities of new beginnings. cautious optimism, instead of total negativity will save the state from further destruction and pave the way for future generations to reinstate the glory of that beautiful state.

Crazy optimism right…but then I do believe in miracles 🙂

 

 

 

A Soldier Never Gives Up…The Battle At Badgam

Continuing the series on A Soldier Never Gives Up, we move to the next theatre of the 1947 war.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston S. Churchill

As 1 Sikh stalled the attack of the Raiders on the Srinagar – Baramulla highway, it provided tremendous opportunity for the other units to land in Srinagar airport. The impetus to fight the enemy was increasing by the minute. One of the units that landed on 31st October 1947 was 4 Kumaon.

Major Somnath Sharma

Major Somnath Sharma

On 3rd November, fighting patrols under A & D Company of 4 Kumaon, under the command of Major Somnath Sharma were moved to Badgam (30 odd kms away from Srinagar) to hunt down and destroy the Raiders who were hiding in and around the area. Intelligence reports had warned us that 1000 strong lashkar was in the area, with the intention of attacking Srinagar. The Battalion, however, could not find the Raiders. The enemy had used the clever strategy of mixing with the villagers, dressed in local attire. As a result, Major Sharma reports that Badgam is peaceful and quiet, with the villagers going about their routine work. He is ordered to pull his companies back.

At 1400 hours, Major Sharma sends A Company back, but, plans to keep D Company in Badgam till evening. The lashkar was arriving in Badgam in bits and pieces and was led by a Pakistani Major. They had hatched a crafty plan of getting the Pakistani soldiers to mix with the locals, wait for the Pathan Raiders to come to Badgam and then attack the Indian Army. Their plan was to then capture Srinagar, cut off Army access and take over Jammu & Kashmir. It was a well thought of plan.

Troops marching into Battle of Badgam

Troops marching into Battle of Badgam

After A Company is sent back, the “villagers” starting dispersing around the village. Major Sharma was under the impression that the locals were going home. In reality, the Pakistani soldiers and Raiders were positioning themselves around D Company. As soon as they had about 700 men, the enemy attacked us. It was 700 as opposed to 90…we were outnumbered 7:1.

Major Somnath Sharma, with a plastered hand, and total disregard to personal safety, moved from trench to trench encouraging his men to fight. The Company was under heavy fire, yet, they were beating back many attacks and held on to their position for nearly six hours. Holding back tenaciously, urging his men to fight, he radioed for more ammunition, reinforcements and supplies. Those 6 hours, while D Company was fighting valiantly, gave Indian Army the much required precious time to plug the gaps as they built up strength along with Indian Air Force.

Major Sharma’s last message, when he was asked to pull out, as they were heavily out numbered, is testimony to hiscourage and valour. He said, “The enemy is only 50 yards from us. We are heavily out numbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to the last man and last round.” This was the brave heart who in the last few moments of being alive, rushed to help one of his men load and fire a light machine gun. While he was doing this, a bomb landed on the ammunition dump next to him, exploding and killing Major Sharma immediately.

Pathan Camp

Pathan Camp

On seeing the enemy closing in with the LMG post, Sepoy Dewan Singh of D Company, stood up with the LMG firing from his hip and killed many of the advancing attackers. His murderous fore stopped many a Raider and Pakistani soldier dead. However, he too died, with his body riddled with bullets. Seeing two of their brave hearts die like this, inspired the rest of D Company to continue fighting. Simultaneously, Indian Air Force Spitfires started chasing the Raiders from the sky, killing many and  forcing the others to flee.

The Battle of Badgam continued and on 5th November the village was captured back by the Indian Army. Bodies of 300 Raiders were conuted, which proved how ruthless the fighting had been. Retaliatory fire had been so harsh that the Pathans had not been able to pick up their dead. It was with this tenacity, fierceness and nationalistic fervour that our soldiers fought to save the Valley. As the Raiders were not trained soldiers, their resolve to continue the fight disappeared and they started withdrawing and pulling back. Srinagar was saved.

Sepoy Dewan Singh

Sepoy Dewan Singh

In this battle, Indian Army lost Major Somnath Sharma, Sepoy Dewan Singh, Subedar Prem Singh Mehta and 20 other ranks. 26 people were wounded. For his gallantry, fierce defence and exemplary leadership, Major Somanth Sharma was awarded the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) posthumously. He was the first PVC of independent India. Sepoy Dewan Singh was awarded Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) for his exceptional valour.

I am sure that when Major Sharma and D Company were fighting they had their own fears. When I think about our Army fighting wars, I always wonder what goes on in their minds, in their hearts, how scared are they, how steely is their resolution….and am reminded of Nelson Mandela’s words, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” All I can say is thank God we have an Army that conquers its fears and strikes terror in the hearts of it’s enemies.

A Soldier Never Gives Up…You Can Only Die Once, So Make Sure It’s Worth It

You can only die once, so make sure it’s worth it.

For a long time I have wanted to write about the bravery, never say die attitude of our soldiers. Two movies actually pushed me to start the process – American Sniper and Baby. Both these movies brought home the truth that there is something about a soldier that inspires, motivates and propels us along. George Patton said, “The soldier is the Army. No army is better than its soldiers. The Soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.”

I am sharing with you stories of those brave hearts who bore arms for India, fought to protect her and us, allowing us to enjoy our freedom today.

The First Braveheart – Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai

A Pakistani historian wrote, “Two tricks of fortune conspired to cheat Mohammed Ali Jinnah of Kashmir – the loss of a day and half of pillaging in Baramulla and the reckless bravery of one Indian army officer, who…made an attack on the invading forces as if he had the whole Army Division at his support.”

That Indian officer was Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai, the first Commanding Officer (CO) of 1 Sikh, who became a trail blazer in our first war with Pakistan.

Prior to the accession, Maharaja Hari Singh had realised that Pakistan had no intention of honoring the Standstill Agreement he had signed with them. October 1947 saw a revolt by deserters of J&K State Forces, aided by the Pakistani Army and the tribesmen from Northwest crossing the border into Kashmir. Pakistani raiders

Raiders killed people mercilessly.

Raiders killed people mercilessly.

captured the border town of Uri, Mahur and started pillaging Baramulla. The looting was beyond human imagination.

It is this attack on the people of Baramulla that distracted the Pakistani raiders from their objective of capturing Srinagar. That the situation was grim became an understatement. A country that had fought for independence from the British, was now fighting internally to save her citizens and territory. The acceptance of accession came with the responsibility to protecting people & property of J&K. The Instrument of Accession was signed on 26th October 1947 and the Indian Army landed in Srinagar on 27th October 1947.

Challenges that the Army faced were enormous:

1. Shortage of time and resources – mobilising & moving Army Units long distance in a short span of time was the first hurdle.

2. Difficult & unfamiliar terrain – Jammu & Kashmir was unfamiliar and difficult terrain for our troops. Unfamiliar because they had never battled there, difficult because it was winter and the severe cold climate had adverse effects on men & weapons.

3. Pressure of war – Indian Army did not have any time to prepare for a war of this kind. We had gained independence two months prior to this and were still sorting out internal political, social and economic issues. This was a firefight – either we fight now or we have nothing left to fight for was the message.

Under such circumstances, 1st Battalion Sikh Regiment (1 Sikh) was chosen to be air lifted & inducted into the burning

Troops landing in Dakotas.

Troops landing in Dakotas.

Valley. Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai was the CO who was ordered to take his Battalion from Gurgaon to Srinagar. His briefing at Army HQ prior to departure included just two points –

1. Uri was captured by the Raiders & Baramulla was being pillaged by them.

2. 1 Sikh was to protect the city of Srinagar and facilitate subsequent landing of Indian Army units at the airport.

Never in the history of warfare had such an airlift taken place…with so little notice and planning. 30 Dakota aircrafts with men, weapons and equipment landed. Reliable communication or intelligence was wishful thinking at that time and Lt Col Rai had to prioritise his tasks and devise methods of executing also.

Baramulla when pillaged by the enemy.

Baramulla when pillaged by the enemy.

Some wise man had said a long time ago, “Fortune favours the bold.” The CO took the bold decision of seeking, fighting & destroying the enemy in and around Baramulla, away from Srinagar city and airport. This tactical engagement of the Raiders was to earn more time for our troops to land. Adequate men were left behind to protect the air field and the rest of 1 Sikh moved to Baramulla on 28th Oct.  Lt Col Rai chose to occupy a delaying position between Patan & Baramulla to prevent the enemy from advancing towards Srinagar. A fierce battle ensued between 1 Sikh and the Raiders…more than a thousand Raiders against approximately 180 – 200 Indian soldiers. These bravehearts fought with disregard to their own safety and delayed the enemy movement towards Srinagar.

In this conflict, the Raiders presumably spotted the CO and a few men moving from one position to another and fired incessantly on them. The CO and those few men with him were all killed.

Indian soldiers fighting to save the Valley.

Indian soldiers fighting to save the Valley.

The courageous Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai inspired his men to give their best in the wake of enemy attack, even when they were out numbered. This “reckless bravery” helped us gain more time and allow more troops to land in Srinagar. As a result, we were able to protect the city also. Lt Col Rai became the first Commanding Officer to land in J&K after the accession, the first CO to achieve martyrdom and to be decorated with the Maha Vir Chakra.

His valour and sacrifice have inspired all ranks of the Sikh Regiment and the Regiment continues to be one of the highest decorated regiments of the Indian Army, with 72 Battle Honours, 15 Theatre Honours and 5 COAS Unit Citations besides two PVCs, 14 MVCs, 5 KCs, 67 Vir Chakras and 1596 other gallantry awards, The history of the Regiment spanning 154 years is replete with heroic deeds of bravery and courage which have few parallels if any.

 

A War…Hundreds Of Martyrs…A Lifetime Of Memories!

“We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.” – Sir Winston Churchill.

This was the thought that I carried in my head all along my journey from Srinagar to Drass and Kargil. It is almost fifteen years since we fought the last war with Pakistan…a war in which many a parent lost their child, many a wives lost their husbands, many a children lost their fathers and I lost dear friends.

The last 15 years life has moved on for everyone…everyone except the snowy peaks that saw the bloodshed and those who died in that war. It is true when they say, “For our tomorrow, they gave their today.”

Zoji-La at 11,649 feet

Zoji-La at 11,649 feet

Driving through the icy Zoji-La

Driving through the icy Zoji-La

My journey started from Srinagar at 0700 hours and we reached Drass at 1830 hours. The scenic beauty of the region must be seen to be experienced. No amount of words can do justice to what nature has created. Sleepy villages that echoed of school children’s laughter, apple and apricot trees lining the roads, snowy peaks that were at a distance initially and gradually came closer as we started our climb to Zojila, icy mountain air that was crisp and kept me refreshed all through out, the gushing sounds of the Sindh river as it flowed on our right and the magnificent white glacier on the left. With every turn and bend, I truly felt I was one step closer to heaven…in more ways than one!

A quick stop at Sonamarg for lunch and an interesting chat with the Commanding Officer posted there opened my eyes to the hardships that our army faces on a day to day basis. Having travelled to Jammu and Kashmir many times earlier, I had never been to this part of the state beyond Sonamarg. And when one is young, the romance of life is very different!

Sun peeping behind the Ghumri range

Sun peeping behind the Ghumri range

All throughout the drive to Drass from Sonamarg, I kept thinking about what some of the officers had shared with me. The logistical support of the Indian Army, the medical camps they set up during the Amarnath Yatra and the collaborative work they do with the local administration all through out the year…left me overwhelmed and immensely proud of belonging to a community called “Army Brats.” I can’t thank my Dad enough for having been part of this glorious organization, which has given us so much in life…including the man I love 🙂

As we crossed Zojila, I was awestruck by the beauty of the stark landscape around me. I was sitting in a semi open jeep, so I could indulge in some photography on the way and I wasn’t disappointed at all. As we climbed higher, we saw less and less of human population on the road as the villages and towns are far and few in between. At Ghumri, a roadside board brought a smile to my face…an enterprising local had put up a board of selling “hot momos.” We did look for the shop, but it was closed!

Approaching Drass, a feeling of melancholy crept over me. I was excited to be there, yet, the thought of our army standing guard, fighting to protect us from an enemy who actually wasn’t an enemy 70 years ago, brought home the futility of war… for war means fighting and fighting means killing. As we entered Drass and were driving to the place where we stayed a couple of nights, my driver pointed out and said,”Madam, Tiger Hill!” That was enough to get my adrenalin rushing…finally I had reached the place where I had come to pay homage, not only to the friends who had died fighting, but all 543 martyred soldiers and the 1000 plus who were injured. The ones who are alive continue to carry the horrors and scars of those fateful days.

Vijay Path & Tololing Range in the background

Veer Bhoomi

Veer Bhoomi

Drass War Memorial

I’m not going to recount what happened between April – July 1999. Historians have chronicled the Kargil War very well and my readers can refer to that if they want to know what the war was all about and how it was fought.

I am writing for my fellow Indians to realize they have forgotten that there are soldiers out there who have sacrificed everything, just so that we live peacefully where ever we are. When I meet people in urban areas who have no clue about what it is to live at altitudes ranging between 10,000 feet to 21,000 feet and eat tinned food for 7 – 8 months in a year, not talk to your family for the same period, bear temperatures from 5 degrees to minus 40 degrees…I keep thinking that every Indian must make the effort of travelling to such places to experience a wee bit of what our Indian Army goes through. Just the road trip should suffice to understand.

Tiger Hill, Rhino Horn & Batra Top

Tiger Hill, Rhino Horn & Batra Top

Walking through the gates of the War Memorial, as I tread softly on Vijay Path, I could not control my tears. So overwhelming was the emotion that I broke down. I wept for the martyrs, for the families who had sacrificed and the families who continue to sacrifice . The officer, a young Major,  who was briefing us about the Memorial, had just completed 7 months on a snowy peak at 18,200 feet altitude and had come down to Drass after that rigorous stint. What could I say to someone like that…all I could do was listen to his experiences and feel humbled. Havaldar Razak’s ability to narrate the events of April – July 1999 had all the listeners weeping…there wasn’t a single dry eye in the audience. Such is the ambience at the War Memorial.

George Patton said, “The soldier is the Army. No army is better than its soldiers. The Soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country”. 13 JAK Rifles, 18 Grenadiers, 2nd Rajputana Rifles, 8 Sikh, 1/11 Gurkha Rifles, 14 Sikh, 2 Naga, 12 Mahar, 17 JAT and soldiers from other regiments and battalions have more than proved it. The army believe in only thing completely – that they are here to protect the nation at any cost. It is because of that single minded focus that the rest of the country is able to live in peace. A look at our immediate neighbour is proof enough for us to be grateful for such an army Like Alfred Tennyson opined,

All our heroes!

All our heroes!

Operation Vijay

Operation Vijay

 

“Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die”

My Dad, who served 37 years in the Indian Army, who has been part of various wars and conflicts, once told me, “What you don’t know going in is that when you come out, you will be scarred for life. Whether you were in for a week, a month, or a year—even if you come home without a scratch—you are never, ever going to be the same.

When I went in, I was twenty. I thought it was all glory and you win lots of medals. You think you’re going to be the guy. Then you find out the cost is very great. Especially when you don’t see the friends you were with when you went in. Living with it can be hell. It’s like the devil presides in you. I knew what I had signed up for then, yes, and I would do it again. But the reality of war—words can’t begin to describe it.”

For such an army, let us salute whole heartedly. Let us not forget what they endure and support them in whatever way we can. I ask everyone

Sunrise outside Drass town

Sunrise outside Drass town

Sunrise while driving through Drass

Sunrise while driving through Drass

who is reading this – have you ever stopped to ponder the amount of blood spilt, the volume of tears shed, the degree of pain and anguish endured, the number of noble men and women lost in battle so that we as individuals might have a say in governing our country?

As I left Drass that early morning, I felt a sense of calm and peace that came to me for I had discovered one more purpose in life. A mission of creating awareness about the army I love and respect, of  the humane aspect of being a soldier, of the stoic and sensitivity of the men in uniform.

Honour the lives sacrificed for your freedom. I thank the Lord above everyday for giving me this life that is protected by such a gallant & brave army. Thank you Indian Army!!!

Jai Hind!

 

 

 

Fallen But Not Forgotten…A Tribute To Our Unsung Heroes!

Lonely I was when I stood staring at the sky Our heroes

Had a gun in my hand, was too afraid to cry

Fought bitter battles and never lived to tell

How at the altar of freedom, my body fell

My soul searches for reasons as to why I died

Did I save my people, had I tried?

Do they remember me, my deeds, my name

Are they proud of me or did I bring them shame 

My battered body stood testimony to my fate

My heart had stopped in a battle brought about by hate

I had screamed in pain, and shivered with fright

But before I died, I did put up a fight 

Remember me, my beloved country

It was I, my men, who brought you victory

I fought to the last bullet in my gun

I was a soldier, I was your son.

fallen but not forgottenThe dead soldiers do not speak…yet they are heard in the still houses of people who care for them. They are shrouded in a silence that speaks for them, a silence that mocks us…the living. This silence talks to me…what does it tell me? It says they have done what they could but until it is finished it is not done. The silence says they have given their lives but until it is finished no one can know what their lives gave. The same silence throws at me the truth that their deaths are not theirs, they are ours and they will mean what we make them. Whether their lives and their deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing they cannot say. It is you and I who must say this. Finally, the silence says they were young, they died young, so remember them.

Remembering them was exactly what happened last weekend in Bangalore. Amidst the election fervor and Samarpanacampaigning, Samarpana,a social initiative by a group of students of PES University paid tribute and homage to the fallen soldiers of the Indian Army. Samarpana is the brainchild of students from PES College of Engineering and was started after the 26/11 bombing in Mumbai. The thought behind starting this social initiative was very noble. The founders felt very strongly about the martyred soldiers who died protecting the citizens of this country…their question was, “What happens to the families of these soldiers?”

A seed was sown in 2009/2010 with the students taking the ownership of making this a success. In the last four years more than 60 families have been identified and felicitated for the sacrifice they have made. The project works on facilitating basic documentation processes, helping them get connected to medical facilities, children’s scholarship, employment or self employment opportunities for the widows or parents of these unsung heroes.

This year I had a chance to interact with 16 families who had made the supreme sacrifice. It was an emotional two days where I got to hear from various family members the heroism of their fallen soldiers. I also saw the ugly side of what happens to the families thereafter, especially if they are in remote rural places. Samarpana works to ease the pain of neglect.

World war IIA one of it’s kind project, Samarpana is poised to grow and touch more & more lives across India. It’s a shining example of how selflessly the human heart can give if we as individuals decide to. I had the privilege of meeting an old lady whose husband had died serving the Indian Army in World War II. She had been married less than a year whenshe lost her husband. It was also very emotional to interact withanother lady who lost her husband in Kargil, the highest battleground in the world.She also was married for just two years when tragedy struck their family. What was heartening to see was that these people were given the basic support from their families & government.

What they need today is also social acceptance at multiple levels, to become part of a community that recognizes their agony, can empthasize with them.

My dream & heartfelt prayer is to see such initiatives in other colleges and institutions across our country.

I was also forced to think about how many people in our country actually
even think of our armed forces. I know the stereo typical impression
civilians have about the armed forces and the life they live. It never
ceases to amaze me about how these impressions have carried on for years.
It also shows how much awareness is created about our defence services. This needs to be a collective effort from all concerned – the government,
the defence forces themselves and people like us who are closely
associated with the armed forces.

As we continue to enjoy our freedom, our borders that are guarded by these unsung heroes remain intact. We sleep
well at night only because of the security we have. For those who find it hard to believe, you should talk to
people of war ravaged countries about freedom and value of security. After all, what is expected of us…

When you see a soldier
Be sure to shake his or her hand,
And let that soldier know you’re grateful
For the protection the military affords our land

But most of all express your thanks
For every soldier’s personal sacrifice.
In order to serve our country,
They risked their entire lives.