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Millennium Post

Our soldiers, our heroes

Our soldiers, our heroes
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As I write this, India celebrates its 43rd Navy Day. For the uninitiated, every year December 4 is celebrated as Navy Day to commemorate the start of Operation Trident during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971. Not something many of us, at least from our smartphone generation, are aware of, are we? I mean, why do we even need to know? Not like it’s a festival that brings new clothes and parties with it, or a public holiday so we can catch up on our sleep, or a dry day that we need to stock up on liquor!

We belong to a generation that laughs at Indian war films, considers the Armed Forces a ‘bad’ career choice, and has little, or no, respect for the men and women in uniform who tirelessly watch over us, guard us, keep us safe so we can live freely and sleep peacefully. Clearly, ’99, 26/11, have had no effect on us. Let others die for the nation. Why us? We belong to a generation with parents who aspire to have money-minting engineer/banker/lawyer children. None of my friends are in the Forces. And, none of my friends’ friends are either. Which is what amazes me. Didn’t our parents live through ’65, 71? Don’t they have enough to thank our Forces for? Evidently not. Instead of taking pride and showing them our gratitude, we’ve taken them for granted.

Just the other day somebody remarked during the course of a discussion, “Why is it such a big deal if a soldier dies? Why must we weep over every war casualty? They were just doing their job. They signed up for it!” I was too stunned to utter even a word. We were in a room full of people, most of whom seemed to agree with her.

Dear girl, you know who you are. And, I also know you’re reading this. There are a few things you need to know. It IS a big deal if a soldier dies. Hell, it’s a big deal if anybody dies, and more so when it’s somebody who has lost his life trying to protect you! We WILL cry over every war casualty. If we don’t, then we aren’t humane enough. And, finally, it isn’t a soldier’s ‘job’ to die. His job is to protect, and yes, if that means at the cost of life, then that too. We should be indebted to these selfless, brave souls, and instead, we have the gall to belittle their tremendous sacrifice?

Today isn’t about the various scandals that have rocked our Armed Forces over the years. Today isn’t about the Government’s seemingly step-motherly treatment, or the controversial AFSPA and its repercussions either.

Today is about a young man who spends his childhood dreaming of being a soldier, undergoes backbreaking, rigorous training for years to become one, sacrifices relationships, friendships for his first love-his nation, plays with fire to keep his countrymen safe, and if necessary, doesn’t blink an eye before giving up his life for the nation and its people. Today is about us, and how as a society we continue to show absolute neglect and indifference towards our soldiers!

The military life isn’t about free rations, cheap alcohol, and fancy parties like most of us believe. It’s a life full of sacrifice, extreme stress-both physical and mental, inhumanly long hours, zero recreation, and constant life risk. Very few have the heart to do it. By failing to show our gratitude to those blessed few, we fail them. If this continues, there will come a day when there will be nobody to protect us. Is that where we wish to head?

The day cricketer Phil Hughes died, Naik Kulvinder Singh of the Indian Army died fighting militants in Kashmir. How many of us even knew about it? None of the national dailies mentioned it. Both 26-year-olds laid down their lives doing what they loved best: batting for their country. Yet, there was one marked difference. This was shared with me by a soldier and I quote him, “…while Phil’s passing was mourned by…the world…Naik Kulvinder Singh’s name was reduced to just a footnote, a sad statistic in this ungrateful nation’s history.”

Why? Yes, we are a selfish nation, but are we so heartless that we can’t even honour someone in death?? Reams are dedicated to cricketing heroes and Bollywood superstars. But, what about the real heroes for whom there are neither second chances nor retakes? Don’t they deserve some respect, too?

Let’s not continue to be a nation of ingrates. It’s time we got up and saluted the selfless souls who watch over us. Who needs guardian angels when we have soldiers? Our soldiers, our heroes- let this be our motto! Jai Hind.

Malini Banerjee is a snotty single child, mountain junkie, playback singer, Austen addict, and
dreams of singing alongside Buddy Guy
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