“We are forlorn like children, and experienced like old men, we are crude and sorrowful and superficial…” ― Erich Maria Remarque
Soldiers are the only lot that actually deserves the name HERO.
There is no country without an army and there’s no army without its soldiers. We don’t know their lives closely, and hence, we don’t know many facts.
Let us take a moment in our busy little lives and think over the kind of experiences an Indian soldier has to go through in his/her life.
1. A young awestruck boy, overwhelmed, proud and extremely happy at the very sight of the Army Academy is what every soldier is, when he steps into the life, with head held high! With dreams of heroism, and aspirations to bring out some real action on the ground, the young lad dives into the training!
2. And yes the appearance needs to be changed, needs to be aligned with the responsibility that the soldier will carry on the shoulder. Frivolous dressing and the long hair – a strict NO NO! All goes, with a sad sigh! The heart breaks into a million pieces with those flowing hair loosing the head grounds, but frets he not, for it’s all for the motherland!
3. The 3 excruciating stages of training that the Indian SOldier goes through are bone crushing! Gruelling to the core, than you can ever imagine! Starting from early morning soldiers are initiated into intense physical and psychological training. The idea is to make them tougher, faster and more efficient. And the immediate goal is to habituate the soldiers into being physically and mentally alert at all goddamn times.
4. When they finally make it to battle field, they unanimously chant – “if death strikes before I prove my blood, I promise, I will kill death”. To put things in perspective, let me recount to you the story of a man – Jaswant Singh Rawat – who single-handedly baffled 300 Chinese soldiers. During the Indo-Chinese war in 1962 when Jaswant’s entire company retreated in the face of advancing Chinese army, he insisted on staying back. With the help of 2 Monpa tribal girls he kept the Chinese army at bay for 3 whole days. When they eventually found out that they were being fooled by a single Indian soldier, they captured him. But by then Jaswant had shot himself in the head. We are proud of you lads!
5. And then comes the saddest of experiences when a soldier loses a comrade. To see a fellow soldier die in front of his eyes is like seeing a brother dying you grew up with. And you just cannot do anything about it! It’s killing, trust me, it is!
6. Death, Destruction, Blood, Wounds and Bullet Holes – These images haunt them for as long as they live! Nightmares follow them when they try to get some sleep!
7. Returning troops often suffer depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (aka PTSD) resulting from the horrible ordeal they’ve gone through in the battlefield. For war veterans PTSD occurs from traumatic incidents like mugging, being subjected to 3rd degree torture, raped as war prisoners or being held captive. Soldiers suffering from PTSD become emotionally numb and are often driven to committing suicide!
8. The experience of washing away the unbearable guilt of having killed someone for the first time is something we’ll never know. But our dear soldiers understand that back home their loved one’s are counting on them, to keep them safe and sound. And that is the reason they keep everything behind them and return with a smile on their faces. No matter how haunting the battlegrounds are, off they go, marching to the front once again, vowing that they’ll return, either victorious or wrapped in the tricolour, and then one day they experience the joy of saving a comrade, which adds to the glory, to the ultimate satisfaction of being a soldier.
10. Letters become a significant part of their lives and the lives of their families. The only way they can communicate, touch and feel the presence of the loved ones. The window to the lives they are not a part of, day in and day out! They live their families, throw the letters only.
11. No matter what hardship they face, every time they view the DLTGH (days left to go home) marked on the calendar, their heart melts. They count the moments for that day when they can return to their families, to their newborn babies, waiting kids, melancholic wives and grieving parents. To hug them and tell them that they are standing right there, to take care of everything. Joys of returning home alive, to love, to embrace and to live is something most of us will never truly understand the way soldiers do.
12. And no matter how happy and comfortable they are, no matter how much they love being home, when the motherland calls, they’ll rise without hesitation and march again to save the country.
13. For an Indian soldier, the stars on their shoulder are way too magnificent than the one’s in the distant sky. They live, they fight, they love… everything for the nation!
Their very own India!
Long live the Indian soldiers!