The officers and gentlemen

In doing their duty, even death doesn’t make them flinch

Updated - April 02, 2016 03:08 am IST

Published - February 08, 2015 02:01 am IST

Garhwal Rifles march at Rajpath during the Republic Day Parade full dress rehersal in New Delhi. Photo: S. Subramanium

Garhwal Rifles march at Rajpath during the Republic Day Parade full dress rehersal in New Delhi. Photo: S. Subramanium

One more soldier has laid down his life. It was heart-rending to see pictures of Colonel M.N. Rai’s very young daughter Alka paying him a last but resolute salute. He died an immortal death.

And why am I, of all people, even brooding about it? After all, somebody gets killed every day in the forces.

I am married to one of the gentlemen from the league extraordinaire. League extraordinaire, because he prefers travelling by train whenever he can, as he does not wish to misuse government money. Because during a competition, when none of the officers was supposed to run with 30 kg of weight at night for a distance of many kilometres, he ran with his men. And when one of his men fainted, he asked another jawan to carry that individual and volunteered to carry his 30 kg as well. Because during a field posting, his leave was sanctioned whereas his men’s leave was denied. He called me asking if I should have the luxury of seeing him, whereas the families of his men kept waiting for them. Teary eyed I was, but I had to tell him he was doing the right thing after all.

What is it that drive these men? The youngsters joining the defence forces do so not by compulsion but by choice, some may argue. Who asked them to volunteer! Was it love for the nation? At the age of 17, how many of us brim with patriotism? So why should a nation bother at all? They get Canteen Stores Department facilities, rations; they have helpers (civil servants do everything on their own!).

Well, barter your life for these perks: please, anyone? I won’t, for any number of zeroes suffixed to the pay packet. Why doesn’t each one of us hold responsibility for our own lives? Let each one of us pick up arms and guard our families. Then it might dawn on us, what an onerous task it is. The apprehension, anxiety, fury of anyone from the forces and their families can be understood only by actually being there.

Just because they underwent a specific type of training that gets ingrained, that never allows them to ditch their call, why should they take bullets in their chest, whereas I can’t even justify the bare minimum that I draw every month?

I also had my “training”. I have been transferred three times in less than three years and I have been complained against.

How is it that even death doesn’t make “them” flinch? I don’t deserve the supreme sacrifices of the forces. And people who come to their offices at noon and leave by two certainly don’t. People who are busy minting money don’t, who are busy doing nothing while they have a retinue of servants at their disposal don’t, people busy gloating don’t, people burning their women don’t, killing their daughters unborn don’t, people who don’t care for the martyrs don’t.

Like me, many hundreds of families wait for their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers. And a majority of my nation would not seem to deserve their tears and cries. The caskets of death, the MiGs, or the sinking ships, create headlines once in a while, and are then conveniently forgotten. If I could, I would cry seeking the forces’ exodus and not imperilling their lives for people who remember them only in the time of disasters and calamities.

Are we so callous as to not remember and revere and bow down and say a silent prayer for the men (and also women now) who gladly embrace death so that we are warm and snug and safe, not merely on Independence Day and Republic Day but always? Some thought for them, their families, people, government, anyone?

Dear Alka, you asked, “keta 9 GR ko ho ke hoina?” , or, do you claim the boy/youth as yours? Was he yours? The Gorkha Rifles replied: “ho, ho, ho”, yes, we claim the boy, he is our pride.

I ask this country: “keta Bhartiya ho ke hoena?”, or, the youth lying in front of you, is he yours? is he your pride, Indians? And I await a response.

Corrections and Clarifications

This article was edited to reflect the following correction:

The caption of the photograph accompanying The officers and gentlemen (Open Page, Feb. 8, 2015) erroneously said the picture showed the men of the Gorkha Regiment. Actually, it was the Garhwal Rifles.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.