As I read up on the Uri attacks, my hearts fill up with sadness. 17 Indian Army men lives lost in this cowardly attack.
We recently visited Leh & Laddakh and were guests of the Indian Army. After spending a week with our Indian Army, I feel one Indian army man equals the courage, the strength and the humility of 20 civilians combined.
The story of the Indian Army needs to be told- not in the 'Indian Bollywood way' but their true stories of sacrifice, spending months away from family, having the willfulness to actually so something for the country. The way I see it, we as Indian's sleep peacefully while the Army (as a matter of fact our navy/ air force) stay awake and protect us.
Being an Indian, I love Bollywood, love the movies, the fun, the gossips, the drama, the music and the vibrancy of Indian Film Industry. But today, to them I say: One thing you fall short on is showing the true nature of our Jawans (Soldiers)!!
Within a week of the one-on-one time with them, my entire family was often brought to tears as we heard their daily lives.
Here are some excerpts of stories from a week:
Mr S-ji, is a Kargil veteran, he was with us for the entire week. He recanted stories of the war: His best friend from school who joined army together. He helped his friend and his lady love elope and get married; they went through training together, cared of each other's families like they were their own! In the Kargil war, one evening they sat and wished each other luck. Mr S'ji's friend said- please tell my wife no matter where I am, I will always care! The next evening they come back to the base camp and Mr S finds out his friend was martyred! It's been over fifteen years, but Mr S'ji eyes were moist. He said- he feels this guilt that he lived and his friend died. He questions 'why him', he has this guilt every time he visit's his friend's family- maybe he could have done something different to save/protect his friend.
Another Army Jawan- Mr. X, let’s call him is a Kargil Veteran. He was telling us very simply about the "Tiger Hill Capture'. In the snow clad mountains, they would go for days without food or water. There were days when they came back to the base mountain to get one poori since all Jawan's needed food and supplies were running short. He told us of a story that they had to kick ice with their boot's for some ice to melt and they could quench their thirst. He told us the eve of victory night for the Tiger Hill, he was tired, hungry and exhausted. His colleague told him, carry this extra food for the night- Mr X's response:' Just give me the Tiranga (national flag): I just want to hoist that on the mountain!! That's the only extra weight I want to carry- food can wait!”
Mr S'ji tells us about his son, similar age as my daughter gets to see him may be 2-3 months every year! He was describing a story of building his house in his hometown. And though the civilians see the army uniform- they are not shy of asking him for a bribe to get the 'house plan' passed or get 'electricity connection' going! For Mr S'ji- I am here on the border, truly serving my nation and here these civilian's ask me for a bribe to build a house with my hard earned money!
We heard about the disparity of 'hardship pay' A Jawan stationed in the Siachen gets an additional hardship allowance of say 100$, but an IAS officer stationed in the urban city of 'Guwahati' gets a hardship allowance of '100$*5' How is that fair?
We visited the army base camp near 'Tso Moriri' lake. We had the privilege of having lunch in the Officers Mess. The camp, the Jawans, the officers all had the largest smiles and unspoken humility for us. They were happy to have my little one play with their hat or show my older daughter the 'pistol' from one of the wars. I was wondering- may be watching my kids- they think about their own families, little sisters or a life they could have had!
That evening we met a really young officer and we asked him- Why army:: He responded : Why not? This young officer from grade 9 knew the army is what he wanted:- he went to military school, studied did everything he could to get to the army. Nope, he has no family in the army- it's just what he wanted to do: Serve his country!!
I can go on and on about these little conversations, the stories, the valor, the courage, the sacrifices... but they won’t be enough!
These are the stories that need to be shared, the movies that need to be made! Bollywood, you know I love you- But I really want you to show the true army! Their stories. It might not be 'masala movies' but it will be something that will inspire you and me!! may be it will make us think twice before we ask/ give bribe. May be it will make us salute a passing soldier; donate a little something to their families!!
Just a little something for them so that they know- we care, or at least we acknowledge and really appreciate their hard work.
As I sip on hot tea in an air-conditioned office: I remember the Jawan's who blew our minds in ONLY one week!
One of them- asked us what we did professionally- and all I could say was: Nothing! Nothing compared to you