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.