Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Life and Death of a Family and Nation

 “People join the Army and Police to die and are paid to die…” said the self-assured Bihar minister as millions of TV viewers watched aghast at the insensitivity and brazenness of an arrogant politician.   

The hue and cry raised over the issue frankly left me untouched and unmoved as do many of the concerns raised by the media and the so called political parties.  Why you may ask am I not angry at the rant of this callous man who feels that people act and behave in a particular way only because they are paid for it?

That’s because I have heard it before…from not one, not two but many people who feel that the people employed in the Armed Forces are a blessed lot who party and drink with great gusto and then….well that is all that they do. According to most people (civilians as they are referred to), the job involves ‘free rations, Canteen facilities, cheap and good liquor and subsidised accommodation.’

As an Air Force daughter (21 years) and now a wife (18 years) I have been born and brought up in the Forces and then married into it. As one who plays a supporting role in the Armed Forces I have only to say this, “Nothing dear civilians is further from the truth as the above”.

As a pilot’s wife I know but can never describe how it feels sending off my husband each day knowing fully well that it may be the last I ever see him. While he is away flying a fighter aircraft with a passion only he can feel like all other soldiers, pilots and sailors who join the forces, not because it’s a lucrative job option but because they want to be soldiers above all else; a feeling apparently not shared by many of those ‘civilians’ out there, I keep his home, waiting for him to come back safe and sound.

My heart still thumps after so many years, fearing the worst, fearing that he may have flown away never to land again. I still haven’t and will never get used to it.

All soldiers do understand that they are duty bound to care about their nation first, then their families and then and only then themselves, they are also people who want to live a good life and spend time with their families and children and parents and grow old to be with their grandchildren like all others.

They don’t join the military to die, they become soldiers so that they can live …live long enough to fulfil their duties as a soldier and protect and serve their country. With the recent deaths of our soldiers and sailors I realised that it was not just they who died, but with them died their families who have been left bereft of a husband, son, father, brother. But most of all I believe it is the death of a nation, a nation which does not respect those who live to protect and serve and then feel pride in giving up their lives for a nation which can never prosper and flourish because it does not respect its soldiers.  

A life gone for a cause unknown, for a cause made their own as they have been taught all their lives to do.

But this is not the first time in this country that such a situation has been faced. Long ago, Kautilya or Chanakya, as he is better known as, had to bring to the notice of his Emperor the following:

                   The Mauryan soldier does not enrich the Royal treasuries nor fills the Royal granaries. He does not carry out trade and commerce nor produce scholars, litterateurs, artistes, artisans, sculptors, architects, craftsmen, doctors and administrators. He does not build roads and ramparts nor dig wells and reservoirs. He does not do any of this directly.”

            “The soldier only and merely ensures that the tax, tribute and revenue collectors travel forth and return safely; that the farmer tills, harvests, stores and markets his produce unafraid of pillage; that the trader, merchant and financier function and travel across the length and breadth of the realm unmolested; that the savant, sculptor, maestro and mentor create works of art, literature, philosophy and astrology in quietude; that the architect designs and builds his Vaastus without tension; that the tutor and the priest teach and preach in peace; that the Rishis meditate in wordless silence; that the doctor invents cures and medicines undisturbed; that the mason and bricklayer work unhindered; that the mother and the wife go about their chores and bring up children in harmony and tranquillity; that the cattle graze freely without being lifted or stolen.”

              “Pataliputra reposes each night in peaceful comfort, O King, secure in the belief that the distant borders of Magadha are inviolate and the interiors are safe and secure, thanks only to the Mauryan Army standing vigil with naked swords and eyes peeled for action, day and night, in weather fair and foul, all eight praharas (round the clock), quite unmindful of personal discomfort and hardship, all through the year, year after year.”

       “While the citizenry of the State contributes to see that the State prospers and flourishes, the soldier guarantees it continues to EXIST as a State! To this man, O Rajadhiraja, you owe a debt: please, therefore, see to it, on your own, that the soldier continuously gets his dues in every form and respect, be they his needs or his wants, for he is not likely to ask for them himself.

        Then Chanakya gave his king this blunt warning: “The day the soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha for then, on that day, you will have lost all moral sanction to be King!”

             In the end I can only hope and pray that better sense will prevail on the modern day rulers and our great nation will indeed prosper and flourish.


  1. Superbly written...keep it up :)

  2. Very well written, Nirja. I absolutely agree with what you have written and I think it is a very sad day for India where the soldiers are not being given what should actually be due to them for risking their life everyday. Forget about awards and rewards, they are not even getting respect for doing their duty so diligently.

  3. Thank you Parijat and Vikas. With support from people who understand what soldiers have to go through I think this country can do wonders.

  4. Very heartfelt! Well essayed. Thanks for this perspective

    1. Thank you. The perspective of a wife who waits for her husband to land back safely each day and into the safe confines of the home he has created for his family...

  5. Please don't stop writing. So to the point and so well put together on what you and thousands of spouses have borne with such great inner strength. As an old beaten up 70 yr old air veteran, I re-lived my flying days and that secret look of anxiety on my wife's eyes when I went off happily on my little moped to work each day.

    Thank you. Being in Pune too, one day perhaps happily our paths will cross.

    Wg Cdr Dara Cooper (Retd)

  6. Dear Wg Cdr Cooper,

    It is indeed a great honour and a matter of pride for me to have written something that an air veteran such as you has liked. I am sure Mrs Cooper and I as any other soldier's and pilot's wife have gone through so many similar anxious moments.

    And yes it would be lovely to meet you too.

    Thank you very much. :)