The Armed Forces are indispensable, sadly even during election campaign.

 

I wish this election season would end soon. I am not anxious about who will form the next government or to know who our next Prime Minister will be. Every party has its share of wrongdoings, so called reforms and a manifesto, which may or may not see fulfillments. There is only so much we as citizens can do. Those things will eventually come to the fore at the designated time.

But, I am eagerly awaiting the end of this election season for an entirely different reason. The Indian Armed Forces have been at the receiving end a lot many times during this election season. I have been in awe of our Indian Armed Forces and as a humble citizen I feel that this kind of negativity is uncalled for.

First it was the claim of so and so party’s army having done justice to fallen soldiers, using Balakot Air Strikes and Wing Cdr. Abhinandan as reference at election rallies. After repeated claims and use of such references in form of posters at election rallies, veterans wrote individually in their own way and collectively to the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, The President of India, objecting to this politicization. The said letter too was under a lot of criticism and there were claims and counter claims on that too. Things didn’t seem to stop there.

Then came the claims of ‘surgical strikes’ or attacks across the Line of Control. There were claims and counters by esteemed and decorated officers about absence or presence of such attacks in the past. In a bid to prove which Government reigned supreme in handling our country’s National Security, are we not belittling the efforts of those involved in all these missions? There are narrations by esteemed Generals of how their units accomplished which mission, where and when. Irrespective of the same, are such missions the most key electoral reform or achievement, based on which the voter will choose the next ruling party? Is such kind of a strike the only barometer of a government’s favorable performance? Is this debate even necessary? What if one of the fighter jets of Balakot hadn’t returned? What if Wing Cdr Abhinandan wouldn’t have returned back safely? Would we still have witnessed such rhetoric or are we seasoned to give due respects only in the event of catastrophe? Our Armed Forces always rise to the occasion in peace times or war times. they have come to the aid of us civilians and have defended our borders as well, so is such a scrutiny of their valor of the past absolutely necessary?

By the time the dust over claims of surgical strikes settled, a row over INS Virat erupted.  Some said that such a vacation happened and they had witnessed it, some others came up with a contrary version and mentioned whatever they had witnessed. When two groups of witnesses have different versions of the same incident, one of them is obviously wrong. The sad part of all of this is that in the wake of this incident being dug up, the integrity of a group of senior members of Indian Navy is being questioned. There have been instances in the past where the people in the higher most positions of our country’s esteemed organization have been accused of not upholding the integrity of their position, be it the investigative agencies, the judiciary or other government organizations.

As professionals, at some point of our careers, we might have made some decisions that may seem questionable; every time an employee pays bribe to an officer for evasion or procurement of license, every time a manager gives a low ranking to a deserving employee simply because of adhering to the instructions of the manager, it is a failure. Is an act committed 30 years back, the only parameter to the capability of a party and the most relevant topic to debate in this election? Don’t we already have our views in place about all this? Why then drag senior officials of Indian Armed Forces who have toiled hard for the welfare of our country into all this? Suddenly the stars and stripes on their uniform and all their actions in service over the years maybe ignored over one stand of theirs? Instead of debating whether a certain party indulged wrongly by using government resources, isn’t it a better idea to debate how we can help the farmers save their crops from losses every year due to unseasonal rains?

All this, while the world is watching!

It’s hard for me to say whether the image of the Armed Forces will be tarnished by all this. I am not an authority on that. But it seems unfair to drag the unbiased and apolitical Armed Forces into all this and is unfortunate to find them in the eye of the storm. I am convinced that those concerned in the Armed Forces, who are and have been taking decisions related to our military actions have always and will always keep the nation’s interest above everything. By questioning them over the actions taken or being taken, we may be setting a wrong precedent and conveying a negative message to the youth of the country. This kind of behavior towards the Armed Forces undoubtedly would be bringing down the morale of their personnel which may be unfavorable for the nation

It’s been one rollercoaster ride for the Armed Forces, right from Balakot to INS Viraat. We still have a few days of campaigning left and who knows what awaits them next?

Till the end of campaigning, they may have to fend off all such comments, if more comes their way. Stay steady, dear Faujis, India respects and loves you for what you are and what you do and Happy Voting for the voters of the last two phases of the election. (After all the drama of the election season, you couldn’t let your opinion stay unheard).

Credits:

Featured Image recreated using images from Wikimedia Commons

Fighter plane:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Tejas_-_Made_in_India_1st_Fighter_Plane_(16413042458).jpg&oldid=210030634

Indian Army :  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Indian_Army_BMP-2.jpg&oldid=279184906

INS Viraat : https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:INS_Viraat_(R22)_Malabar_07.jpg&oldid=202696315

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The Men in Uniform reign supreme on all accounts; the celebrities stay privileged.

 

In India we are used to the various contrasts in our society, be it the supreme rich and people below poverty line, the so called upper class and the lower middle class , so called upper caste and the scheduled tribes, different societal norms for men and those for women (more so in backward and rural areas) and so on. I would like to bring to the notice of my readers one more contrast here.

If I ask a 10 year old child about any current player of the Indian Cricket Team, the current heartthrob of Bollywood or even a football icon, undoubtedly he would be able to name and recognize those players or the actors, to some extent, go on to give me information on the spouses of these players and the franchisee that they play for or information about star kids and even the products that these players/ actors endorse. But ask him about the 3 wings of our Armed Forces and I cannot convincingly say that the child will know it.

Maybe the comparison that I make is an illogical one yet it is something that I wish to draw attention to. Coming back to the chances of the 10 year child not knowing about the wings of the Armed Forces, I don’t really blame him. Not only this, I wouldn’t expect even an older child/ adolescent also to know much in detail about the Armed Forces. Simply because the sports persons and film stars are all over the place in our country. Be it in print media, on prime time TV, on social media, the many number of matches they play or the movies that they release in a year. It may be hard to believe but I am unsure if any subject currently in standard 5th and above (at least in Maharashtra) has any detailed (or as much is allowed) description of the Kargil Conflict in 1999. I would assume it to be a feat, worthy of mention.

Representing the country v/s Routine jobs

Recently, an eminent cricketer was in a talk show advocating for the wives of the cricket players to be allowed to accompany them during their series outside India because he felt that they were away from their families for a long time. Some time back there was a controversy about a senior badminton player threatening to pull out of an international tournament if the player’s father was not given specific accommodation. Seriously!  Such whims and fancies while representing your nation! Do we even give a thought to the military personnel of our country? Sure we do, but then we convince ourselves that it’s a part of their ‘routine’ job. Yes, indeed. A soldier protecting the country at the border is doing a ‘routine’ job and if he is away from his family for months on end, no big deal. But a player, who is also representing the same country, NEEDS and DEMANDS to be given the privilege of his family accompanying him. Strange!

A sportsperson representing the country in overseas tournaments or a film star working abroad travels in flights and stays in the finest of the hotels. A jawan travels to his destination by a train or a bus and rarely by flight. A soldier deputed on duty at a mountain range 10000 ft above sea level lives in a bunker and a sailor spends close to around 180 days in a year on the high seas.  The soldier who is doing his duty up on the mountains stays on for close to 6 months without shaving or even having bath because once it starts snowing, the weather is not conducive and the resources are limited. Also, he lives on without any power, no vegetation in sight, at times eating whatever is available and no sunlight for weeks and on vigil, day and night.

These soldiers in those remote posts in glaciers and mountains are supported by their comrades in the base camp and the only link between the two are the Army and Air Force pilots who undertake sorties to deliver the supplies to the men up there and also rescue them in case of an untoward incident.  Needless to say, such sortie is obviously not a piece of cake. In case of Flying Fighters, in spite of using modern aircrafts like Su-30, which have comfortable air-conditioning, when they return after 40 min training sortie in an area where temperatures hover around 40 degrees Celsius, their shoulders and back are probably in discomfort because of the physical drain of the sortie and their overalls are sweaty. Despite these, the Flying Fighter never dreads the cockpit and is yearning to be in it. The sailor in the submarine lives in disposables for all those days that he is deputed there. It is noteworthy that there is space crunch even in a submarine and the sailor lives on without a shave or a bath and for obvious reasons he can’t even smoke. Not only in the submarine, his deck in a ship too is not a spacious one with all amenities. It only has bare essentials for survival. Not to forget that when they are out on the sea, there is nothing except water on all sides and human connection is only when they reach a harbor.

The sportspersons are privileged to commute in a swanky bus, planes ( at times in business class ) at times even chartered jets and the superstars relax in their state of the art vanity vans and have all means of communications and entertainment  at their behest.  The recent attack in Pulwama exposed the means of travels that our jawans use.  There is no need to reiterate that a bunker at 10000 ft does not have a landline phone, a cell phone or a laptop for video calls. They just have access to radio phones, which is for internal communication. The same goes for the sailor sailing in high seas. Months on end, the families barely have any clue of them. At least a sailor can get in touch with their families when they reach a harbor but not the soldier in the mountains.  Even a regular sortie without a war like situation can prove fatal for our Air Force pilots, as has been seen on many occasions and yet they are at it as is required. But yes, these personnel are just doing their ‘routine’ job or as it’s said “they are being paid for their job”.

Additional payouts v/s rights

The income of the sportspersons through their matches and that of celebrities through their movies and their endorsements is commonly known fact.  There is no denying the fact that the endorsements that a player or an actor involves in are his right. But what about the soldier’s rights? Do we know that our soldiers are FIGHTING in the courts for their rights such as implementation of OROP (One Rank One Pension) and NFFU (Non Functional Financial Upgrade).  Moreover when the Indian Team had a historic win against Australia earlier this year, a cash prize equivalent to their bonuses which amounted to a few lakhs was announced for the team, its support staff and also for the selectors. It can’t get more ironical than this that the team (including the selectors) which does a job while REPRESENTING its country and wins trophies gets cash prize apart from their salaries whereas the soldiers who is GUARDING the country at the cost of his lives is fighting for his entitlements.

The governing body of cricket in India is an autonomous body and so are the other sporting bodies and the Bollywood Fraternity and tax payers cannot really question the way they wish to treat their players/ actors and use their funds. Having said that, the fact is that the soldiers cannot form a union to fight for their rights. Bank unions threaten to go on strike, farmers undertake a protest march to Mumbai, BEST, ( the agency for public transport in Mumbai) Auto and cab unions goes on strike; their pleas are noticed and in some cases, Chief Minister of Maharashtra personally intervenes and assures them that needful will be done. For obvious reasons, soldiers cannot undertake a protest march, neither can they go on strike; their pleas stay unheard.

Their Sweat and Toil is no mean feat

Having been a sportsperson myself, I know the sweat and toil and passion that go into becoming a player of the repute of our Indian sportspersons. The scrapped knuckles and knees, the swollen ankles, the bruises on various parts of the body due to injuries while practice is an integral part of the sportsman’s life. But I still doubt that if what our soldiers go through in the academies and later in their careers is comparable to anything else at all. For the uninformed civilian, our impression of the soldier is restricted to what is shown in the warfare movies and that may just be the tip of the iceberg.

We drool over a celebrity and are in awe of him/her who sits for hours at a stretch for a certain makeup.  But we wouldn’t know what it is to be staying in a bunker at -40 with the risk of dealing with chilblains or frostbites or to traverse glaciers and bridge crevasses with the help of aluminum ladders, to try and land choppers on a ship that is rolling and pitching in the middle of the sea or what it means to be high up in the sky facing the enemy and depending only on your own grit and decision making where even a split second delay could mean the difference between life and death or flying a chopper at 20000 feet where even a few minutes without oxygen could be fatal.

With due respects to the sportspersons and the film stars of our country, I have no grudges whatsoever against them. In fact I too would probably make my way through a manageable crowd to take a selfie with my favorite cricketer, footballer, actor or playback singer. There is also no denying the fact that these celebrities themselves have a heart of gold and this was seen in the opening ceremony of the current IPL tournament where the cricketers donated huge sums of money to the Armed Forces and the many occasions when the celebrities have come forward to help the jawans.  But the Indian Armed Forces’ personnel are worth their weight in gold because of the Chetwood Motto ingrained in the officers of the Indian Army ; the nation first, the fellow troops second and themselves last  and I am sure this motto holds true for the officers of the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force too.

As G.K Chesterton says ‘A true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.’  The irony is that while the celebrities receive accolades for their ‘performances’, sometimes even the supreme sacrifice of our military personnel goes unrecognized.

Spare a thought and offer gratitude                                                                           

In a talk show that was held on a TV channel with regards to Armed Forces, in reply to a question as to what do the families of the Fallen soldiers need, someone associated with such families said that they need empathy and gratitude from their fellow countrymen and nothing else. While we are doling out so much adulation for our celebrities maybe we can also do this bit for our Armed Forces and their families.  Why only families of such brave hearts, try speaking to a veteran for some time. Their patriotism and their optimism are contagious. The passion with which they speak about their time in the Armed Forces and the pride with which they speak of their institution is inspirational, the tales of unity and the camaraderie in their units irrespective of cast, religion or the region one belongs to, every incident and story thereof gives Goosebumps and increases the respect for their fraternity. A few conversations with them on a regular basis are enough to motivate one to join the Armed Forces. I happen to be just two decades late.

From my limited interactions with a few veterans I can convincingly say that our Armed Forces personnel do their jobs without the expectation of being in limelight but as citizens we should forever be indebted to them for their services and not only after the supreme sacrifices are made. I would like to end this piece with a quote of Rudyard Kipling which has been used by many veterans in recent times, in the talk shows and their articles – ‘In times of war and not before, Gods and soldiers we adore. But in times of peace and all things righted, God is forgotten and the soldier slighted’.  Let us not forget our soldiers, sailors and our airmen; we are happy and blissfully enjoying the freedom and the privileges associated with it because of our brethren in the Armed Forces.

More power to the sportspersons of our country to bring glory to us and to the men in uniform to continue emerging victorious in all their battles (including the one for their rights).

Credits

Featured Image recreated using images from Wikimedia Commons

Officers of the Indian Navy during a parade in 2013 : https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Officers_of_the_Indian_Navy_during_a_parade_in_2013.jpg&oldid=306899702

Indian Army image  source : https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Indian_Army-Sikh_Light_Infantry_regiment.jpeg&oldid=305710001

Indian Air Force image source : https://commons.wikimedia.org/index.php?title=File:A_marching_contingent_passes_through_the_Rajpath_during_the_full_dress_rehearsal_for_the_Republic_Day_Parade-2008,_in_New_Delhi_on_January_23,_2008.jpg&oldid=316703969

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love it or Lose it! Do Live it up!

 

While I was reading Ruskin Bond’s A Book of Simple Living, a revelation of sorts happened. In one of the chapters in this book, the author refers to Lao Tzu’s thoughts which implies that trying to hold on to things in the world is the easiest way to lose it. That’s when it occurred to me that this was true for human relationships too.

So many times, people are so worried about losing their loved one that they cling on annoyingly and desperately. Despite acknowledging that death is inevitable and nobody is indispensable, they still fear the failure of a relationship. Not realizing that it is this very fear and the resultant actions that will cause the end.

How easy it is to say that one should just let things be and accept whatever is. Wish it was easy to do so too; let relationships take their own course, trust in one’s love and have faith in the divine. Maybe that too would be one way to make relationships survive longer. But more often than not the fear of losing a loved one overpowers the faith in love.

Rather than vying for another person’s love and attention it is more sensible to love yourself. Where there is love for one’s self, it automatically leads to love from others. Apart from that, loving yourself ensures that you are no more yearning for anybody else’s love. Once you realize your own worth, you also understand that the one who thinks you to be worthy enough of love will make all attempts to be with you and love you rather than stay aloof. When you start loving yourself, you start giving importance to your own needs over the others rather than expect others to do it.  You start focusing on things that make you feel happy albeit without causing harm to other people. You cannot expect someone else to love you without you doing it yourself first. The love that you expect from anybody else is what you should be giving yourself. Being loved by a one particular person should never be made an essential element in life. It is ok if he/she cannot love you back; you will survive if that person is not a part of your life. So love yourself, let the rest be. Anyone who loves you will be there for you, no matter what. Love doesn’t have to be begged for; it has to be professed freely and handsomely.

Remember, love should never lead to fear or worry, it should only provide comfort. Love should be strength not a weakness.

Curiosity doesn’t kill the cat, but empowers the frog within the well

It is a pity how some people think that they are learned enough and know it all. On the contrary, I presume that there is actually so much to learn, if only one was open to it; from meanings of words in a language, to an entire language altogether, new skills, new traits & even attitudes to deal with the vagaries of life.

If one is curious enough to ask questions, (someone needs to be patient enough to answer them too) seemingly simple everyday things too can lead to knowledge enhancement. When you spend some time in the company of a small child, you realize that the child asks numerous questions relentlessly. Most of us still have that child in us. But most of the time, out of a fear of being ridiculed or to avoid seeming stupid, we let those questions be, refrain from asking and either stop seeking answers or form our own perceptions. Perceptions that may be false too.

It makes sense to seem stupid, be curious and seek answers rather than continue with the ignorance of the subject. Simply put, if one is content with status quo, then their existence would be similar to the frog in the well; limited & oblivious to the changes in the world. The choice is simple and clear, dive into the sea of knowledge or be stuck like the frog in the well.

 

Orations that linger on.

An early morning walk, on a pleasant winter morning, with the headphones in place cutting out all the noise; listening to a speech of one of the most well-known motivational speakers is one of the most positive ways to begin the day.

Irrespective of whether one believes in all the positivity talks that the motivational speakers give or whether one wants to follow the tips/lessons/advice that are shared by them, one should nevertheless listen to these talks once in a while. The passion with which they speak about having a positive mindset, making changes to one’s thoughts and thereby altering one’s lives, etc. etc. may seem too elementary and yet too good to be true. To some, it may all seem unachievable and difficult to practice. Nevertheless, such talks definitely uplift the mood of a person. Suddenly a mundane task of changing dirty linen into fresh ones and clearing cobwebs seems pleasant. Just because of the passion with which these speakers express the ideas and thoughts.

Although, the steps suggested involve a certain amount of efforts, these orators make it seem really simple. The ease and energy with which these things are communicated makes you want to drop everything and start working on those very things ( I am a firm believer in the fact that changing the thoughts can change lives). However, not everyone may agree to these or want to take the necessary steps.

Irrespective of believing these advices or wanting to implement them, it seems like a very nice way to start the day. When we begin our day with such positive vibes and thoughts, we tend to carry the positivity throughout the day and thereby handle stress relatively well. Listening to these orations could be like listening to radio. Although we may not remember every song that we listen to, one or two of them just lingers on in our minds and we even end humming a tune or two. Likewise, positivity too may just linger on.

Try it; it may not be a bad idea, after all.

Why do we need sufferings, to nudge us towards Happy Endings?

I am a diehard romance story fan and I have grown up reading romantic novels. As every normal teenager, it first started with Mills & Boons and then as I grew older, I moved on to some of the best selling novelists like Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Lowell, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Nicholas Sparks and a few more authors. Needless to say I grew up watching the mushy romantic movies as well. More often than not ( specially where the male and female protagonists are at loggerheads initially) towards the end of the story, there is a pain in the form of a near death situation or a death of a loved one, a separation or a suffering of some kind which forces either of them to profess his/ her to the other. But that’s not how it is in real life. We don’t necessarily have to wait to endure pain to profess our love to our loved ones. All we have to do is to get past our egos, believe in the truthfulness of our love and profess it. In a 400 pages’ work of fiction or a 2 hour movie, such a situation is CREATED. Not necessarily such a situation will arise in our lives before our loved one has drifted away and actually we don’t even NEED such a situation to hold on to somebody. It is just a matter of looking beyond imperfections and acknowledging the presence and the efforts of a beloved. I fear that maybe by portraying that suffering and pain may lead to a success in a relationship or strengthening of a bond, subconsciously this is what gullible and vulnerable people may start believing in. Maybe the writers need to portray more about leaving aside menial differences and looking at how lovable their partner can be. But then probably the readers too love this cotton candy that is offered to them, which may not entirely be true but is not a myth either.

What is gone, will not be back.

16Mar18

All of us encounter different people in our lives; some in the form of friends, some as mentors & some as mere acquaintances. However, at various stages of our lives, there may be few people who tend to be much more special than the others. They could be just friends or someone who means more than that.

Parting ways is unavoidable

We wish that we never part with these people and that they stay on with us forever. But, for obvious reasons, that is not the case always. Sometimes, we have to deal with separation, owing to death or sometimes just out of circumstances or our own will. When the reason of severance is death, we have no choice but to move on with our lives. But when we are disconnected due to circumstances, then sometimes we tend to hold on to the relationship in the hope that things may turn around. In some cases, people tend to latch on to someone in the hope of developing a relationship. But certain things are just not meant to happen. Instead of accepting the fact that some people may not be destined to be a part of one’s life, & to keep hoping that things might just work out, is like setting oneself up for disappointment.

Fairy tale endings are not for everyone

Yes it is tough to believe that you are just not enough or right for someone; to acknowledge that someone you love so deeply prefers to choose another person over you.  But if that is the case, there is no running away from it. By not accepting someone’s absence from our life, we are only causing more distress to ourselves. The acknowledgement of a failed relationship or lost love is a short term pain. But hoping for a resurrection of the relationship or reappearance of the same love is asking for disappointment over & over again. Living in denial about a situation doesn’t change the situation. It only makes it worse for us in the long run.

How much and how far can you run away from reality? The world doesn’t end at one person. Every life doesn’t have a fairy tale ending where Cinderella finds her Prince. In some cases, either the Prince never shows up or sometimes he just moves on

Moving on is difficult but not impossible.  

Life too is about moving on. God gave us this life, for us to live it fully with happiness & joy; not to be sulking over someone who fortunately or unfortunately is not a part of your life anymore. Although it is easier said than done, it is not impossible.

Remember, what is yours will stay with you effortlessly and what is not yours will go away even with all the efforts under the sun. So know when to give up and how much to try and learn to live your life as if nobody or nothing makes a difference.

9 oct 17

You are worthy of all the happiness & love. Seek love, seek happiness. Spread love, spread happiness. Life is not limited to one person, one relationship or one achievement.  There is always something better waiting to unfold, if only one has the willingness for it.