Huyi shyam, unka khayaal aa gaya…
True, having reached the evening of ones’ life (closer to the end than the beginning, as Alec Guiness says in `Bridge on the River Kwai’), one frequently looks back, and mellow thoughts of people, places, institutions and events cast a warm glow at the sunset hour. As Richard Church says..
Joy is sad in retrospect
Just as a time of strife
Calms in recollection..
If there’s one institution that one remembers most fondly, one that has shaped us for who we are, one that defines us in every sense of the word, that institution is, without a doubt, the Indian Army! What it has given us in terms of our work ethos, our pride in walking tall and our sense of camaraderie is beyond compare, and beyond words. The friendships one has made, the bonhomie shall most certainly outlive all of us – and that, to me, is its greatest gift to us.
So it is with considerable anguish that one reads that the insidious web of corruption that assails civil society has begun to creep into this wonderful institution as well. Stories of `Ketchup Colonels’ and `Rum Brigadiers’ and `Adarsh scams’ fill one with deep foreboding. We pray that these are one-off aberrations, and that the motto inscribed in Chetwode Hall will ultimately prevail.
Civil society, that amorphous entity, is today up in arms. Middle class anger, fuelled by a high decibel media, is the rage. One thought the Army would exert a sobering influence over the national debate. But lo and behold, it is our misguided ex-servicemen that are shouting the loudest. Rather than soothing the cacophony, they are actively conducting it with tremendous relish!
Switch on any news channel, and one sees the same faces (why the same faces ad nauseam? Daal mein kuch kaala hai??), handle bar moustaches bristling, raving and ranting at anchors who are the pits anyway (a Pakistani journo has tweeted that, if he shouted just a wee bit louder, Arnab Goswami could be heard in Pakistan even without them switching on their TV sets!) – one urging the Govt to unleash the Army, another screaming that we shut off the Indus waters. Such top brass, and such utter nonsense – who made these guys what they are? Check out Asma Jehangir calling Pak generals `siyasi duffers’ – she could well have been talking about the lot on this side!
Samina admits that their duffers are probably bigger than ours, but I differ - the only difference, I tell her, is that ours, thankfully, had never taken over the country!
The latest bit of news that caused me great pain was the hunger strike by the family of L/Nk Hemraj. I wrote on Facebook -
As soldiers, the qualities of courage and fortitude get inbuilt in us, and get passed on to our families as well. The behaviour of L/Nk Hemraj's family after his death, howsoever gruesome, has sadly been far from soldierly. The ill advised hunger strike, the calling it off after they were promised Rs 25 lacs by the UP CM has caused even greater anguish than the tragedy of his martyrdom..
Sadly, this resulted in a wave of backlash from my Army colleagues. I was accused of being insensitive to the plight of the lady, and my remarks on the largesse she received to break her fast were labelled as `uncharitable’. They sought to paint this incident as yet another voice raised against an insensitive Govt/System. But what was the lady protesting against? Non receipt of dues? That the Army not sensitive enough?
There were no answers to my queries, viz:-
- Does the widow of L/Nk Sudhakar also go on a hunger strike till she too gets 25 lacs?
- Do ALL war widows hereafter follow the same process? How is their case any different??
- Does this not show the glorious institution we all served in a poor light?
We need to look at these things with a sense of perspective, and not just emotionally. But that won't happen - if I speak against Anna Hazare, I am labelled as corrupt, if I do not thump my chest and shout anti Pakistan slogans, I am not a patriot!