Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Indian Soldier

Someone sent me a message on WhatsApp this morning which I didn’t find funny at all. In fact, I felt disgusted:

“Dear Pakistanis! We have become immune to the martyrdom of our soldiers because they are paid to die! But you just try and kill one of our cows… then we will show you the stuff we are made of!”

I think the man who invented this piece of junk must have been deficient in the upper story. This sort of black humor denigrates the bravery of our soldiers.

I have seen them in action from close quarters. I lived on the LOC for a TV serial which we shot in the Rajouri sector many years ago. I spent some time in an Indian picket bang opposite a Pakistani picket. It was just a few yards away, across a rivulet. And every night was Diwali night. There was cross-firing from sundown till sunrise every day. I heard and saw many things which made me come to the conclusion that these soldiers are an extraordinary lot!

I think the ultimate compliment to the Indian soldier was paid by an old Englishman whom I met in a Pub in London many years ago (1963) during my summer vacations in my student days in Moscow.

After a tiring day of sight-seeing and walking through the British Museum, I was sitting in a Pub one evening, swigging beer and relaxing when thin, haggard old man dressed shabbily came up to me and asked me where I was from. The sudden appearance of the old man took me by surprise.

“I am from Bombay” I said, hoping that the conversation would end there and the fellow would leave me alone. The old man face broke into a broad smile, displaying a set of uneven, yellowed teeth. He asked me if he could sit down. Reluctantly I said “why not”.

“You are not from Bombay!” he declared after taking his seat.
“I am” I replied.
“No, you are not! I am from Bombay!” he said. “I spent my whole life in India. I was a colonel in the Indian Army and my regimental headquarters were in Colaba, Bombay. Great to meet a fellow Bombayite!”
“Glad to meet you too, Sir” I said shaking hands with him. He looked genuinely happy.

“How is my Bombay?”
“It’s a bit crowded but a great city!”
“I miss India! I hate the cold, damp climate here. But I am sad …”
His face turned serious. He became agitated, angry, almost livid as he leaned across the table and said hoarsely:
“How could the Chinese get the better of the Indian army?”
“Well” I blurted out angrily, “That is none of your business!”
“Yes, it is” he answered emphatically.

He ordered another beer, took a few generous gulps and continued:

“When I went into battle, I didn’t do so with Tommies! With the Gurkhas, the Sikhs, the Pathans, the Pashtoons, the Marathas, the Rajputs or even the Scottish Highlanders by my side I was unbeatable! I didn’t ever go into an attack with the Tommies! It was always with the Indian soldiers! But then nowadays the Pathan is fighting the Sikh; the Pashtoon the Rajput! The Baloch the Marathas! You are all busy fighting on another!”
He looked at me reproachfully for a while.

“You are fools!” he muttered dejectedly. “India would have been unstoppable if it had not been for the division of your country! We broke your back before we left India!!!”

He downed the beer in a hurry. He stared into the distance at some faraway horizon. He looked sad and his eyes became moist. “How did my army lose?” he muttered to himself as though he had lost a personal battle and left the table to get himself another beer.
I didn’t wait for him to return. I got up and left.

1 comment:

  1. The opening WhatsApp post, obviously you too will be aware, was rhetorically satirical!
    Barring this comment, I must appreciate the contents! Why only I, each Indian is proud of the Indian Services, be it Army, Navy or Airforce!