Stand By Me

On a particularly sad day in 2016 when the Indian Army lost seven brave soldiers to a cowardly terrorist attack on the army camp at Nagrota, I opened my Facebook account late evening to check the newsfeed. Some stunning contradictions stared me in the face.

The left side of my Facebook page bore a small requiem from a civilian friend about the dastardly attack and how all this is so utterly deplorable. It had garnered about 66 ‘likes’ in about 12 hours, a modest total by my standards. The right half of my FB newsfeed that contains ‘trending’ items and sponsored links showed me that the most trending thing at that time was ‘Yuvraj Singh & Hazel Keech’s wedding’ – 18000 people were talking about it. 23000 people were talking about a Delhi High Court decree that a son has no legal right to property owned by his parents. 57000 people were also talking about actor Aamir Khan’s dramatic body transformation for the Bollywood movie ‘Dangal’.

As a stark contrast to all this, the terrorist attack on Nagrota was trending with 17000 people talking about it – lowest among the four items trending at 2000h on 30 Nov 16.

I viewed my rather barren Facebook page which bore the occasional post garnering a few likes, often in single digits. A recent post by me on why our soldiers require modern helicopters was going down without a fight to someone’s latest profile pic. I shrugged my shoulders and moved on, resolving to do better next time. But what of our soldiers who are being paraded on Facebook without the honour & respect due to them through our actions in real life?

I scrolled back to the sad update about the Nagrota attack & wondered whether contributing an emoticon or hitting ‘Like’ would make any difference to the martyred soldiers or their distraught families at a time of grave tragedy. I ground my teeth and let it pass. Maybe I am as guilty as the netizen who put out the soldiers’ photograph. Perhaps by not hitting that ‘like’ or ‘comment’ box, in some small way, I contributed to the fact that a terrorist attack on one of our frontline outposts was trending much lower on social media than a cricketer’s wedding.

It is an important day for our armed forces; a good time to make some promises to our soldiers if we really care.

If you respect the soldier, make that trip to your neighbouring city or village to attend his last rites when he is martyred.

If you respect the soldier, shake his hand or offer him a warm smile next time you cross him at a busy juncture in life.

If you respect the soldier, make your voice count when self-proclaimed intellectuals and armchair theorists propagate the ‘he signed up for it’ theory.

If you respect the soldier, ask yourself what you have done for their families after they made the ultimate sacrifice. Do you know of even ONE such family to whose welfare you have committed even a SINGLE day?

If you respect the soldier, take his children for a day out to the nearest mall or amusement park while their fathers are guarding our frontiers.

If you respect the soldier, stand up for him when his position in society is weakened by successive governments.

If you respect the soldier, ask your connections in high places to offer them a chance at resettlement when he steps out of uniform with scars of service, both physical & mental. And by the way, some of them can do way better than just manage HR & security.

If you respect the soldier, step in when he is being harassed by someone on the street. Sometimes, even corrupt traffic cops & unruly autorickshaw drivers don’t think twice before violating a soldier’s dignity.

If you respect the soldier, reserve some seats in your airline, restaurant or multiplex and mark them “For real heroes only

If you respect the soldier, ask why it took this country of 1.3 billion 70 yrs after independence to erect a National War Memorial after fighting alongside the British in two world wars and three wars of our own.

After you are done with all this, please celebrate your achievement by posting on social media. We do not need empty obituaries from digital India. We need you to stand by us in real life before you celebrate us on Facebook or mourn us through Twitter.

 

pic-courtesy-diptesh-ghoshPicture Courtesy: Prof. Diptesh Ghosh, IIM Ahmedabad (When the Navy Band played in IIMA for the first time, 21 Feb 2014)

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©KP Sanjeev Kumar, 2016-19. All rights reserved.

22 thoughts on “Stand By Me

  1. As said and true…..God and Soldiers are remembered only in time of need…hoping such need does not arise for the uninformed too often…happy Navy Day

    1. That is a sad day when the Armed Forces have to justify their existence and a nation has to be reminded to be grateful. Its truly disillusioning. But, I guess, that is why US is the great country that it is, when u compare how they treat their veterans and how we treat ours.

  2. Very soldierly Sanjeev if I may say that to a naval officer… stoic, dignified, practical without all the unnecessary sound and fury one hears nowadays when discussing the armed forces.

    With your permission will share on Facebook. Happy Navy Day.

  3. Kp. Hats off and kudos for a wonderful thought provoking article. You have articulated the thoughts and feelings of the entire community
    Social media is an ubiquitous presence in all our lives today. It , and I maybe making a bit of a tall claim here, mirrors what most of us are interested in.
    The trending topics you brought out shows only one thing. An Indian life is cheap. Seven killed….has just become a mere statistic….to be read and forgotten. This disregard for the value of a life is a very Indian phenomenon. This is probably the end result of a huge population. Not so in the US. Every life is important and their national policy states that explicitly.
    This is the kind of mindset change we must endeavour to achieve
    One more issue. We want the general public to be aware of our contribution to society. We want them to do this and that and respect us….recognise us.
    I want to suggest another angle. Look inwards. See what the Armed Forces can do for its veterans. A pension and a few privileges does not cut it.
    We need to explore how we can recognise and reward our own.
    My two bits worth of thought.
    Happy Navy Day
    Cheers and God bless us all

  4. KP as usual nice and thought provoking article. The irony is, in the world we live in, security is taken for granted , fallen soldiers are reduced to ticker tapes …….

  5. Kips…
    Actually we becoming country of aimless armchair warriors…shallow in thoughts …I wonder if there is anything called THE NATIONAL PRIDE…left…..in our country men….BCCI power hungry office holders bother more our citizens….paid media is future shaping mode by shouting match between ill informed even ill-mannered politicians…
    Nonetheless uphill task for us to uphold the military pride …. without war ..we shall contribute our bit….

  6. Very apt and thought provoking . Has hit the Bull’s eye. The society need to see this in a different perspective and the time surely will come. A soldier will get his dues. Kudos. HAPPY NAVY DAY!

  7. Very well articulated KPS! Such a joy to read your posts; they are incisive, thought provoking and keeping it real.

  8. This gripping post with a touchy title opened my eyes a little wider as to the contribution made by fellow Indian’s to the brave-hearted at the borders. This one will stay with me for a long time! As always, you haven’t ceased to amaze. Awesome work, sir. 😀

  9. How beautifully expressed Kps…there are so many queries which go in our minds when such incidents occur..U left no stone unturned n touched every aspect of it..how fake is our societal set up…we read such horrific incidents but refuse to contribute an inch to bring a change or empathise with the bereaved families.

  10. Commander Handa shared this on Facebook today. I am a regular person with not much knowledge of the Armed forces life. Thank you for putting things in perspective. Truly a thought provoking article and so relevant in today’s times. More power to you…with writing and flying. RESPECT!

  11. KP, I sometimes wonder, why in our nation, a soldier needs to justify his existence to the very people he defends. Is it something with our culture, or is it a sign of changing times. Is it that we are too populous for his value to be known to everyone or is every one is caught in their own cacoon of problems that the death of a soldier seems far detached from his own self made world. It’s really a strange phenomenon.
    You’ve touched the right nerve, but I’m afraid, the answer is still a mystery.
    Well written KP. WRITE ON.

    1. I may be wrong but sometimes I feel the respect and warmth shown to soldiers wanes in direct proportion to distance from our northern frontiers. Down South, most folks have never been affected by major wars in the last millennium (and thank god for that). So the soldier is often slighted and neglected. But when disaster strikes, everyone is on a swansong. I find this quite intriguing. Maybe it’s just me

  12. Sanju, Truly heartwarming… your article has given a lot of food for thought… A very touching description:-
    Just thought of sharing a touching write up by a student….

    We both left home at 18.
    You cleared JEE,
    I got recommended.
    You got IIT,
    I got NDA.
    You pursued your degree,
    I had the toughest training.
    Your day started at 7 and ended at 5,
    Mine started at 4 till 9 and
    Some nights also included.
    You had your convocation ceremony,
    I had my POP.
    Best company took you and
    Best package was awarded,
    I was ordered to join my paltan
    With 2 stars piped on my shoulders.
    You got a job,
    I got a way of life.
    Every eve you got to see your family,
    I just wished i got to see my parents soon.
    You celebrated festivals with lights and music,
    I celebrated with my comrade in bunkers.
    We both married,
    Your wife got to see you everyday,
    My wife just wished i was alive.
    You were sent to business trips,
    I was sent on line of control.
    We both returned,
    Both wives couldn’t control their tears, but
    You wiped her but,
    I couldn’t.
    You hugged her but,
    I couldn’t.
    Because I was lying in the coffin,
    With medals on my chest and,
    Coffin wrapped with tricolour.
    My way of life ended,
    Your continued.
    We both left home at 18.

  13. KPS as you see sadly the state continues. Though the people have come to streets this time mainly because of the scale of tragedy.
    But the memory is short term. The question is whether there will be any systemic change.

    1. I am afraid, another IPL or a few sixers flying off Virat Kohli’s bat will be enough to get the media and public attention away from the moot points in this debate.

  14. Our salutes to the fallen heros who put country ahead of their own lives and their families. For the noble soul, the country is the mother. Unless and until every citizen innately feels about the motherland, things will remain. Bringing change and being patrioric has to start @ home when young, and the love for the country becomes Paramount for every citizen.
    Chanakya could drum up everyone during his time, but everyone today are Dhananand followers…
    I believe things will change surely, but slowly…

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