Born of my father, bred by the Indian Army
July 25, 2012 @ 00:00 am
One of my earliest memories, as a child, was looking up at a short yet proud man donning fatigues, black boots and a blue beret. He woke up at the crack of dawn, pinned three stars on each shoulder and a series of medals on his chest, and when I saw him,
For a good part of my life, I have heard from several quarters that it is a great privilege to be born into the Indian Army. As a young girl, I was proud of my father although I couldn’t fully comprehend why. I was fascinated by the quaint looking quarters, lavish parties in banquet halls, the extravagantly dressed senior officers and their demure wives, the high headed cadets and the ornate bars. It was a treat to come home to my father, share a meal with him and have him teach me a sport. It was a wondrous feeling to walk into the Army Headquarters with my father in tow and witness the salute of respect and the ringing tone with which officers bellowed, “Jai Hind” and tipped their berets. This fascination began and ended every time my father was shipped off to a different location every three to five years.
Adaptability is the name of the game when you are a dependant of a serving officer, I was taught well. My father was always accompanied by the entire family on all his postings, we were fortunate enough to not have too many come our way. One gloomy afternoon in early June 1999, my father walked into the house to have lunch with the family, a rather regular affair, he announced that he was being posted out. I recall my mother and brother being quite alarmed; I held my composure essentially because I didn’t know what his statement meant. He packed his things and left, almost immediately. He was headed to Jammu as a part of the Armed Medical Core contingent. I remember saying my goodbyes. I remember feeling a sense of loss that I couldn’t quite explain.
The thing about television is that it shows you too much, war coverage was then, uncensored or well, not censored enough for an impressionable eleven year old. For the first time, I felt angry; all I wanted at that time was to be a civilian. I wanted Barkha Dutt to stop talking. I wanted to call my father and speak to him and ensure that he was safe, but that’s the thing about being a part of the Indian Army, we have middle men, operators who didn’t care too much for the eleven year old who really wanted to speak to Colonel Saab, there were too many of us. I went weeks without speaking to the short, proud man. I remember, vividly, each nightmare during those horrid three months. In those months, my mother worked long hours, my brother was transferred and I came home to an empty house wishing that Colonel Saab was there to train me for a game the next day. I wasn’t so fascinated by the Olive Green anymore.
Op. Vijay ended on 26th July, 1999. My father returned home, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. He had another ribbon to add to the series of medals, he wore on his chest. He recollected stories from the siege, he informed us that he was attacked my militants in Srinagar, I remember gasping, he wasn’t impressed. That’s the thing about being a part of the Indian Army, as dramatized as it may sound; you are expected to don the proverbial armor of steel.
I may not know a thing about the inner workings of the Indian Army, I may not always be proud but what I do know is that the Indian Armed Forces is something I will never shirk from wearing on my sleeve. My father returned, my brother wasn’t so lucky but I don’t grudge the system anything. I am proud that I am, if not a part of, at least associated with a structure that helps people rest assured. I am proud of every soldier that held up the tricolor and every soldier who was laid to rest in it and it isn’t too much to ask for every Indian to be too. I was born of my father but bred of the Indian Army.
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