Ae Mere Watan Ke Logo

For this week, I had something else on my mind but then Lohri/ Sankrant came in and my WhatsApp was filled with hundreds of megabytes of til gur, pithes, pati-shaptas, bhogi chi bhaaji and huge thaals full of the popcorn-peanuts-rewri mixture. Then someone shared a map of India depicting the harvest festival, being celebrated across the country, just with different names.

That got me ruminating. I have always wondered (quite often aloud) and eventually arrived at the same conclusion- as a country we should be spending more energy on proving how our seemingly diverse cultures are only different roads leading to the same destination. And yet we choose to focus on things that divide us. Since 15th January is Army Day, naturally I connected the two.

Although Army Day is observed in recognition of Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa’s taking over as the first C-in-C of the Indian Army, today is a good time to think about our soldiers, our true heroes. I have immense respect for doctors and teachers but my sense of awe for soldiers goes much beyond that, partly because they do what I can probably never think of doing.

What prompts them to join the army, to stand in the line of fire, is beyond me. How do their families cope with regular transfers and the long absences? And what is it like, to live everyday wondering if it could be their last. It’s a job but they don’t do it just for their families as most of us civilians do. They do it for people like us, their fellow countrymen but total rank strangers nonetheless.

Sadly, as a country, we do not reciprocate with enough fervour. I believe we don’t think of them often. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I say we hardly think of them. Our parents’ generation had atleast seen the war. They remember how everyone would eagerly flock around the radio when the then PM Lal Bahadur Shastri’s speeches would boom through, exhorting the nation to spare a thought for our soldiers.

Our generation takes peace for granted. Sitting in our drawing rooms we are quick to respond to cries for war. How enthusiastically we forward those messages that speak of war as the ultimate and only solution. How easily we talk about dushman ko sabak sikhana, completely forgetting how even a small injury can reduce us to howls and tears. Why do we happily fall for that kind of propaganda? I have no answer to this.

But maybe if we would just evaluate our actions and how they affect our country, these questions may become inconsequential. That is our only hope to be a better people, a better nation. We fight over religion, caste, politics, even cricket and movies. I feel petty and I think we urgently need a change of perspective.  Let’s pause and remember these brave hearts and be extremely mindful of our thoughts and actions.

Most of you would have heard the song, Ae Mere Watan Ke Logo, in Lata Mangeshkar’s soulful voice. Whenever I hear it, I get all teary-eyed. Listen to it one more time and pay attention to the lyrics. Kavi Pradeep says it much more eloquently than I probably ever could.

I have been following Mrs. Meghna Girish for a while now. Many of you may know her but for those of you who don’t, allow me. On November 29th, 2016, her son, Major Akshay Girish displayed indomitable courage and made the supreme sacrifice leaving his mother with the identity of the mother of a martyr. She took to writing and talking about her son, celebrating his life in his death

I mention her here today because I want everyone to read what she writes and see her videos. I feel that will help us connect better to soldiers and their families and on a more human level. And that just might give us the perspective that we need.

Leaving you with a link of her latest video that I had also shared on my Facebook page but just cant resist doing it here one more time. Do watch and think of our soldiers as you read this.

Dr. Shivani Salil

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