The other side of “Rashtriya Rifles”

Many years ago I had the privilege to visit one of the naval ships in Cochin. That was probably also the first time I was being introduced in a “defense environment”. While I climbed the stairs, a smartly dressed officer stood in a crisp salute. He looked like a statue and those 30 seconds are imbibed in my memory forever. What did I do to deserve such a gesture? Simply being married to an officer in Indian armed forces was enough qualification? Something didn’t seem right and as much as I cherish that memory it also made me immensely uncomfortable. At-least until now!

It is mandatory to serve tenure with the Rashtriya Rifles in Kashmir for curbing the insurgency of the militants from across the borders. When the posting orders came, the thought of him going away in a “hot” area was indeed scary – at-least if I thought about it.

People often asked me – how I felt – “don’t you feel scared?” I replied saying that I don’t think about it. I started waking up at 5:30 am. Went to Gurudwara with my mother in law, then to office gym and was at my desk before 9 am. This is how I coped for first few months – without thinking.

It took him less than 6 months to get in the grid and I could hear the enthusiasm in his voice gradually increasing. He loved what he did and knowing that made me happy and even proud. I always knew that if anyone deserved to be a true officer in the Indian Army – it is him. During school days I have seen the shine in his eyes at the mention of the fighter planes and though that dream was not to be – it was for good reason.

It was the toughest challenge ever for him. To be in “field” and to be responsible for life of men under his command was unnerving indeed. All he could do was to be-prepared. And that he did. With full force he trained his men. When he told me of the things he did for training men, I was simply in awe. There were operations that stretched for days together with barely anything to eat. Sub zero temperature, difficult terrain, thick jungles, hostile civil environment didn’t help either. The list of hurdles is not short and it is difficult to pen them down here for many reasons.

Bravery is not a matter of choice. People who show an act of bravery don’t choose to act in that way. There is often no time to think. Such people just act as they always do – on instinct. It might seem as bravado only as an after-thought. It is an animal instinct, like a tiger knows when to hunt, deer knows when to run, and a soldier knows when to rise above the call of duty. It’s a character, not an action.

Every time there was a kill, he would sound happy. I usually said nothing. And in the fag-end of his tenure, he actually sounded low after a kill. He and I were finally on the same boat. Ending someone’s life is not a happy occasion, even though for a cause.

 Quote Unquote

 “He put his life on the line so many times and mostly when no one was watching! In my eyes he deserved a Param Vir Chakra.” – Anonymous

“Freedom means you will have to be responsible for every act, for every breath; whatever you do or don’t do, you will be responsible” – Article from TOI.

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