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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Timeless – Jaisalmer Night Stroll

 The best way to really see and feel a city is to enter its heart, the very foundation around and on top of which it grows to become what it is today. Jaisalmer is surely one of those places to be seen from inside out.

 

When we entered one of the popular market near the fort, we took a de-tour purely on instincts.

 

The narrow streets that were barely 3 to 4 feet wide seemed to be calling upon us.

 We were warned by the locals about a bull fighting in progress around the corner and a bunch of bulls came charging and even knocked an old man (He didn’t get hurt). And me the camera-woman, jumped and climbed a high slab in one attempt!

Since it was past nine, most of the people were done with dinner and just preparing to call it a day – watching TV, closing the shutters, rinsing mouths post dinner, sitting outside on the stone slabs outside the house, after a tough hot day.

There were children playing badminton and seemed to get more enthusiastic about their otherwise mundane routine on seeing us. They started playing with more energy.

Even the elderly folks looked curious about us roaming around in the streets, so late in the night, carrying a camera. But at the same time no one actually felt intruded upon.

I shook hands and clicked a pic of 2 kids who were smiling and looking at me (and the camera). They were shy and very happy when I showed them their picture. It was a very precious moment for me, though the pic came out a bit blurred. Bad light + no tripod 😦

The smell of cow dung, food that was cooked and variety of other smells filled the place. The houses were a continuous stream such that it could have passed as one single home – ancient, artistic and rustic.

Great carving on almost every house, old small doors, thin ‘naalis’ to drain the waste water on each side of the street, the stone pavements… it was one the great walks to be remembered for a long long time.

Don’t touch me!

DON’T TOUCH ME, don’t touch me, don’t touch me ……..don’t touch me! I screamed. I’ll fall if you even try to touch me, don’t touch me. ‘Ok’ he said, looking tired and sitting a meter away from me, on the edge of the roof we were trying to climb.

Now this was no Mt Everest, just the roof top of our home. We have a terrace garden on same level as our first floor home, but no access to the roof top. So we were using an iron ladder to reach the top and have an un-obstructed view of the surrounding and the sky 😀

I took a deep breath, giggling a little and then cursing those who didn’t build a stairway to the roof. (No reaction from the other side).

So here I was standing on the ladder mustering every ounce of courage to climb the remaining 2-3 feet of my 12 feet climb. I had a flashback of the time I was trying to jump from one castle wall to another (that’s in old blog), and of the time when as a kid of 12 something, I used climb like a monkey and then jump like a frog from 10 feet height easily.

I didn’t want to give up, so I thought of a cool strategy. ‘Come and hold me’, I said! I am sure I saw a flicker of anger even in the dark. 🙂

Hold my arms, DON’T touch my hands and DON’T pull me even one bit. ‘Ok’ he said with assurance. 

I am sure I would have been hugely annoyed by now if the roles were swapped, but he patiently came and held my arms. I took the last 3 steps and he hauled me up on the last step.

All this effort just to see the roof? Sounds like an over-kill, but when we lied there silently gazing at the sky, all the efforts seemed worth it. In fact it was so beautiful that we decided to sleep there too. (I prefer to sleep outdoor when the weather is good – there is so much fresh air.)

Out came the tent, mats, pillows, bed sheets – and yes, how we managed to take all that to the roof using the same ladder, I leave to reader’s imagination 🙂