As a proponent, I have become accustomed to paying a weekly visit to my luminaries staying at a Rehabilitation Centre.
Today I was a part of the throng of admirers responsible to fill the air with cheering and tons of encouragement for the participants.
The much-awaited Sports Day was being celebrated with various games like Shot-put, Discus throw, Throw ball and Wheel Chair race being hosted.
Amongst the wheel bound students racing their wheelchairs was a familiar face.
He was the one dad introduced to us when he came back home along with his comrade as ‘a committed and gallant person who answers to the sobriquet ‘Hardy’.’
Hardy had donned his lucky blue T-shirt and black trousers.
His eyes were twinkling with mirth and his lips were twisted into a cordial smile which neatly outwitted the individual emotional responses associated with those two colours of the visible spectrum.
What’s more, he enjoyed the camaraderie of the hordes of participants all with the same goal in mind.
His Main Training appears to be nearing completion after which his On Job Training(OJT) would be carried out with local state/central government public and private enterprises.
Just like his batchmates, after the completion of the course, he aspires to stay back in the armed forces till he finishes his fifteen years of service, before venturing out on his own in order to earn a livelihood for his family.
Army’s insurance still covers only martyrs and not those who have been disabled in the battlefield.
“Terrorists stormed inside an Army camp located in an area about 120km from Srinagar in early hours on Saturday. The gun battle started at around 4:00 am when the terrorists opened fire after crossing over into Indian territory. Recoveries included – 1 AK-47, 7 grenades, 1 hunting knife, and 5 magazines.
Around 6 pm, the Army confirmed at a press briefing that nine soldiers had been severely injured and three army jawans(soldiers) were martyred in a four-hour gun battle there. The Army officials added that two terrorists have been killed.”, was the breaking news presented by anchors of myriad news channels a few years ago.
Compatriots did take a moment to pay their tributes. In place of celebrities, ‛Patriotism’ was crowned as the trending topic on a day other than national days; for a few minutes.
Hardy was one of those nine injured soldiers. He was hit by 16 bullets by terrorists. Fortunately, he survived the hail of fire but such was the extent of damage caused to his right leg that it had to be amputated. He also lost the use of his left hand.
He was thus declared permanently disabled for the rest of his life and fortunately, given admission to the Rehabilitation Centre for differently-abled soldiers.
A pall of gloom descended on the residential areas in the vicinity of those martyrs’ dwellings of the Indian subcontinent, including mine.
A phone call from the Army Headquarters metamorphosed my mother into a widow.
My father was among those three soldiers of the Indian Army who attained martyrdom in that pre-dawn fidayeen attack on an Army camp on Saturday.
“I will be back. I promise.”
He used to say and thus bid us adieu.
No. Dad didn’t lie to me. Perhaps, he wanted me to complete his parting words;
“Either I will come back after hoisting the tricolour(Indian flag), or I will come back wrapped in it, but I will be back for sure.”
He had honored his promise.
Armchair fans of war should find a visit to such Rehabilitation Centres, especially the empty dining room. There is just one big table and nothing else. No chairs. The mystery is solved when men in wheelchairs come and neatly assemble around the table.
These men were soldiers once, but when splinters tear off their spinal cord, they come here paralysed, waist or even neck downwards.
The wounds of war can go far beyond what meets the eye. In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.
One might be astounded while reviewing the progress chart of these luminaries, from the way they introduce themselves.
Their morale has been boosted significantly from ‘Better dead than disabled.’ to ‘We aren’t disabled. We are just ‘multi-abled’.’
This incident somehow enabled me to do away with my blinders and explore the world which exists beyond all the glitterati.
Rather than being one of those ‘fans’ surging around reel heroes’ car asking for autographs and thanking them for entertaining us by their acting, in other words, being starstruck;
I have chosen to be a normal human being; one who expresses his gratitude towards everyone who works hard to comfort our lives; be it a teacher, a farmer, a guardian, a domestic help or an actor.
Above all, I have chosen to thank these real heroes for their selfless love towards our nation that makes them offer the supreme sacrifice for us; so that our lives are secure enough so that we could relish those comforts.
I fear to mention the name of my dad.
Would you let a real hero’s identity fade away, in the same way it was overshadowed by those reel heroes? Even you, Diary?
Son of a martyr
- The Kargil war left 524 Indian soldiers dead and 1,363 wounded.
- Several other unsung heroes live in anonymity struggling to make both ends meet in a country where media and politicos go berserk with frenzy annually celebrating the Kargil victory.
What is the use of all the pomp and show at military displays or basking in the glory of our military achievements if we cannot take care of our disabled soldiers?
- “Hrunn: Ab Hamari Jimmedari” is an initiative launched in India by QMTI, Queen Mary’s Technical Institute for differently abled soldiers.
- The initiative’s objective is to raise funds for the respectable rehabilitation of the differently abled Indian soldiers by providing them vocational-cum-professional training courses and making them eligible to work in different sectors and fields post-retirement.
- Hrunn Facebook page
- QMTI Website
- They don’t want special consideration for their disabilities, only fair and humane treatment―from the government they served and from the communities in which they live.
We owe them a debt of gratitude for all the help they have given us.
- P.S.- In this blog post, I have taken only the organisation active in the Indian subcontinent into account. But, there are several such organisations across the world.
“Ask not what your country can do for you―ask what you can do for your country.” –John F. Kennedy