Sunday, 31 January 2010

For your tomorrow, we gave our today

Yesterday was Martyr’s Day in India – the day when perhaps its most illustrious martyr, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated more than 60 years ago. It’s a day largely unnoticed by the Indian public . We have many “days” these days – Children’s day, Teacher’s day, Father’s day, Mother’s day, and so on. Many are the product of a commercial opportunity exploited. In the clutter, the not so commercialised days fall by the wayside. I suggest that Martyr’s Day deserves rather more a consideration.

The supreme sacrifice for a country is the biggest call a nation can ever make to its citizens. The call comes to the military and, these days, unfortunately to political leaders. It is a supreme irony that Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace, fell victim to an assassin’s bullet. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi followed as martyrs – assassinated because of something they did in office. This post is however more on the military side of martyrdom.

Every military man knows when he joins the military that he may be required to give up his life. What an ask from society of any human being. Those who willingly take up this ask, deserve society’s highest praise. Of all the citizens a nation honours, the martyr must be at the very top.

Unfortunately the word martyr has been hijacked these days by terrorists. They promise martyrdom to ignorant zealots and then anoint them with that saintly word. These are the scum of the earth and to even associate nobility with such creatures is the worst of all sins.

If you witness the Republic Day parade, there is a very noble tradition. Before the parade starts, there is homage paid to the Amar Jawan Jyothi (the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier). It is the highest salute the nation can make to its martyrs. What follows is unbelievably heart touching. After the flag is hoisted, the President awards the nation’s highest military honours of that year. Each awardee is called and a citation is read before the President pins the medal. All too often, the mother, or the wife steps forward to receive the medal , for the soldier has fallen and is a martyr. Imagine the situation for the lady – in the presence of a massive crowd, with the fog hanging over the Delhi air, the President in front of her, the entire country watching, and her son’s or husband’s supreme sacrifice is eulogised. It won’t bring back her loved one, but at least the nation salutes and respects an outstanding son of its.

If you go to Kohima in Nagaland you will see the Commonwealth War Graves, still impeccably maintained. In it lie the men who fell in the battle of Kohima in 1944 as the Second World War came to the borders of India. The Kohima Epitaph composed by Major John Etty-Leal is engraved on the War Memorial . If I may borrow those lines

When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today

Or Lata Mangeshkar's immortal song, sung in 1963, to which Nehru first, and a few million others later, have had tears in their eyes as they listened.

Pause for a moment to salute the Martyrs of the land.


A journey called Life said...

How true just coz it cannot be 'commercialised' a day of such national importance goes unnoticed..
I had the good fortune of working with a lady whose husband is currently employed with the Indian Army and is stationed in JK. I knew how she permenantly had these 'heart in the mouth moments'but her only grouse was: they paid their jawans very less (when they actually expected them to lay down their lives as and when the 'call' came). Based on what she told me, I really think that all of these brave men need to be treated better..

Sandhya Sriram said...

a tear is indeed in the eye. not from Lata's song but your touching narration.

I saw on Nat Geo once where a foriegn traveller had covered how the northern frontiers are guarded by the army. it is sub zero temperatures, no matter what protection, the cold can cause any life the freeze and there, these brave men not only guard, but also clear up roads, save people from snowslides, help the local community survive the conditions. the major who runs the station proudly spoke about it all. But he also mentioned that atleast 10 - 15 of them lose their lives every year either due to extreme conditions or while clearing roads in landslides. These people dont win medals, not spoken about, but their contributions are of equal magnitude.

While in management we say, humility is biggest virtue, it is pride here which takes these individuals to such heights.

I join you in saluting these known and unknown heroes of our nation

RamMmm said...

Respecting a soldier needs to come naturally. Kargil increased the awareness by a quantum, but that needs to be sustained. I still see people hesitating to sing the national anthem aloud when being played at public functions (or embarassed?) and I find myself to be in a minority. I won't broad-stripe those not singing it, but there should be absolutely no hesitation in singing what unites the entire nation.

Vishal said...

What do we owe to these great men and is there anyway that we can compensate them for what they have done or what they are doing or what they will do...

... Medals OR Lifetime support for their families OR Billions of salutations, honors and adulations OR Moist eyes everytime and everywhere by everyone OR National Celebrations on 15th Aug, 26th Jan and 2nd Oct (Alas! For most of us, these days just come as office holidays) OR ...

Nothing! Nothing would bring back moments of bliss and joy for the lady draped in white and no voice would sound sweet and melodious to the mom with empty cradle and thirsty eyes. I think that we owe them all our life, our independence, our security, our Nation and The Beautiful Tiranga. But, but nothing would bring back those moments and sounds!

My heart goes out to worship the Martyrs of the land. Here is a voice for peace and humanity: (Mere dushman mere bhai mere ham saaye - Hindi Movie "Border")

Ramesh said...

@AJCL - Yes, the jawan's pay is not great but the army does take care of its people. Lots of things are subsidised and there are a lot of facilities, but for sure its not a high paying job. Its a measure of society's values that if you risk your money and punt on the financial markets you deserve a big reward, but if you risk your life, its not all that important.

@Sandhya - Yes the high altitude northern border is the most challenging place in the world and its a real tragedy that the people who live there (for eg in Kashmir) are quick to take offence at the army, but not appreciate the good work they do.

@RamMmm - Absolutely right. Constructive patriotism is one of the most noble of emotions. The reluctance to sing the national anthem is because its a bit lacking in many. How can you not get goose pimples when the flag is unfurled and the strains of Jana gana mana are heard.

@Vishal - Very very well said. We salute the martyr, but should also ,despair at the human fallibility of going to war. Throughout history war has been glorified, but its truly the most wasted of human endeavour. Why, oh why, do we have to fight each other ...

gils said...

//a tear is indeed in the eye. not from Lata's song but your touching narration.//

!!ditto thala..esp tht nagaland vaasagam!! too touching...elaa dayskum leave udra govt...martyrs daykum leave udalam!!

Exkalibur666 said...

A Salute, with a tear in the eye and a lump in the throat is indeed due.. to the noble soldiers who walk into martyrdom.. thanks for reminding..

Ramesh said...

@gils - Thanks thalaivare for very kind words. Brilliant idea - one more day leave !!

@Exkalibur - Very touching comment.

athivas said...

On reading the title first, I thought it was a post about parents! And I have read this post for nearly 10times since yesterday, sort of memorizing...Thanks for the wonderful message!!

And, yes,life wouldn't be the same, but for these many martyrs!!

Srivats said...

As ajcl said its such a shame the day goes unnoticed, Those soldiers fight and gave our life for that and we dont even remember them! :( ur post made me so guilty for I never took real interest on this subject, I sit here write happily because of them! U did the right thing by writing about them for u have created an awarness!

I saw some of the soldier's wife in a singing program, they hav been invited because of the republic day. One lady had two kids and her hubbie was killed on action in kargil when she was married for three years. She had to raise both her childer all by herself! They shd have some organisation, i hope they already do to support these women and support a better future for her.
God bless them!
If I ever get a chance I would do all that I can.

Ramesh said...

@athivas - Hey thanks for a kind comment. In a different way, it could apply to parents too, now that you have mentioned it.

@sri - Its very touching and sad for the families when this thing happens. The army does take care in some small way for its servicemen, but what can recompense anybody for the supreme sacrifice.

Deepa said...

Probably being an Army-kid, one gets to see these things very closely. Its not just the soldier, but his wife too. She almost has to be a single Mom and run the whole show on her own. You can never stand strong on your knees infront of the parents who have lost a 23-24 yr old son in the line of fire.

Its such a pity that a huge number of people don't even know that 31st Jan is Martyr's Day. Thanks for writing this post.

Reflections said...

When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today

These lines never fail to touch me whenever I come across them.

Beautiful, beautiful post!!!!!

Ramesh said...

@Reflecitions - Very moving words. In the North East there are a few War Graves dating back to the second world war. Impeccably maintained. Young men in their early 20s killed so far far away from home. I believe their loved ones used to visit India from Britain periodically, but as they grow older nobody comes any more. We can, but moan, on the complete futility of war.

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