One day, one of my school friends from Indian Army visited us on his way home. It was after his first posting as an officer in Siachen. We were excited to hear his stories about the life at that altitude and that temperature.
Spoiler alert, there is nothing romantic about the blinding white land with thin air and vacuum pockets where people are sent to guard in 16-piece suits.
He took out his right thumb and asked us to have a good look at it. At the first instance, it looked like a thumb. I took a look closer and it appeared unlike any ‘alive’ thumb I had seen. It was blacker, appeared as if burnt and wounded. I touched it, it felt like wood, lifeless.
Then he narrated what had happened. After a two-month conditioning camp at the base camp, the team started leaving for the post, some 20000 ft above sea level. On the way up his shoelace got untied and he had to stop to tie them. Wearing thick gloves, he couldn’t do it without taking them off.
He took them off and started to tie the lace, remembering the instructions that he had to keep moving his fingers if exposed to extreme cold, such as the situation at hand. It must have been some 5-10 second job to tie the laces. In that short span of time, he kept moving his fingers but forgot to move his thumbs.
As a result he got the ‘frostbite’. I heard that term for the first time. His thumb would have to be cut off had he not realised what just happened. He reported it and then in a case of emergency, his thumb could be saved after due course of time.
Life in armed forces is not easy. They choose to join the forces. They choose to guard posts where there is no one. They do it because the government chosen by us wanted them to be there.
When a wall of snow, 1000mx800m, collapsed, it caused an avalanche that buried our soldiers. I won’t go in to specifics of who all died and from what battalion as it doesn’t really matter. Soldiers put on uniforms, they are soldiers of our armed forces. They represent each one of their fellow men and institutions. Had they been given a choice they would have died in other ways, in another death, but what better a death than to die guarding the Mother’s forehead.
Now take a look at that giant snow monster which was a kilometre wide and 800 metres high. And that is no Yash Chopra movie romantic snow flakes floating in the air where you can stretch your arms and exclaim profoundly about people having heard your name. That snow in -40°C (-50°C) is harder than concrete. Imagine it collapsing and launching an avalanche which doesn’t stop till it stops!
Cut them some slack!
I didn’t want to write on this until some morons decided to yell about destroying India when one of the soldiers, pulled alive out of 25-feet of snow after six days of the avalanche, Lance Nayak Hanumanthappa was battling to survive.
These morons can yell ‘Bharat ki barbadi tak jung rahegi’ and later claim to be unaware of it when the fact is they themselves were seen yelling. But that’s their nature. That’s their half-baked concept of free speech. That’s their chosen ignorance. Chosen, because they are well read, well exposed and versed enough to coin slogans against the nation that feeds them.
I remember the story of a saint and a scorpion. While having his daily bath in a river this saint saw a scorpion battling to stay afloat in the water. He took the scorpion in his hands and tried to take him to shore. He got stung as the scorpion would usually do and again fell in the river. Saint picked it again and got stung again. This happened a few more times till he got him ashore.
People laughed at the saint and asked why would he save the scorpion even after it kept stinging him. He said to them that it was the nature of the scorpion to sting and it didn’t let go of its nature even when it faced death. Similarly, he remarked, a saint’s nature was to save the life, and when a small scorpion didn’t leave its nature why would a saint leave his.
That’s exactly what Indian armed forces do. These scattered scorpions will keep on piercing India with their sharp, venomous sting and we will try all we have to bring them ashore.
The same Indian armed forces saved thousands of Kashmiris in the devastating floods of September 2014. Hell yeah, you ungrateful buggers, you owe them. Your whole state owes them their lives, every single day.
In the deep of your hearts you very well know you owe the Indian Army your existence. You can have a pumpkin for your head and a broken record player with pre-recorded anti-India slogans for your mouth, without even knowing the meaning of those words; without even realising the fact that it is the Indian Constitution that allows you to hold these ‘cultural demonstrations’.
We will wait for your tomfoolery to subside with some real wisdom. It is very easy to shift the argument to capital punishment from that of celebration of a terrorist who attacked the very institution that guarantees you the freedom of speech.
Do you see the irony, morons!
It is very easy to question the Indian judicial system, which gives even a terrorist all the legal recourse available, by saying ‘four judges’ cannot decide what’s right and wrong. Of course you can, whose sole achievement is gathering some vulnerable sloganeering students in the name of a ‘cultural event’. Only if you knew, it is these courts that uphold your such rights granted in the Constitution.
Do you see the irony, morons!
It is very easy to yell against the concept of India with glorified adjectives like ‘judicial murder’, ‘Brahminical collective conscience’ etc overused by the champagne sipping five star poverty, development and human rights activists. And you do that on a campus funded and subsidised by the taxes paid by the likes of some Hanumanthappa earning some 25-30,000 and paying a part of it to fund your hostel and mess bills.
Do you see the irony, morons!