I was standing outside in the hospital corridor, opposite nursery waiting for my wife to return from operation theatre, after giving birth to our second child. Anxiety was in process of being replaced with happiness and I was enjoying the quiet moment.
Few minutes later, a nurse brought a new born baby boy and few ladies (family of the new born) followed her. One of the ladies, who looked like a typical grandmother sort of stood out from rest of the crowd. There was something not normal about her. She was constantly wiping off her tears, saying things like ‘My son is back’, ‘Mein Sadqey Jaoon’, ‘Mera beta aagaya’.
At first I thought it’s just another over reacting joyous grandmother. While rest of the family went to room, she remained in front of the window of nursery, looking at her grandson, and repeating her chants. It is then I heard one of the staff tell her colleague that the lady lost her 26 years old son, an officer in Army couple of months ago near Afghanistan’s border.
At that moment, in a sudden flash, she didn’t seem like a typical overjoyed grandmother any more. There was tremendous pain in those tears, and oddly enough, I felt a lump form in my throat. This same pain still resonates with me as I write this post, or whenever this episode crosses my mind.
I do not personally know the officer who was killed; I do not know if he died fighting gallantly, or was hit by a stray bullet; I do not know if he was victim to a suicide bomber – a suicide bomber whose family assumes that their father or son embraced martyrdom; I do not remember reading about him in the papers, or hearing about him on the news – or maybe I did, and I simply do not recall it because there are so many like him these days.
I am not aware of whether there is a support system in place for those who are left behind, but it is about time we as a civil society do something about it, and not just leave it to the government. The government, I believe has already done their bit by awarding these silent soldiers medals of various cadres. Sadly, in the same event it also awarded a significant number of civil awards to phony achievers with a dubious past.
There is no way we can adequately repay these soldiers, who have silently given up their lives, for what, to be honest, is an unknown cause. They were probably just following orders, and laid down their lives at the line of duty. What we do not realise is that their death is also killing the people they have left behind.
That infant will never get to see his father, spend time with him, or play cricket with him. Imagine all the good times you spent with your father – all the special occasions that the newborn will have never have.
These men of honour deserve more than just a national holiday on September 6.
Apart from other facets of civil society, our media needs to come forward and play its role in raising awareness about what thesesoldiers have been doing for us. They should focus on creating respect for them rather than sympathy.
Our soldiers deserve to be heard, celebrated, and mourned. They do not deserve to be shadows of the past, or a number in the books of martyrs. We owe them and the people they left behind more.