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An Officer’s Daughter Explains What Many Don’t Understand About Life In The Army

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By Amrit Mann

Indian army soldier Saleem Miyan (R) and his colleagues salute during a wreath-laying ceremony for Navdeep Singh, an army officer who was killed in Saturday's Kashmir border clash, at a garrison in Srinagar August 21, 2011. Indian soldiers shot dead on Saturday 12 separatist militants trying to cross from Pakistan into the disputed region of Kashmir, where popular protests against Indian rule have mounted. REUTERS/Danish Ismail (INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR - Tags: MILITARY OBITUARY) - RTR2Q5XH
Source: REUTERS/Danish Ismail

Nobody is a fan of loose talk and I am no exception. What boils up every drop of blood in me are misinformed conversations that give birth to misinformed opinions.

I recently overheard two so-called ‘educated, suited-booted gentlemen’ discuss the Pathankot terrorist attacks that killed seven of our brave soldiers. In a matter-of-fact manner, they discussed how the slain soldiers’ families will get ‘mota paisa‘ (a big amount) as compensation.

“Hume bhi fauj mein hona chahiye tha, bhai (We should have also been in the army)” – the conversation ended with a smirk and a smouldering cigarette butt on the floor.

I should have reacted, given it back to those guys, but I stood there – completely numb. How and what could I possibly tell those men for whom the Army seemed to be just a four-letter word.

The year 2016 began on a tragic note for the nation. Waking up to the news of terrorists attacking the Pathankot Air Force station shattered me. What followed were innumerable attack theories, high-level government meetings, blame-game and questions being raised on the country’s security mesh – things that typically happen after an attack in our country.

My father served in the Indian Army for 32 glorious years. Growing up, I always had my set of complaints. He never made it to even one of my parent-teacher meets, never saw me participate in any sports event, never took me school book-shopping. I do not have a count of how many of my birthday parties he missed. Why did it have to be my mother holding my finger and seeing me off at the school gate? Back then, I detested his attitude towards me.

I could never understand why dad spent hours gazing at an already shining uniform laced with glistening medals. I could never understand him staring at every fold of the uniform, trying to look for imperfections and then scolding batman ‘bhaiya‘ (designated Army help for an officer) for not doing his job well.

I could never understand his anger over a microscopic layer of dust on his uniform.

I tried hard to understand what was so different between my school uniform and his Army uniform, but could never really find an answer. For me, it was a dark green dress that dad wore to office.

My father had a major share of his postings in field areas. This would mean that we would live in separated families’ quarters and not see him for months.

I still remember that winter afternoon, that red sweater, and my father at the door. He was on a month-long break. I was on cloud nine, 30 days of dad not going to work, 30 days of family time, 30 days of not suddenly going to mock drills at odd hours.

Bearing my non-stop rant, dad paused and suddenly asked me what class I was studying in. With a gulp down my throat and a shock in my tone I said, ‘papa, class 6.’

There was an uneasy calm between the two of us. I was in disbelief to see my inexpressive, yet affectionate father hug me for a long time. That evening we went to eat ‘golgappas‘ and chicken soup on our tiny-puny scooty. Life felt real that evening.

I was in class 7 when the 1999 Kargil operation took place. Though posted in the North-East during Operation Vijay, he was intensively involved in the intelligence corps.

My mother and I were once again in separated quarters in Ambala cantonment (Haryana). For an entire year, visuals of bodies wrapped in the tricolour being carried in official vehicles, almost on an everyday basis, haunted me.

Screams of Army wives who lost their husbands still reverberate in my ears. Gun-salutes, a blanket of grief and an unspoken shared pain were a major part of our lives.

A year later, when dad came home, he had stories to tell me, stories of his ‘fauji experiences’. Something he had never done before. Maybe I was grown up to understand him, to make sense of his absence.

Episodes of young militants carrying AK-47s in milk containers, him getting frostbites in Kupwara district, being shot in the arm several times during combing operations – intrigued me. I could see the light in his eyes, the soaring passion which made me realise he wouldn’t trade any of this for all the glitter in the world.

He retired in September 2007. Sitting on the couch he said, “That uniform there, it is my pride and honour, a well-deserved fruit of 2 years of rigorous military training, a commitment to my nation. Something only I can understand. It was more than a job for me.”

I see that passion in every man in uniform. For me disrespect to that uniform is personal. Yes, I see my father in Late Lt. Col. Niranjan Kumar, in Garud Commando Gursevak Singh, in Subedar Fateh Singh, in every NSG commando, in every soldier.

Yes, it hurts when people casually comment on the free ration, the pension and the so-called perks that Army personnel get. Remember, most of them don’t live through their entire life to avail them.

One cannot expect every Indian to forcefully respect the forces, but remember– an officer dying in the line of duty cannot be fodder for a casual conversation – remember he had a family like you, aspirations like you, unluckily life didn’t give him another chance.

You must be to comment.
  1. Abhi

    Amrit, I Whole Heartedly agree with what you said here. However If I were you I would have slapped and attacked those A-holes who think Army is “Just a Job”. My Elder Brother and Sister-in-Law are both in the Indian Army. My Brother is a Major who was recruited during the Opening phase of Kargil war to be part of a Secret Strike Corps to attack
    pakistani military establishments harboring terrorists (Fortunately that order never went through as my brother barely completed the Basic Run & Gun Drills). From 1999 till 2016 my brother has been promoted from an Infantry Squad leader to an Artillery observer to a Mechanized regiment Squadron captain and finally to a Commando detachment. He is one of the Veterans of several Counter-insurgency operations. My sister-in law is a Doctor in the Armed forces Medical Corps. Both of them met in Congo during a UN peacekeeping operation. I am proud that both my Brother and Sister-in Law have devoted their life in serving the nation and are determined to continue this tradition long after they retire. Because a Soldier is always a Soldier. Problem is the law for Compulsory Military service has to be made mandatory in order to strengthen the foundation and belief for our armed forces. This is where we can do the Best by joining NCC and CDF's where will be able to protect the Nation and Society internally while Soldiers guard our Motherland Externally.

  2. Mohita

    What a brilliant piece of writing !
    Captures each emotion so very well ,it saddens me when these men in uniform who give up their lives for the service of our nation are thought so little of by the politicians who make derogatory comments..its a shame to think what an ungrateful.nation it is ..its the passion of these men and their dedication toward the country that makes them do what they do and not because dying is listed in their job description as stupidly quoted by someone “its their job to die.”
    Respect to them for putting their aspiration and families behind to attend to duty !!

  3. Vikrant

    Its a really emotional article and that two people who told “motta paisa milega” should know there is no place in the army for them even if they wanna go

  4. Saumya

    Dear Amrit,

    Your thoughts resonate with several of us Fauji descendants, who are also called “brats”, I hope in jest. This is a beautiful piece of writing and I am glad you spoke your heart out. There is more that should be told, needs to be told. I will be in touch 🙂

    1. Amrit Mann Grewal

      Thanks a lot. Please feel free to contact me anytime 🙂

  5. Avishek

    A good read. Can really relate to it as my dad was posted in ferozpore during op parakram and i was with him

  6. Jay

    Yes true.. My father served the indian defence for 40 years and finally two years before he retiring met an accident while on duty and lost one leg..,

    In my childhood I felt very proud seeing my father in uniform.., but when we he is on duty in the borders there was not even a single without prayers.., Just to see him again..,

  7. Animesh Gupta

    I completely agree with your honest and resonate account of being an Army Officer's child. We 'fauji brats' see so much in our childhood which stays on with us for our entire lives.
    We know the fear of our fathers being at the borders, we shed tears with the families of brave martyrs and so much more.
    But, being in India where everything is about 'job' and 'paisa' people forget the true meaning of things. I am sure many will agree to my statements and while have faced stereotypes like ' apke father ne militants ko mara hai' or 'do you have a gun at your house' and whatnot.
    I think ot is high time for civilians to learn about the honour, valour and traditions connected with the Indian Army and will stop taking it as 'JUST A JOB'.

  8. Sah

    “Remember, most of them don’t live through their entire life to avail them.”” What does that mean??

  9. TheShivaniYadav

    Only fauji brats can understand the sentiments. I have said thousands of time before and am saying it again, it’s high time people start of India start respecting their Armed Forces.

  10. shivendra pratap

    That’s well written amrit …
    And that’s not there fault actually ..because they don’t have that level of mentality to understand what this word actually means “ARMY” …
    Its only the ppl belonging from army background will understand.. As we pronounce this word it gives an immense pleasure …
    “Zindagii Jim raga tu napusanko ki tarah,
    Mardangii ki baat karta hai ,
    Jiske dil mein iZZAT NAI APNEE MAANKE LIYE ,
    WO insaan sena pe sawal karta hai ” .

    Go get a life haters
    #my dad is in Indian army and I am proud of him ..and Indian army..
    Jiske dial mein sena ki izzat nai ..
    USS a.hole ke dil mein rehna nai..
    #indian army #respect 🙂 🙂

  11. Kabir kashyap

    Amrit what you wrote about few jerks talking stuff like perks and all are those people who are not happy in there life. Its not only them but there are other Aholes like them in our society.
    They will never understand what it takes to be a part of Armed Forces be it Army, Airforce,Navy ,NSG etc.
    They wont understand that passion and love for the country that our Armed Forces Personal have.
    Its just that we need to step dorward and make these A-holes realise that what they are saying sitting in the train or anywhere is very easy but going to battlefield is very different and requires alot of courage.
    A big Salute to our Armed Forces

  12. Sheebu

    Heart stirring article. A big salute to all the men (and women) serving the nation selflessly

  13. Nakul

    if i could say something…i would have…you just showed some morons the actual meaning of “ARMY”.
    A short but perfectly defined story…enough for someone to invest time in reading and yet understand the truthiness hidden behind it..GREAT JOB

  14. asha

    We as a nation owe so much to the armed forces. Every moment I am proud of the Indian army

  15. Ananya Pandey

    I know how it feels when you are away from your dad for months…when he suddenly start s to get ready at 12 at night in his combat dress and when I asked him he just told me to go and sleep coz I had school tomorrow!! Sleep never came to me then eventually mom used to tell me he has a division movement …and some how we got used to it over time!!

  16. Amrit Mann Grewal

    Thanks a lot for your comments people. It only motivates a writer. The fact I could strike a cord with most of you is overwhelming. Thanks for your inputs. Please let me know if you would want me to write about something else too. Keep pouring in the love 😀

  17. Sheema Tariq

    Love your write up. I want to know more about army background, for my research. Would you like to help me, ma’am ☺

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