Behold our soldier, a unique species who exists in a visible yet often remains invisible in the environment of our nation. Perceive them in their “habitat” first. The “habitat” which they dwell is immense; from the jungles of the east, to the seas and sands in the west, in the icy mountain peaks of the north, within the ‘urban jungles’ and the sun bleached ocean beaches of the south and in the skies above and blue waters. It stretches beyond our imagination, the multifarious tasks they perform in these physical environs on land, sea and air, dwarfed only by the enormity of their tasks and the diversities of divergence in political, economic, social, cultural, linguistic and operational realities, that confront them. Look at this “species” in the history.
It exists now with us at this moment, but the past goes back to a point in history where the mists of history prevent our vision to penetrate further. The future extends itself beyond the limits of cognition and imagination. Measure them by numbers, and you find yourself trying to count the stars of the milky way or the sand grains in an hour glass. Judge them by themselves and you see that they are in partial control of the environment they live, however small that environment may be. Our soldiers were born in our villages, a majority of them, which constitute the basic nucleus of our communities, our states and the nation. The true essences of rustic values manifest in a soldier are subsumed in a diversity that constitutes our rainbow hued nation. The uniforms suddenly transforms him or her, moulds them, creates them as a fauji with one single purpose, one aim, one faith, one determination, that is to live, work and be ready to die for the uniform they have donned.
This is irrespective of the multifarious uniforms determining them in terms of units, regiments or fleets. The forces per se , from General and equivalent, to soldier, airman or sailor is a whole, organisation, synergy, and unity. Yet it is not a static force but a dynamic movement, in constant evolution towards progression. The environment hence evolves and the soldier evolves with it. The question is, what is he evolving into, given the systemic turbulences of change inherent in the civil ethos in which the man or woman in uniform has taken form and into which they make their occasional forays. But the traumas of scams, political upheavals and the communal disharmony – all dissolve when this fraternity of all hues, shades and community finds a common aim and purpose in their official and private life.
Let us examine the complexity of the armed forces. Let us reach back in time to see when the raw youth was transformed into a soldier like a seedling grows into a tree. We see the rustic forms dwelling in the vast matrix of our million villages. We see the heroism of these brave uniformed souls in myriad strife and conflict, internal and external, projected through media and word of mouth. Have those visible or invisible images sparked in us the fires of motivation to reach out, to join, to form part of the “legion of the uniform”? We behold in fascination, how they adjusted to the trappings of sartorial divergences of their tasks and roles, how they adopted to a new life, in a philosophy entirely divergent from the social womb that begot them.
Change is the price of survival, of evolution and of life. The struggle for life is endless, whether in the armed forces or in the civvy street. Death, destruction and creation are the inevitable cycle of life as spoken of in our scriptures. What holds good in our scriptures, the same holds good in the armed forces .Yet the soldier is preserved against the brutal realities of the society which groomed him in his infancy and youth, and the brutal socio – economic competition. This struggle terminates when he dons the hallowed uniform – spared from the corruption and rot that pervades the civil society. The soldier traverses through varied levels in his existence and the evolutionary trend is visible.
With opportunities offered in the armed forces, he transcends from the lower rungs to the top, with a myriad of duties performed with a stoicism that can make a Spartan blush. It is evident that the search for perfection and excellence dominates his total way of life, a mission in any human longing for success. Should we then only restrict ourselves to the statistics of encounters and casualties the media feeds us with in perceiving his persona? If these are the factors that deter the common people from joining the armed forces, we are selfish. We negate the fact that the peace in our nukkads, mohallahs and our social environs (ridden with extraneous and internal psychosis of threats) is not a fallacy. Our national vision is limited to what we read or hear in the media. Unless we empathize, experience or live that very life of a soldier, we will be untrue to our perceived beliefs – our vision and our views of the soldier. Although, it is not to everyone the soldier appears in flesh and blood and albeit, only through visual, verbal or written media to most of us ; we must reach out to meet this entity.
He is like a leaf, a twig or a branch in the banyan like tree that constitutes the armed forces. This tree is branching and constantly growing upwards. Certain leaves, twigs and branches fall; certain branches cease to grow and they thrust towards the light leaving behind the mold of shades, deriving sustenance from it’s roots. The fertile mechanisms of survival derive growth from the multi layered life patterns of the environment. A soldier’s life is through purity in life’s as an ultimate goal at all levels. The soldier, sailor or airman from plebian roots rubs shoulders with the officer class. If we think any more about social equality from a view point as an outsider, one can see a continuity and unity as an evolutionary process of development to a higher life form. A soldier’s ‘career line’ is not a straight line. It is broken, interrupted in places either by a ‘guillotine stroke’ in his career advancement or by death. Such is the reality of a soldier’s life from the days of the foot soldier from Greek, Roman, Mauryan or Mughal eras.
Were the first soldiers a group, a battalion, a cohort ? One can’t definitely prove. Yet history proves that the soldier (in singular or plural ?.) existed. The soldier is one person who is supremely conscious that death is a reality in his life like his vocation and his being. How then did this death consciousness emerge ? The evolution of the soldier is deeply interwoven with the socio-historic and cultural ethos of Hindustan. All we have in common is an urge, a drive, an initiative and a longing for survival.
This urge has seen our great nation emerging from invasions, famines, drought, wars and struggles towards self destruction. It is the consciousness for survival of the self and the community and the willingness to sacrifice the self for the community. The perceived act of the soldier is not towards destruction but towards creation and preservation of created things or heralding the way towards creation and preservation. In the soldier are embodied the ideals, visible and invisible; their acts of creation or destruction are a harbinger of growth in our lives, they take precedence in our nation and in them our peace subsists. It must be then, in good measure to devolve the completeness we seek in ourselves, upon them and through them, to sing the paeans of glory to the motherland, to make peace with them and ourselves through the blood, sweet and tears they shed in peace and war.
—This tribute to the quintessential soldier came from Colonel Joseph Purakel