Tuesday, January 26, 2010

To Serve for Honor

For a while now, I have been busy preparing mock question-answers for the grad school interview. Why pursue a career in healthcare and not clinical medicine? What have I gained from my experience in the Indian Army and how will it help me in my career in healthcare? So on and so forth.
And I have been struggling with the answers.
Questions that seem simple enough. Answers that baffle me.
However, today I happened to read JP Joshi Sir`s post.
And it stirred my soul.
Indeed, 'Army is not about making a living. It is a way of life.'

Sep 2004
Mendhar, Poonch,J&K

I ran towards the helipad, all the while shouting out commands to my nursing assistants to carry the drips, injections and what have you for the casualty I had to attend.
I panicked. I panicked for a reason. I had never seen a gun shot wound of the skull, where the skull was split open,the bullet was lodged in the parietal region, the field dressing(bandage) was dripping red and the patient was talking profusely. In my hysteria, I almost snapped at him to shut up.
The moment I saw the patient(still inside the ambulance), I knew I had to act fast.For several reasons. Time is at a premium in cases like these. I didnt want the man to die. And so I decided to move him to the adjoining helipad, where I would institute first aid before he flew off to the nearest hospital(at Jammu). It would take 30 minutes by air(5 hours by road).
By the time I reached the helipad, the ambulance was already there with the patient. I ran to him and started loading an injection. The man looked up at me calmly. I started asking him questions for my record, all the while trying to stabilize my own hands before starting an I.V drip on him. I was shivering. By his side, was his buddy who kept reading out verses from a holy book(I think it was the Quran). Hysterical as I was, I asked the buddy to move and make room for me. However, the patient insisted that he be there.
"Saajid Ali, aap thik ho?" I asked.
"Hnaan ji."
"Gabrao nahi. Thik ho jaoge tum. Abhi chopper aa jayega."
"Main to thik hoon madamji. Aap mut daro."
I felt a hysterical burst of laughter rise up from within. I smiled.
"Achcha ghar pe kaun kaun hain, batao," I said(a known tactic to ease the nerves of the wounded and to distract them while instituting treatment).
"Sabhi hain. Amma, biwi, bachchein..."
"Bahut bariya. Abhi kuch aaram lag raha hai?"
"Madamji," he says and struggles to remove a stained service inland letter from his pocket.
"Yeh chithi post kar doge aap? Khatam nahi kiya hai, but abhi kar bhi nahi paunga. Jitna likha hai kafi hai."
"Zaroor Saajid Ali," I stammer,"Dekho chopper aa gaya. Tum darna nahi. Jaldi pahunch jaoge MH(Military Hospital).Phir thik ho jaoge."
"Dhanyawad madamji," he smiles.
I step down from the ambulance and walk up to the pilot to hand over the transfer documents.
Saajid Ali is brought out of the ambulance on a stretcher and loaded onto the chopper. I utter a silent prayer, clutching his letter in my hand.
As the pilot prepares to fly off, I see a wounded soldier of the Indian Army, a bullet lodged in his skull, sitting up and saluting as the chopper prepares to take off.
"Jai hind Madamji," he shouts before the din of the chopper can drown his voice, "Jai Hind!"

He never makes it to Jammu. But his spirit lives on.

And today, as I sit here trying to figure out what my biggest gain is,from serving in the Indian Army, the answer suddenly rings loud and clear.

I have been fortunate enough to know people who have served with responsibility, who have served with pride, who have served for honor. And I have been fortunate enough to do the same.
That is my biggest gain.

Happy Republic Day, People!

Proud to be an officer of the Indian Army. And I shall always be.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Let there be Peace..

This post has been selected,People!! :):)
Disclaimer: One hell of a long post! Read at your own risk! :)

The G and I saw 'Firaaq'(Nandita Das`s debut in direction) the other day. Apparently a work of fiction claimed to be inspired from a thousand true stories, 'Firaaq' tells the story of gruesome man-slaughtering, in a bid to rattle the conscience of the viewers and make them realize the horrendous crimes that took place in Gujarat in 2002. Now I am no film critic and
I`m not here to review the movie either. The reason I write this is because somewhere deep within, the fanatic in me stirs and I feel this overwhelming urge to connect.
I confess - it disturbs me - the fact that I am a Hindu fascist at heart(albeit in subtle forms). I confess that when Gujrat was burning, somewhere deep down, I did(even if for a micro second) have the thought that this wouldnt be happening if those 58 HIndu passengers on board the Sabarmati Express in Godhra werent roasted alive.
Am I in any way justifying this horrendous mass genocide? No way! Never ever! Such atrocities can never ever be condoned.
But In spite of rational thoughts and reasons, the thought did cross my mind, didnt it?
That`s how it is.
When I went to college, one of my closest pals was a boy called Adil. We were inseparable for a while. I was so completely smitten; he was the smartest guy I`d ever been with. My letters home were full of Adil and Adil and then some more.
"Dont you have any decent bengali boys in your class? How about Saikat?" my Mumma asked. She thought I was going overboard.
And so I made the first conscious turn of my life. Adil soon became history.
When I joined the Army, my closest pal was a boy named Jafar. He was my junior. But he was the only person I could relate to. He shared my passion of Ayn Rand, Che Guevara and the Pink Floyd. When he dumped his girl-friend of 5 years, a little voice inside me just wouldnt shut up. Outrageous as it sounds, I attributed his infidelity to his religious beliefs! The fact that I was in a war-torn zone where religious antipathy was overt, didnt help me any!
And so it went, little voices inside my head, grappling with what I thought I had to believe in and reaffirming time and again that those beliefs are right; those beliefs are justified.
One cant deny it. This feeling of antipathy against the other religion is mutual; lurking underneath; a thread so fine that all so often we might not even see it clearly. But it exists all the same. But you would expect one to rationalize one`s thought during the course of growing up.
I did not.
I allowed the thoughts of the previous generation, thoughts of a medieval society, thoughts of a degenerating democracy to be stashed into my brain.
Today when I see such darkness at noon, I realize that it is me and other people like me who are responsible for it. The chalice is poisoned and overflowing and we have allowed ourselves to sip from it,a hemorrhaging democracy laced with religious fascism. Like unadulterated Arsenic.
We have to stop before we kill ourselves.

'Firaaq' wasnt the only thing to have caught up with me this new year. When I was back home, I got addicted to the reality series of 'Big Boss'. The interplay of human nature is fascinating. But what got to me the most was how one of the contestants, in a fit of rage against another finalist, threw away food into the swimming pool. Everything - bread, milk,eggs, flour, vegetables, sugar, even tea. I dont know if the punishment(of going hungry for a day and preparing a meal for 15 children) was fit enough or whether the guy had the slightest regret for what he did. BUt it stunned me.
Did you know that 16,000 children die of hunger each day? One child every five seconds!!
In a world where morality in all its forms is slowly dying,we hide behind brittle carapaces where humanity itself seems mottled. Where and how do we even begin to make a change?

This time around when I was home, I realized that we had opened a new bank account for Mom(where Dad`s pension would be credited)in the month of May. It was November and she still hadnt received the Debit card for that account. I went to the bank and asked the authorized person about it. He handed me an enormous register and asked me to surf through the names in serial order to look for my mom`s name. And so I started. Going through numbers one to seven hundred and twenty seven(which took about 45 minutes because I had to decipher the hand-writing!), until I found Mom`s name. And yet I wasnt given the debit card, because the office runner was out for lunch and wouldnt be back for the next hour or so(he had the keys to the cupboard, I was told!).For a change, I wasnt fuming. I had expected something like this. Which set me thinking. Are we simply getting used to sloppiness? Have we become so used to inefficiency that nothing hurts our sensibilities anymore?

Yesterday, we completed nine whole months without Dad. Sometimes I wake up with a strange ache, longing to hear his voice just one more time. Oh! it`s been so long.. And sometimes it seems like yesterday; the pain still so raw, so fresh.
But I guess we`ll be fine. Sometimes when I hurt so bad, I think the pain will never end. It probably doesn't. And those are the times when I slash all the hurt inside me into tiny slivers of bitterness, scatter it all around my world and watch the people in it sear. And when I`m done, I`m on my knees collecting the charred remains. Smoldering fragments of past smiles and togetherness. Dying embers of burnt relationships. And ashes of past hope, now singed,dying.. And as I run around, trying to salvage the burnt remnants, I think of where I went wrong. And I think I`ll never get back my world again, the way it used to be. But I will learn to live with it. Someday I will. And then, I`ll be fine again. I`m sure I will.

Hello People,
I`m back.
And as I welcome the new year,I pledge to do my bit to make this world a better,happier,safer place.
And I start right now.
By leaving the past baggage behind. By forgiving people.
By being a better person. By being honest,sincere and happy.

Come join hands with me, as I pray for a better, happier and a more beautiful tomorrow. For you and for me.

Happy 2010, People! Let there be Peace!