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.


Sraboney said...

Very touching...

I think the RSS and BJP should read this post to disprove their claim that Muslims are not patriotic...

Renu said...

Oh Mishy...I cant stop my tears..I salute those people and to you too for being so gentle and caring..love you more now.

J P Joshi said...

Thank you for sharing this here, Piper. It is a really touching incident and thanks to people like Saajid Ali and others in the olive green uniform that we can live safe. These soldiers actually know the meaning of serving with honour and of these two words, "Jai Hind".

Passionate Goof said...

I have tears in my eyes Mish. To have experienced that.... it changes a person forever I think. I salute you and every personnel of the Indian army. Hats off to you!

Amrita said...

Such a wonderful post!!

Ruining the magic of the post- as a doc would want you to ans - did that person really feel no pain or was he delirious? somehow pain makes me cringe - seeing others in pain too.. how could he be so numb to the pain?

BK Chowla, said...

Very touching.Very impressive.

Deeps said...

Oh Mish I'm choked for words here. I feel honoured and blessed to have born in the same country, as soldiers like Saajid Ali and you have.

So proud to be an Indian!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post Mishy. Moved me to tears and then I read Sraboney comment and it moved me even more.

"I think the RSS and BJP should read this post to disprove their claim that Muslims are not patriotic..."

He knew he may not make it and was still so courageous! It must have moved you too...

Anonymous said...

How can one not be touched to tears by this post? By far, the most moving post I've read in the context of REpublic day and even otherwise. God bless such people, Mish! Thank you for sharing!!

Smitha said...

That was so touching.

Such selfless service. All we can do is salute that spirit that is the Indian Army.

Poonam J said...

Piper, i have this lump in my throat, and am misty eyed.....at a total loss for words....only the men in uniform, know what duty before self means....they practice it every living moment, while many just sit in their comforts and talk about it....Joe insisted i read this post..and i did....

MRC said...

Thank you for sharing this. I hope his family got some solace from his last letter. I know what it is like to wait and hope and pray that this never happens to a loved one, and yet be proud to have a family member in the armed forces.

moon said...

Happy Republic Day...

Yes, you are fortunate to get an opportunity to serve for Indian Army...

Piper .. said...

Sraboney: I know..did you know there`s a regiment in the army called 'JakRif' - J&K Rifles - which has mostly muslims(locals) from the state of J&K? It`s sad, how we tend to classify patriotism on religious grounds too!

Renu: The doctors in the army dont really have that tough a life as the men from the fighting corps. They are the real heroes.

JP Sir: As you are well aware, 'lady officers' are treated as second grade citizens, esp prevalent in the AMC, for several reasons. I have faced the discrimination myself. But inspite of everything, I feel so proud to be a part of the service force, Sir. Some of the best times I`ve spent are in the field tenure - not peace postings - because it gives you such a different perspective in life.. You know it better than me, Sir.

Goof: Like I said, the doctors dont have that big a role to play. It is the men from all the fighting corps that are the real heroes.

Amrita: He pbly was in a little pain. But his buddies are trained to give pain killer injections in such cases. So I guess he had some relief. In head injuries, I cant give strong(narcotic) analgesics.

Piper .. said...

BK Chowla: Sir, you have been a part of the same force, havent you? :)

Deeps: So do I Deeps, so do I!

IHM: This incident is one of the many I just cannot forget. After experiencing something like this everyday for three years, I got posted to Kolkata. Imagine how hard it was for me to adjust to people who would crib about an extra night duty or an extra patient at the clinic!! One`s perspective changes when one has to deal with death so often!

writerzblock: you are always so generous with your compliments, Pal! :)

Smitha: As I`ve mentioned earlier, the doctors play a minor role. And it is still a mystery for me - how people are so motivated, so selfless..

Poonam mam: Your comment left me speechless for a moment. You would know, wouldnt you, what it is like to have someone you love, in the forces. How have you been Maam? Long time..

MRC: Thanks for visiting me and leaving a comment. Who would know better than you, what it means to have someone in the family serve. I was going through a few posts on your blog. They touched me in more ways than you`d ever know :) Do visit again.

Sunder: Great to see you back. How have you been?

MRC said...

:) Will do. Thanks for visiting my blog too.

Reflections said...

Beautiful post Piper...so touching. Like most of the others I too have this huge rock in my throat.

Piper .. said...

Reflections: Oh Nancy, I know.. Imagine how difficult it must be for the families of the troops.

Anonymous said...

I too had tears in my eyes Piper.....the place, the name the story...all brought back a memory too frightening....

Your last lines made me smile...
lots and lots of love and a salute from a civilian:)
thank you.