9 Jan 2012

Santa’s Poem

The last ode to a soldier that inspired me was “Tommy’ from Rudyard Kipling.

Someone sent me this Santa’s Poem (Santa Claus, not the crazy Santa Banta joke) – it is quite inspirational.

So I thought I will share it with you.

Santa’s Poem

 T was the night before Christmas,
he lived all alone,
in a one bedroom house, probably a bunker,
made of plaster and stone.

I 'd come down the chimney,
with presents to give,
and just to see who,
in this home, did live.

I looked all about,
a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents,
not even a tree.

No stocking by mantle,
just boots filled with sand,
on the wall hung pictures,
of far distant lands.

With medals and badges,
awards of all kinds,
a then sober thought,
came through my mind.

For this house was different,
it was dark and dreary,
I’d found the home of a soldier,
once I could see clearly.

The soldier lay sleeping,
silent, alone,
curled up on the floor,
in this bunker like home.

The face was so gentle,
the room in  disorder,
not how I had pictured,
a true fighting soldier.

Was this the hero,
of whom I’d just read?
Curled up on a poncho,
the floor for a bed?

I realised the families,
that I saw this night,
owed their lives to these soldiers,
who were willing to fight.

Soon round the world,
the children would play,
and grown-ups would celebrate,
a bright Christmas day.

They all enjoyed freedom,
each month of the year,
because of the soldiers,
like the one lying here.

I couldn't help wonder,
how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve,
in a land far from home.

The very thought brought,
a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees,
and started to cry.

The soldier awakened,
and I heard a rough voice,
"Santa don't cry,
this life is my choice;

I fight for freedom,
I don't ask for more,
my life is my god,
my country, my corps...."

The soldier rolled over,
and drifted to sleep,
I couldn't control it,
I continued to weep.

I kept watch for hours,
so silent and still,
and we both shivered,
from the cold night's chill.

I did not want to leave,
on that cold, dark, night,
this guardian of honour,
so willing to fight.

Then the soldier rolled over,
with a voice soft and pure,
whispered, "carry on Santa,
its Christmas day, all is secure."

One look at my watch,
and I knew he was right.
"Merry Christmas my friend,
and to all a good  night."

7 Jan 2012

The Dragon’s Epitaph

My dear fans, followers, readers of my blog, especially Mickey, MK, Vishal, Gaurav, Bala, all the ‘Anonymous’, so many of you.

Thank you for your awesome and very hearty compliments. I loved it !!!!!!!!!!!
Please go ahead, circulate on FB and blogs, it is meant to entertain and ‘time pass’.
It was an incredibly joyful experience writing this ‘serial killer’ story simply because of the response it evoked. However, war (even in a story) is a mixed bag of emotions......., excitement, fear, adrenalin, suspense, camaraderie, sacrifice and in the end ............., the profound sadness no matter what the outcome is, victory or defeat. At the moment I am sad though I scripted the story myself. If you visit a war memorial, you will know what I mean.

Every night and every morning, while I was writing the Dragon story, I anxiously waited for your comments to see whether the story continued to interest you. Your comments as well as the rising number of hits on the blog - I cannot simply find words to describe the excitement it caused within me, the encouragement to continue late into night to complete the story before you lost interest. I confess that it was written in a slipshod manner, without a-priori thought, a plot or any constructive effort in creative writing. The story was buzzing around my head and I served it to you just as it came out of my head, without even proof reading, along with all grammatical, syntax and spelling mistakes. Next time I promise I will do a better job !!!!!! (:>

Gaurav, I am very sorry that in the interest of the story P&N had to die. You will not believe this, but I had a lengthy conversation with P&N in my mind during which I actually became very emotional. ‘Beep Beep’ Nim honked the horn, just the way it is in my story. P&N have been around in my mind for quite a while, since Nov 2010, when about 40 of us, including five serving Air Mshls, from the first batch had gone to Air Force Academy (Dindigul) for AFA’s 40th anniversary. During our two day stay we met with the staff as well as students in AFA – a lengthy tea session followed by an even longer formal interactive one in the auditorium.

During tea, two women pilots, both Pilot Officers, cornered me.
‘I believe you are the father of Attack helicopters ?’, one of them (on whom I modelled Nim), asked me.
‘No no, I am not the father, that was venerable RV Singh, I am at best one of the Ravan type uncles’, I said to them.
‘How can we become AH pilots ?’, the one that looked liked Pink asked me.
‘’Forget it, you cannot become combat pilots’, I said to them rather prudishly and thoughtlessly. ‘Go do something else’.
Both P&N types pounced on me. I squirmed under the attack. They were two of the most dynamic, erudite and inspiring young persons that I had ever met in my life. I think I gave them some kind of an explanation, which they trounced and trumped extempore. One cannot argue against woman’s logic, so I ran off.

For next ten minutes, while I walked into the auditorium and found a seat, the thoughts kept coming back, ‘Why did I say ‘no’ to them ?’.
In my mind I recalled the sane comments made by the Vice Chief (Barbra) some months earlier and how the press had got after him for purportedly sexist remarks. I believe that Barbra was right, the press was wrong, the women's lib types are making a storm in a tea cup.

The auditorium was full with trainees instructors, my old colleagues and their wives. The Air Mshls  and some of my other illustrious colleagues were seated on the stage. Individually they spoke about their sad, funny, exciting experiences in the air force and shared their collective wisdom with the audience. In the end, one of them (Air Mshl Don Mukul) threw open the house to interactive question and answers, ‘Do you want to ask us anything ?’

The two P&N types immediately shot up out of their seats.
It was amazing to see how the two of them thought alike, behaved alike, like two twins.
‘Sir, why can’t we become fighter pilots, and if not that, why can’t we at least become AH pilots ?’, they asked in unison.
The commander of strategic and nuclear forces on the stage was most embarrassed and over whelmed by this formidable and most determined set of women.
‘There is your Dad’, he said pointing to me, ‘Ask him’. I tried to shrink into my seat, I could not hide. My old colleagues and their wives jeered. So I got up. By then I had given it a thought.

‘I already spoke to the two of you during tea’, I said to the large gathering, but specifically addressing P&N types. ‘At that time you caught me off guard. Well, I have now had some time to think about it’, I explained my conviction with utter sincerity.

‘Basically I am not a sexist or against women, in fact I am most fond of them’, I said.
Every one jeered, whistled and hooted, the old ladies made cat calls. ‘Between us, the old bogies here, we have more than a hundred children, I think more daughters than sons. They are all well educated and most of them are professionals in some vocation or the other, even pilots and movie stars. So I think we are a generation who have encouraged our children, specially daughters to think big, even to emulate us as combatants in the armed forces’.

P&N stood in silence, but with a sullen attitude. I spoke loudly and emphatically.

‘We are part of the the generation that facilitated women to wear a uniform in India. What you are now asking is not about flying a combat plane, but the right to engage in war and to die for the country if the need arises. As a parent and as an old soldier, I have no issue with women in combat, but I am not happy about women in a situation that calls for ultimate sacrifice. You may want to deem it male chauvinist attitude, I don’t care, I think of it as parental affection.  I think the Air Mshls in front of you feel the same way. I think all old men feel the same way, the nation feels the same way. Take Kargil for instance, if Nachiketa had been Nachiketi, we may have been compelled by public opinion to stop the war unfinished, a woman POW in the hands of the enemy is bad for the morale of not only soldiers but the whole nation. The women amongst the hostages in Kandhar is a case in point, we had to give away the most dreaded terrorists in exchange. The terrorists who went on afterwards to kill a thousand times the lives we saved in Kandhar. Such things shackle the minds of the nation. When the nation is mentally prepared, when your parents are mentally prepared, when the media is more mature not to make this an issue........., the nation will then bless you and to send you off to war and be prepared not to see you again. I am quite sure that the military will not be an obstruction to your aspirations’, I commented.
‘You will have to wait for that time to come. In the meanwhile take whatever is available and try to excel in it’.

Afterwards, when we were leaving for a glass of beer in the officer’s mess, the two girls ambushed me again with the most disarming smile that I have ever seen. They just would not give up.
‘We will show you, we will one day come back and show you the combat colour’, they said in unison.
I smiled. My chest swelled with pride. I was so happy, there was nothing more that I wanted in my life than to see them as combat pilots and to send them off to a war. When I was writing this story, that incident in AFA was foremost in my mind. I wanted to send women into combat and let them make the ultimate sacrifice, even if it was only in a story. In retrospect, Gaurav’s comment (and others who felt sad) vindicates my argument that we cannot mentally accept women dying in war. I cannot even accept women dying old or of natural cause. When my mother passed away at 95, I was inconsolable. It makes me sad even in a story. Whether women can do and are prepared for such things is not the issue. The issue is the male mindset. ‘When we are there, why must you do such things’ – probably that kind of mindset.  My dearest Pink & Nim types, if the two of you are out there somewhere, and reading my blog, I want you to know that I love you very much and this story was my tribute to your spirit, and the spirit of the modern Indian womanhood. I salute you. I wish you long life and happy landings.

At the moment, like after strenuous sport, I am physically and mentally fatigued. So it will be quite some time before I take up another story. I am out of ideas. But don’t lose heart, I will be back soon, OK ? !!!!!!!!

There is a larger than life person who has been haunting my thoughts. A simple unsung soldier, very humorous man, incredibly ferocious, Sub Maj Kashi Ram, who converted me from a juvenile delinquent to a soldier when I was around 16 or 17. He did that with around 3500 odd cadets in NDA 1965-70, who went on to become the top rung of the military, around 150 of them of Lt Gen or equivalent rank, several serving and retired chiefs. Sub Maj K Ram joined 3 Dogras during WW around 1943-44. He retired in 1972 after the 71 War, went back to his village in Himachal and passed away quietly like all colossus. Kashi Ram was an incredible soldier. I am trying to piece his life together and breathe life into him again with the help of my best friend for over 50 yrs Brig Jasbir Singh who is a military historian of repute. If we can find enough material, we hope to make that into a book. I think that is going to take time, may be several years. But I promise I will not make you all wait too long for ‘time pass’ stories on this blog.

I wish all of you and your family a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.
Keep smiling, be good.