Brings back fond memories...my baba would take us first to the campus Gurudwara and then the temple! Both adjacent! I still cannot enter a Gurudwara without remembering him! Went to Leh army temple this year, the Corps mandir, on Hanuman Jayanti! The army had the Gurudwara, Church and Temple all in one hall...not even a partition! Even a Tibetan shrine! I found it unremarkable....the day I hear army chaps discuss religion disrapagingly, I think it will be a most frightening day for me. When Raj Jackass Thackeray rabble roused "Maharastra For the Marathas/ Marathis?, I actually prayed that the very same issue should turn around and boomerang on him a thousandfold! It did...but since he is still standing, the boomarang will strike again, hopefully before long! Everytime I hear a ghoul in the garb of a politician talk of 'protecting the minority" and religion, I wish i could see him lashed instantly! Dead, destroyed, rotting.. and all that he represents, lying as dust!
I maintain that service even for a year as a Defence person for each man and woman should be mandatory! And spent guarding our frontiers! We shall then see who survives...The Hindu, the Muslim, the Christian, the Sikh...or just the Indian!
As a child, I saw lohri celebrations and danced around bonfires and it was a very welcome day for one ate as many revaris and peanut and popcorn preparations as one could desire! Only very greedy children will understand this joy. I have had sevai on Eid, sent home by fellow officers wives', in huge bowls for they did know that my mum possessed a greedy child! I have celebrated Pongal, by dancing in group dances, singing songs I did not know but learnt by rote! I did not even care what Pongal was! it was a holiday and great fun for the entire campus has evening programmes! I considered myself Sikh when my dad was posted in Punjab...would wish all "Sat Sri Akal" without knowing what it meant! Pronounced it as 'Sassriakal" and thought it was one word! I never heard my elders talk of their religion as the chosen one, the others less! I never heard them preach hatred or intolerence! Jamalludin, in my class, was merely a boy with a long name! I did not know about halal and jhatka meat till well after marriage...yes, where did I live?....I lived in defence campuses! I was in college when Indira Gandhi was assasinated. And I was a-boil with rage and horror. Was a "civilian" by then, living in hostel, facing sexist comments by strange men on roads and trying hard to control my temper and not go chasing after them and telling them to call their moms "sexy"! (I blame all mothers when their sons misbehave with women....why on earth did their mothers not do their jobs! i have a son and the day some girl complains that he called her "maal, or sexy", or something similar. or that he pinched her, manhandled her, I will slap myself first and then think what to do with my son later!) Sexy is NOT a compliment....it does not mean beauty! It implies that the woman is objectified! And while we are on this topic, Ila Arun did women a great disservice by singing the Choli song! If the music director wanted to have the song sung, HE should have sung it! Sly, double meaning, low bred hound! I have had this song sung to me...believe me, all my ladylike instincts abandoned me then and all I wanted to do was chase that sexist ass, sit on him and pummel him till he screamed for mercy! I have actually chased a guy on a cycle once when he sang out merrily to me....he was lucky as I have never been a runner yet outrage fuelled me to the extent that I ran along him for a few seconds till he pedalled hard with his rear in the air, and got away! May Ila Arun, the music writer and all the masterminds behind such songs find that their "art" flees them the instant they get down to penning such godawful lines! Service will benefit them too. Who will one call "maal" in a campus? The lady or girl is a fellow officer's wife or daughter or sister! And she knows her place in the world! And she is not afraid! She probably will not go for backup and will scream so long and hard that one will wish for a quick beating and then a getaway! The Forces do not foster an eve teasing culture!
Newspapers talk of drunk jawans misbehaving with women on trains...as a girl travelling alone, it was my fervent wish "God, let me get in the compartment filled with jawans! They will protect me! Save me from the daily commuters and the "students"! You can only begin to understand me if you have been a young female travelling alone in our trains! Polka dotted with blue bruises by the time one disembarked! Marked as prey the moment you were spotted! I would go up to the rowdiest, roughest looking lout, look him in the eyes, call him "bhaiya" and ask for help with my luggage! Never failed! The Forces teaches you survival too!
I got carried away....do read the article below....worth a read!
May our Armed Forces win the favour of all Gods! May they prevail! And may their jobs again acquire the glory and honour that was once associated with them! MAY THE WARRIOR ALWAYS BE ACKNOWLEDGED BY THE ONES HE PROTECTS....IN LIFE AND IN DEATH AND FAR BEYOND THE GRAVE!
...and may the little bit of the 'forces girl' left in me survive as long as I live for she is one of my best bits!
Any one more secular than the army?
As a serving army officer, I never stop marvelling at the gullibility of our countrymen to be provoked with alacrity into virulence in the name of religion. I have never heard the word 'secular' during all my service -- and yet, the simple things that are done simply in the army make it appear like an island of sanity in a sea of hatred.
In the army, each officer identifies with the religion of his troops. In regiments where the soldiers are from more than one religion, the officers -- and indeed all jawans attend the weekly religious prayers of all the faiths. How many times have I trooped out of the battalion mandir and, having worn my shoes, entered the battalion church next door? A few years ago it all became simpler -- mandirs, masjids, gurudwars and churches began to share premises all over the army. It saved us the walk.
Perhaps it is so because the army genuinely believes in two central 'truths' -- oneness of god and victory in operations. Both are so sacred we cannot nitpick and question the basics.
In fact, sometimes the army mixes up the two! On a visit to the holy cave at Amarnath a few years ago I saw a plaque mounted on the side of the hill by a battalion that had once guarded the annual Yatra. It said, 'Best wishes from -....- battalion. Deployed for Operation Amarnath.
On another instance, I remember a commanding officer ordered the battalion maulaviji to conduct the proceedings of Janamashtmi prayers because the panditji had to proceed on leave on compassionate grounds. No eyebrows were raised. It was the most rousing and best-prepared sermon on Lord Krishna I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.
On the Line of Control, a company of Khemkhani Muslim soldiers replaced a Dogra battalion. Over the next few days, the post was shelled heavily by Pakistanis, and there were a few non-fatal casualties.
One day, the junior commissioned officer of the company, Subedar Sarwar Khan walked up to the company commander Major Sharma and said, "Sahib, ever since the Dogras left, the mandir has been shut. Why don't you open it once every evening and do aarti? Why are we displeasing the gods?"
Major Sharma shamefacedly confessed he did not know all the words of the aarti. Subedar Sarwar went away and that night, huddled over the radio set under a weak lantern light, painstakingly took down the words of the aarti from the post of another battalion!
How many of us know that along the entire border with Pakistan, our troops abstain from alcohol and non-vegetarian food on all Thursdays? The reason: It is called the Peer day -- essentially a day of religious significance for the Muslims.
In 1984, after Operation Bluestar there was anguish in the Sikh community over the desecration of the holiest of their shrines. Some of this anger and hurt was visible in the army too.
I remember the first Sikh festival days after the event -- the number of army personnel of every religious denomination that thronged the regimental gurudwara of the nearest Sikh battalion was the largest I had seen. I distinctly remember each officer and soldier who put his forehead to the ground to pay obeisance appeared to linger just a wee bit longer than usual. Was I imagining this? I do not think so. There was that empathy and caring implicit in the quality of the gesture that appeared to say, "You are hurt and we all understand."
We were deployed on the Line of Control those days. Soon after the news of disaffection among a small section of Sikh troops was broadcast on the BBC, Pakistani troops deployed opposite the Sikh battalion yelled across to express their 'solidarity' with the Sikhs.
The Sikh havildar shouted back that the Pakistanis had better not harbour any wrong notions. "If you dare move towards this post, we will mow you down."
Finally, a real -- and true -- gem....
Two boys of a Sikh regiment battalion were overheard discussing this a day before Christmas. "Why are we having a holiday tomorrow?" asked Sepoy Singh.
"It is Christmas," replied the wiser Naik Singh.
"But what is Christmas?"
"Christmas," replied Naik Singh, with his eyes half shut in reverence and hands in a spontaneous prayer-clasp, "is the guruparb of the Christians."