The Fallen

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I don’t like men wearing gloves. White gloves. Especially not when they are standing in a perfect row, near a freshly dug hole.

It has always meant a death. Mostly, someone not much older than me. Sometimes younger.

I watch their unreadable faces. I watch their full ceremonial uniforms, rifles held high, perfectly clasped between the palms, ready to be raised... and then arch downwards, with the mourning tune, the business end facing the earth.

The thousand yard look in their eyes... trained to ignore their own mortality. Trained to look, not to see.

They don’t blink when another set of young men bring the flag covered coffin with in-sync steps.
The not so old woman next to me whimpers, trying to muffle her sobs. How old would you be when you lose your 24 year old son? Not much.

The detail leader shouts familiar commands. Familiar to me because I have lost my share... some would say more than my fair share of lives.

Six men march out a few steps and fold the flag with mechanical movements. Completely aware of the fact that it can be their own turn the very next time. Their turn to lie in the coffin.

A plain military issue coffin.

It was sealed, obviously.

Everyone loves to see a young man in uniform, fighting for his country. It makes your heart swell with pride. Makes you wanna run and enlist. Or wonder how your son would look in the fatigues.

No one wants to see his dead body wrapped in anonymous white sheet, its face torn apart with bullets. You can’t imagine what a high calibre bullet does to human body. You have to see it to believe it...

No one wants to hear... no one wants to know that he died because his gun had failed him after he barged into a bunch of terrorist, sure of the weapon he held in his hands.

No one wants to realize that someone somewhere had made some moolah by passing on faulty guns and ammunition...

No one really cares that the same terrorists were at large simply because someone somewhere had decided to swap them for a handful of civilians kept hostage in a plane.

After all, he did sign on that blank cheque as they say it. Amounting up to and including life.
I watch them lower the coffin in the grave. I hear the TV guy telling the story of a young Muslim Captain who died fighting Islamic terrorists.

I feel bile rise in my throat. I think about the guy now buried in that grave. I know he would have laughed such things off. I am not as generous as him. Not as big hearted as he was. I want to do something really horrible to the TV guy.

Instead, I take the hand of that not so old lady and walk away. She seems to have aged decades in last one hour. I wonder, if I keep really quiet, can I hear people switching channels? Impatient to get the next exciting story?

Already forgetting about the guy in the grave.

Just another dead soldier.

Who cares for dead soldiers?

==========================================

©2010 by Chhaya. All rights reserved

PS: the image is from movie Letters from Iwo Jima

54 comments:

WELCOME TO MY WORLD OF POETRY: March 10, 2010 at 7:35 PM  

Very sad and I'm afraid very true these days.
There are people who do care about dead soliers here in the UK, It's a place called "WOOTON BASSET". Each time a soldier's body is brought home the town comes out in all winds and weathers to honour the fallen. It's a humbling sight which brings tears to the eyes.

A post that everyone should read, very tastfully written.

Yvonne.

Vittaldas Prabhu March 10, 2010 at 7:35 PM  

Chhaya,

The first paragraph is so gripping and hard-hitting. I cannot imagine beginning a story like that, at least not yet (I'll grow up for sure). The flow in the first three paragraphs are so beautiful that it intrigues me and entices me to read on. That does not mean the rest of the paragraphs are not nice. LOL! :-D Just wanted to appreciate the beginning. The whole story has an awesome flow. The best thing - I see it happening right in front of my eyes as I read it.

About the story itself, like I mentioned above - I can see it. The PoV I can see is that of a very young individual and the little polished, well-mannered anger here indicates it is a young lady narrating the events. Also, there is no hesitation in describing the scene because like mentioned in the story she has had her days of mourning in the graveyard.

A tragic incident most beautifully narrated. You bring up a lot of grave points here -- some troublesome truths. It is an open secret, yet it happens every day, every time. The last truth about the media is so so awesome! You know I feel the same too, watching these sadistic people on TV. "How do you feel?" "Oh, I feel very happy. He was only 24 you know, and it was time for him go!" "Bull****" x-( One day I am going to do something horrible to the TV guy as well! Hope, I know the difference between the TV guy and guy in the TV. ;-)

A very nice narrative, Chhaya. There is no dialogue and it can get really boring with no dialogue in a story. But you have made it really interesting.

Cheers!

@shlon March 10, 2010 at 7:37 PM  

not the least suprised by the theme...nicely written..really poured ur heart into it...

Uncommon Sense March 10, 2010 at 7:52 PM  

bringing the tv angle into the story was very creative..

Brian Miller March 10, 2010 at 10:58 PM  

heart wrenching piece...another dead solider...with so many the faces are often forget much less the names that go with them...thank tem for their service...

C G March 10, 2010 at 11:18 PM  

A heartfelt post.
True. We would just change channels. The TV guys words does not have the same power. I wonder why? Well told Chayya. Touched!

Quackster March 10, 2010 at 11:23 PM  

Hey Chhaya,

This tugged at my heart and the way you examined the soldiers, adding to it other images of war and propaganda, was excellent. It leaves a lasting imagery.

Yeah, I'm glad I'm back. I'll try to post once a week at the very least =)

Brosreview March 11, 2010 at 3:36 AM  

I like the way you have created the scene. The darkness, the gloominess, the sadness, the mourning atmosphere, the loss, the tragedy, all well depicted here. Sadly, I can relate to this.

You remind me of my lyrics, "My Forgotten Heroes".

I would have expected this to be written in a more formal way. But, you've gone with a monologue tone. A different take!

Keep writing!!!

vidya March 11, 2010 at 4:31 AM  

A gripping tale, Chhaya..I can feel the anguish, anger and sorrow in this story and I know it comes from your heart.

RAJ47 March 11, 2010 at 6:32 AM  

“ When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today ”

These gallant men have actually risen:
-to the occasion,
-in esteem,
-in the eyes of everyone,
-to such heights to be called martyrs.
It is for us – the nation as a whole - to ensure that they become immortal. It is our duty to make sure our HEROs are always honoured and their families taken care of.
Nowadays, the TV guys too have become sensitive, thanks to people like Barkha Dutt and many others.
The post per se is excellent as always! The pain of family captured very well!! Thanks!!!
You might hear some good news from J&K tonight or tomorrow morning about our heros.

IdleMind March 11, 2010 at 8:37 AM  

A very interesting chapter in your blog page. I must admit that soldiers have always been very high on my list of admired public servants! Not because they die, but because they love to fight for their nation ... and they are fearless. I guess the patriotic urge helps them overcome this fear of death.

Their death is, therefore, so difficult to accept. But to me, they are always alive. No matter how we wish to mourn them, seeing their coffins, I can imagine their souls high up there ... floating with their head held high.

Chhaya March 11, 2010 at 4:26 PM  

@idlemind : I respect your feelings and identify with most of them, still, that is not what was trying to express here. i have been around soldiers... and i have understood that they are not so different from us. and most of the time when they are in combat, they are fighting for their fellow soldiers and their pride.

i dont mourn a fallen soldier. if u read this carefully, u wud know that the base emotion behind this write up is of anger.

Chhaya March 11, 2010 at 4:29 PM  

@Vittal : thank u for that amazing feedback ... you made my day. I cudnt have made this story formal/perfect even if I tried. simply because its not exactly fiction.
abt the TV guys... man.. do I hate those callous folks!!!

Chhaya March 11, 2010 at 4:31 PM  

@Yvonne : as a mother, I know you would connect to this tale. There is no bigger shame than taking these brave men and women for granted. we have a safe day because they give up their youth protecting us. their lives protein ours.

Chhaya March 11, 2010 at 4:34 PM  

@CG : its so easy to turn away from these truths. Death doesn’t hurt much till we lose someone we love. that is why its so easy to switch the channels and forget about those who have fallen while protecting us

Chhaya March 11, 2010 at 4:36 PM  

@John : your country has its men and women fighting someone else’s war... so I knew you would understand the anguish I have in my heart while I watch my own soldiers die while fighting a proxy war.
thank u for the kind words

Chhaya March 11, 2010 at 4:38 PM  

@Brosreview : this write up is very close to my heart and still it took me close to 20 days to write it. I typed the words as I think... I cudnt make it formal because its so very personal.

Chhaya March 11, 2010 at 4:39 PM  

@Brian : so very true

Chhaya March 11, 2010 at 4:40 PM  

@Vidya : yes. u got my exact feelings behind this. Anger ... so much anger...

Chhaya March 11, 2010 at 4:42 PM  

@RAJ : i agree with u on most points.. but i dun feel the same about Barkha Dutt. she was absolutely insensitive while covering the Mumbai Carnage. spreading rumors as fast as she cud.. shoving microphone in the face of those who were just rescued from Oberoi.. and trying to do the same in hospitals..

Pete March 12, 2010 at 4:19 AM  

A well done prose poem Chhaya - with a clash of ways the participants express their grief, by choice or military custom. Interesting how soldiers at a funeral are directed to act and think in an orderly manner about their own friend's death. My dad will be buried that way.

Pete

Navi March 12, 2010 at 10:03 AM  

:( was what my face became upon reading this. I have lost someone, though not that close, but still he was my brother. I was too young back then, may be jus 7-8. So memories are bleak. But I remember my 24 year old widow bhabhi and the 7 months old nephew. Dammit y u had to write this post :X :( ???

Chhaya March 12, 2010 at 10:06 AM  

@Pete : I am finding it exptremely difficult to respond to comments to this post.. simplye because there are raw feelings.. i know what you mean.. and i bow in front of every man and woman who has chosen the right thing over the easy.

Chhaya March 12, 2010 at 10:08 AM  

@Navi : i understand your anguish... and i had to write this one to vent my own. i cant even begin to express my anger, for each one lost.

this is not a post - post. this is from my heart. this is my own feelings. i was there.

CrAzYy..! ;) March 12, 2010 at 12:51 PM  

as vittalji said..
first impression of dis first para, is simply pointing the pain..

and nice picturisation (uncomon sense ne jo kaha)

kabhi kabhi ye baat samaj nahi aati ki,
retired soldier ke sons jab shahid hote hai to unhe garv kiss baatka hota hai..

sory, but mereko ye koi garv lenewali baat nahi lagti :(

Chhaya March 12, 2010 at 1:03 PM  

@Crazzy : no comments.

Whats In A Name March 12, 2010 at 1:28 PM  

Chhaya !!!
This was a post so close to reality !! So often do soldiers die because of the carelessness of the bureaucrats !! And all we do is treat it like just a breaking news to be forgotten in a day !

Dave King March 12, 2010 at 5:51 PM  

Superb, restrained writing. My first visit to your blog, but I think I am hooked.

Chhaya March 12, 2010 at 6:07 PM  

@WhatsInAName : Sad, yet so true. it makes me so angry to see this happening. but i dont think much can be done about it.

the-silhouette March 13, 2010 at 12:07 AM  

honestly, i dont know what to say...reading this only brought memories, memories of me arguing with my friends, debating, trying to put my point across...
a person chooses to serve his country unconditionally, not for the pay that he gets, just bcoz, he wants to do his part for his country, for the land on which he was born, for the land he calls home...
what does he get?? an anonymous death. or martyrdom (rarely), or sometimes a shameful one...
the reason i say shameful is not because the reason for his death is wrong, but because of those handful of people, who choose to fill their pockets, are alive to cover up their mistake and this guy is not alive to tell his tale...that the reason he died is not because he froze on seeing the enemy in front of him, but because the F*****G equipment given to him failed....
i dont believe in god. but, what i do believe in is, those M*****F*****S would never live in peace, they would die each day n yet breathe to suffer again....

Well Chhaya,
i havent said anything about the way you portrayed the picture here. all i would say is, it made me feel the way i felt when i heard Lata Mangeshkar sing "Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon"

hats off to you,

Regards,
Your Silhouette...

PointSingularity86 March 13, 2010 at 12:23 AM  

touching and superbly expressed... its as if you wrote for thousands of others.
What I really hope is their families are better cared for...
Reading the poem, some lines blames functioning of govt institutes squarely. I feel, its the nature of terrorism more to blame. Yet, we often overlook there are networks of govt.

Tongue Trip March 13, 2010 at 1:48 AM  

this one is so humbling and i cringe thinking about my own inferior life and i am sure i am not alone in having such a feeling.
chhaya, feisty, doughty, vulnerable, sharp and funny describes you, maybe not entirely but i have just started to get to know you. you are gifted.

Rajat March 13, 2010 at 9:07 AM  

It is difficult to hold back the tear in my eye. just pry that all such hero's live peacefully in God's heaven and God give their family the courage to move on.

PointSingularity86 March 13, 2010 at 12:38 PM  

my comment is incompletely posted, had broken link while sending... The remaining part that, we often overlook the network of govt. institutions (just for eg. intel agencies) that work round the clock to prevent such eventualities, the lives they save are innumerable.

divsi March 13, 2010 at 4:46 PM  

this is so heartwrenchin...
i mean u actually made my eyes moist with this write up! beautifully narrated.
very few ppl hav this ability ..this gift..to invoke the reader's soul..u ve just done that:)
following you...

Chhaya March 13, 2010 at 9:11 PM  

@Silhouette: you have got the soul of this one. exactly what i feel. exactly the anger i have. these men and women do sign up to give their life for the country and for us, but they dont deserve to die because of the reasons you have mentioned... its so so so unfair..

Chhaya March 13, 2010 at 9:17 PM  

@Poinsingularity : i do understand that terrorism is here to stay. i do understand that intelligence companies cant always be right. But i refuse to accept any reason behind cost-cutting on the weapons out soldiers use, planes they fly, food they eat or salary they earn. I refuse to accept any reason behind setting terrorists free in return of hostages. Each released terrorist kills hundreds of other civilians and soldiers. Moulana Masood Azhar is the biggest example of this.

Chhaya March 13, 2010 at 9:19 PM  

@TT: i m lost for words. thank u so much. i m not good at handling praise.. so do read my silence :)

Chhaya March 13, 2010 at 9:23 PM  

@Divsi : thank u :)

will visit u soon

Suresh Kumar March 14, 2010 at 12:54 PM  

Superb... u bring out such emotions so nicely....

I try but fail to write such stories....

Shanu March 14, 2010 at 2:19 PM  

Beautiful post. Touches the right cord. Loved it.

PointSingularity86 March 14, 2010 at 3:10 PM  

Dear Chhaya, about IC 814, I felt same way as you did back then. ~200 passengers lives were at stake, that's as high toll as Mumbai carnage. I suppose the then govt thought it would've been better to avoid a huge disaster in Indian aviation history on a single day than to avoid comparatively smaller disasters that followed later on. Still, it was complicated decision when someone's loved one's life's at stake.
Cost-cutting? Now, the govt spends crores for training NCC cadets with armed forces equipment and arranging camps allover India. Its really unfair to say that our armed forces hav poor equipment. Armed forces are being modernized rapidly currently.
Rifles- Armed forces have pretty proved weapons both Assault rifles (AK's and Insas instead of FAL's). Now, rifles surely need lots of maintainance everyday since there are lots mechanical parts. That doesn't mean they are poor quality weapons. Police, however are certainly not that well equipped; using WWII era weapons. But again, police aren't ideal for fighting militarily trained terrorists. There ought to be special units.
Aircrafts- I presume u are talking about MiG's, now Mig's were one of the best aircrafts ever built by then Soviet Union. Being old(1965's), they're obviously less pilot friendly, reliable or maneuverable compared to current aircraft which take advantage of electronic and microprocessor technologies. MiG's replacement is being delayed due to hurdles in LCA dev. Even food materials are researched(check out DFRL projects).
Its got to do more with terrorism, M more angry the way Pakistani govt doesn't take responsibility for killing our soldiers and civilians. More so with our govt failing to make them pay for it in some way(except allout war) or other.
I also strongly dislike the way political parties target ruling govt on defence equipment, even if they're proven. It was done by BJP & co in Bofors (which were really good howitzers), it was done by Congress during MiG accidents (remember? George Fernandes himself flew in one of them to prove contrary).

Chhaya March 15, 2010 at 9:14 AM  

@PointSingularity : I am not talking about foreign defence contractors selling older tech/fighters planes/naval ships etc. what was awesome in 60s is like a flying coffin now due to simple fact of time. I dun drive the car my grandpa wud have found really solid and macho. I am saying this because one of the many army/AF men from my family had been working on the tech-side of the MiGs.

And setting terrorists free for hostages seta a deadly precedent. we are already paying for it. each person is someone’s loved one. 187 people who died in Mumbai alone , each had someone dying thousand times with them. there were many before this, bcz of Masood Azhar and there are hundreds to come in future.
But that was not the point I was making. You have read this one like a political debate which it was not. I am not making allegations on a particular party. I am not trying to dig rotting graves. After all, they made money from even the coffins during the Kargil conflict.

Do not read this as a thesis. it’s not. it’s not a paper being submitted to a defence comity or a political speech.

I am talking about someone who fell because his lifeline malfunctioned. And because I still hurt, remembering the way he died. Only thing people had cared about that it was good publicity, him being a practicing Muslim. A few year down the line, now then dun even remember his name. I wish I cud name names, but I can’t. His fellow soldiers are still fighting this almost un-winnable war and might be getting them in trouble.

As far as Pakistan govt in concerned, what’s the use of me or u being angry over them? they have never tried to change and they never will. the inside politics of Pakistan is solely dependent on who-hates-India-the-most.

PS: I don’t want to continue this debate. maybe when I write something political or theoretical, I will pick this up. I dont wanna corrupt the memories associated with the day I have mentioned here. I owe that much to that guy in the grave. Now all but forgotten.

Chhaya March 15, 2010 at 9:15 AM  

@Suresh : its not exactly a story-story :)

swapnanjali March 15, 2010 at 2:29 PM  

you've expressed it with all emotion and everything there...i think it's GOD's choicest gift to you to express so nicely ...

what you told who cares for dead soldiers?
Yes till they survive lots of pressure on them ...and they forget to live their lives...but after dead who cares..............all saying it's he did his duty......

swapnanjali March 15, 2010 at 3:42 PM  

Chhaya...added one Oriya recipe.. ..

Chhaya March 15, 2010 at 4:03 PM  

@Swapna : thank u :)

and i m running to ur blog now, for the recipe!!!!

RAJ47 March 23, 2010 at 8:05 AM  

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Need for Victim Activism

"Can the relatives of any of those kiiled by the terrorists appeal to the court not to accept the plea bargain, but to go ahead with the trial in order to find out the full truth behind what happened in Mumbai . The wives of the brave police officers killed by the terrorists should mobilise the relatives of all those----Indians and foreigners--- killed by the terrorists and send a joint appeal to the court to reject the plea bargain and to hold a trial in order to find out the truth. Will somebody pass this on to the relatives of those killed?"
-- B.Raman
Hi Chhaya,
I read this on the net and agree with Mr Raman.
Can you please help in spreading the message?
You being in Mumbai, I am sure, can help in generating public opinion in this direction.
Thanx in anticipation.

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