Some young men (includes women too) join the Forces for the simple reason that their fathers, perhaps grandfathers had served in the Indian Armed Forces. As children, they got dazzled by the pomp and the pageantry of the peacetime Army and developed romantic notions of war. However, the ugly face of war easily destroys such illusions made on impressionable young minds.
Some men, whose number is dwindling, believe that to die for one’s country or to die while saving the life of a comrade, is a noble end. In their eyes, the nation is a deity demanding man’s blood. In the words of a famous General, ” war is, or anyhow should be, a heroic undertaking; for without heroism it can be no more than an animal conflict, debasing man through brutality instead of raising man through an ideal.” However very few men are made of such heroic proportions, and for most, such idealism is usually shattered at the first touch of reality….the cold fry of the battlefield.
Some men join and are willing to die for honour. They are willing to die for the good name in the world, of their kin, the clan, the village and their own good name among those who know them. And last of all for personal Honour, that validation and vindication of integrity, which is involved in faithful perseverance in a path once chosen. For such men, the famous words are apt “For how can Man die better, Then facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his Fathers, And the temples of his Gods”. This kind of motivation lasts longer than one based on idealism, but the number of such men who join now, is sharply on the decline. A mirror of the values of the present day society?
Another kind of man joins for pure adventure, for love of the outdoors, for the wind, the sun, the rain and the sky: for the risk. This is the man who will climb a mountain because it is there. He enjoys a challenge and willingly tempts fate. He is seeking a life where he is able to re-validate his sense of personal worth, time and again. Such men were abundant among young officers of YESTERDAY. However TODAY in a society, where educated men of the cities, have become fond of creature comforts somewhat early in life, and whose knowledge of the outdoors goes as far as the green in the salad at the lunch table, such men are becoming scarce in the Army.
Among the rank and file of the Army, drawn as it is from the countryside, it would suffice to say that a majority join the Army NOT because they are volunteers for Soldiering but because they are volunteers for a government job. Despite this, one is amazed at the level of their motivation and willingness to sacrifice their lives at the behest of their commanders. A tribute to the Army’s method of TRAINING / REGIMENTAL ETHOS or the LEADERSHIP OF THE OFFICERS?
Among the young officer aspirants of today, the desire for status, for upward social mobility is a predominant feature. Thus we are gradually developing an officer corps with an increasing number of officers who look upon soldiering not as a noble profession, but as any other occupation where one is assured of one’s monthly pay cheque, by meeting just the minimum job requirement. The 7th PAY COMMISSION too by equating Armed Forces with other normal government jobs is helping in increasing this tribe. The day, this kind becomes more than 50%, then that will be the day of reckoning for the Nation as a whole. Such men are misfits from the start but then this is the value system of the marketplace. Some of this kind, though markedly incompetent, manage to slip up the ladder of promotion, through blind obedience to orders and through ritualistic conformity without dated military traditions. Once in positions of authority, they inflict upon their fellow beings untold suffering and misery, especially in the time of war. By the time they are found out, it is usually too late for many of their subordinates and at times for the nation too. Someone of this category, with enough brains, one day may like to follow Napoleon or present-day Generals in some of our neighbouring countries.
So in the Army, one finds all kinds of men who join for one of many reasons or more usually for a mix of several reasons. There are men who are intelligent, enlightened, Loyal and disciplined & will not be bullied. They will question and disobey a command which their conscience tells them is legally or morally wrong. Unfortunately, such men are few. There are others, equally good, but their desire for upward mobility or fear of the consequences destroys their conscience so they bow to every whim of the pecking order just to get ‘There’. Unfortunately, such men are increasing in number.
There are men of great physical courage, but will not stand up to be counted when it is time to do so. They lack moral courage without which physical courage is meaningless. At the same time, there are men who possess both yet are loving, kind and gentle to all even those below in the Military Hierarchy. There are men who join for honour and for adventure and have found it. There are those who found it but somewhere along the way lost it because that idealism they cherished had vanished, such men are disillusioned. So there are all kinds of men in the Armed forces, in any army, some cruel some kind, some small in intellect, in the soul, some gifted and generous, some blinkered and some with breath-taking vision.
I chose of my own accord to become a soldier at the young age just after school. It is useless to look back now and say that I did so out of idealism or honour or love of adventure. It may have been one, all or none of them. The reasons do not matter now yet it has been a life which gives much and takes more, enriching anyone prepared to give more then he gets. Given another life I will once again join the Army and volunteer for the same Regiment and the same unit that is 9 Parachute Special Forces.
The article is written by Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Veteran Special. This article has been posted with the author’s permission. Views expressed are personal.
The article was first published by Sachikhabar.co.in