Being an Army Officer’s Kid: Part 2, The War

Frankly speaking, it’s fun to have your father work for army.

Yes there are amazingly happening parties,

Yes we move a lot,

Yes we have access to lot of “free” stuff and facilities to enjoy,

Yes we have amazing houses which were constructed by the British,

Yes we have gourmet French and British cuisines to gorge on most of the times,

Yes we have a cook, a gardener, a cleaner, and a man for every other category of work we can come up with,

And it’s a yes for many more such things.

But there is a glitch.

Imagine living in areas covered with jungles.When we were in Dinjan, a place in Assam, there were literally leopards lurking around at nights. We were living just next to this huge forest sort of area. Generally, these are the type of places we get to go. Places bordering the country. In some places we were not allowed to tell our father’s name or any other details to anyone due to fear of terrorism. We were made to practice the false names and occupations of our parents everyday so that we do not blurt out things. I have been through incidents where another officer’s family was shot down by ULFA in the middle of the road. Though I have been to almost every state but the places are always so murky and haunting that every place has its own story which has always affected me in one way or another. Now you cannot call it a holiday exactly!! Right?? And still people comment on how we get to travel a lot for “free”.

We kids never get to be with our fathers. In the whole year they are away for at least 8 months. And that is the reason Army takes up the responsibility of the officer’s wife and kids. And the months during which fathers are home, they barely show up at home due to night duties, mission planning, court sessions, exercise routines etc.They have no Sundays or Saturdays. There are very few nights when we get to be with them, forget about the day times.

In emergency times like the Kargil war, the situation is unexplainable. It is very difficult to put it in words. I still remember the war. I have never been the same person since then. 1999-that’s when the war took place. I was just 10. All I remember is that we were suddenly shifted to my grandmother’s place in Bhilai. I was puzzled. For my little brain was used to going to her place only during holidays. I was worried that my teacher would scold me for not attending the school. But there were other pressing issues.

We were shifted by the army. I had not seen my father for a couple of days before that. They were busy arranging and planning things to go to war. But before he left, he called us to be in Bhilai railway station, their train was going to pass from there. I saw my dad only for 5mins and then he left. For next 1 year we had no idea about where he was, what was he doing…was he still alive? The only tiny bits of information we got were from army headquarters which informed us nothing but that they were fine. The secrecy had to be maintained because then families could be tortured for information by the opposite party.

I remember being glued to DD news with my mother all day long, because they were the ones who were constantly reporting about the deaths. I remember my mother, always praying. She never cried in front of us. She never let us feel the seriousness of the situation. I knew she cried alone though. She hardly ate. I still remember many names being read on TV whom I knew and were suddenly no more.

After 6 months we were sent to Meerut. They said that’s where our fathers will be coming after the “thing” was over. We waited. I used to stand in front of the huge gate of my house, swinging back and forth on it hoping to see my father walk towards me any moment. But instead of that I saw bodies, being carried to their homes. So many of them, that I forgot to keep a count. Everyday there used to be a procession for those who gave their lives for the country. Though the war had subsided, but still the tension prevailed. Our fathers were still not home.

Only after another 6 months they were back. Unrecognizable. Tormented. Tattered. They had been through a lot, obviously. So what if they were trained to be in such situations. They are still human beings. They had seen so many deaths, that something in them had died. The kindled spirit that he possessed was gone. He was happy to be home but the number of bodies he had seen still haunted him, they still haunt him. And he is not the only one. There were so many like him, who survived the war but couldn’t survive its effect on them. The war had drastic and un-repairable effects on these men.

But the horrors of war were not over. There were prisoners of war. And it was country’s responsibility to get them back. But the darned politicians. Every other day, there used to be bodies sent home from Pakistan, tortured, with sometimes eyes removed, finger nails pulled off, ears cut off, fingers and toes smashed one by one… all this when the person was still alive. Pathetic. I had not seen them, but my father would discuss it with my mother every night.

My word limit of 1000 is getting over and I have not narrated even 20% of what I wanted to. But I am going to stop here. I just ask one thing though, are we still not worth what we get???

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