This appeared in Sunday Times.... I understand I have received some seriously nasty mail for this. Theek hai. I have never bothered with abusive comments. Particularly those that are written by cowards hiding behind assumed identities.
I am getting set for my Karachi trip! My session is titled 'Superstar Author', and that has me worried! Should I borrow Bipasha's spangled saree from Riteish Deshmukh's shaadi?? Or get into one of those ridiculous designer gowns flashed by our lovely ladies on the Red Carpet in Macau??? Blogdosts, kindly step in and advise!!
The General in his labyrinth…
There is something super fabulous about Faujjis. Diehard romantics ( women, in particular) will say it’s the uniform that does it. Perhaps. But beyond the crispness of the ‘vardis’, it’s the aura surrounding our bravehearts that makes civilians go weak in the knees. Our men and women in the Armed Forces represent many things – heroism, gallantry, loyalty, pride, safety, security and just good, old- fashioned patriotism. The sort of gooey, mushy emotion that extends well beyond logic and mundane,everyday concerns.The popular Governor of Maharshtra, K. Sankaranarayanan hosted an impressive Reception on the manicured lawns of the Raj Bhavan to celebrate India’s Republic Day. The guest list was pretty eclectic, with several celebrities ( big and small) dotting the grounds and making polite noises over chai and samosas. Invariably, it was the men in uniform who attracted the most attention. Other invitees sidled up to get photographed with them, while they themselves scanned the crowd looking for prominent personalities they wished to hobnob with. In that beautiful setting, our Faujjis stood out magnificently, and at least on that one evening, they overshadowed all the stars from other fields, who were busy preening and strutting around waiting to be clicked by the official photographer. The Faujjis stole the show - all those medals across broad chests! The proud posture! The attitude! Wow.
And then we get a General who refuses to grow up! Come on. There is something petty about a person who shrewdly times a protest after living with a ‘wrong’ DoB for decades. No matter what Army Chief Gen.V.K.Singh now claims, he certainly has not covered himself with glory by his conduct. And no matter how this drama finally gets resolved, one thing is for sure, the image of the Army has taken a serious beating. Its reputation is definitely tarnished by what appears to be a serious case of bungling ( Government of India) and carping ( General). Without going into the merits of the case ( let the Supreme Court decide), this is how it appears to the Average Joe: many, many moons ago, someone goofed up on a vital date. A birth date. That careless, naughty someone added a crucial year to the all-important birth certificate (1951 instead of 1950). The person ( General-ji) thus wronged had to live with this erroneous statistic, and compelled to make uneasy peace with the key mistake. Despite efforts, this grave error was not resolved. It would have remained yet another technical, clerical glitch forever, had it not been challenged. And challenged aggressively by none other than the Chief of Army , who is the commander of a 1.1 million strong force. Why? And why now? Was it just the question of staying on as top dog for another twelve months, instead of following marching orders, as per existing rules and records? Who knows! But General-ji would have none of it! V.K. Singh proclaimed it was a matter of ‘honour’ that had made him go ballistic about the botched date. All these unsavoury developments were then played out on national television channels and the front page of dailies with legal luminaries debating the main issue at stake - whose honour? An individual’s or the Army’s? Which one is more important?
While this ugly controversy still rages on, I recalled meeting a highly decorated Army Officer at the Republic Day Reception. Without making a single gauche reference to the ongoing debacle, he said simply, “ For those of us in uniform, defending India is our one point agenda. We live by three words – Naam, Namak, Nishan. Honour, Loyalty and Identity. When we salute our National flag , our emotions are deeply stirred - it is the flag we live for and die for. When we lose our men, it is this flag that is draped over the coffins which brings them home to their loved ones.” The soldier had tears in his eyes, as I did in mine. Perhaps, we need to better demonstrate our love and pride towards those who sacrifice so much so that the rest of us can sleep better. We take our Faujjis far too much for granted. Which is why, we feel let down and disillusioned when the Chief himself behaves petulantly, like any ordinary government bloke looking to hang on to his kursi (plus, all the perks) and to hell with larger implications. Undoubtedly, there are wheels within wheels in this story, too. And not everything is what it appears. There will several sleazy tales involving rivals, favouritism, enmity and worse. But sorry! One expects discretion to be the better part of valour at this level. Obviously, the General in his labyrinth has other compulsions. Whichever way it goes, there is something exceedingly tacky and shabby about this controversy. If the guy couldn’t manage to correct an error on a birth certificate, how would he have led India into – God forbid - a war??