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I have always found the whole “things find you if its meant to happen” a little silly. But this Diwali I experienced a string of coincidences which made me believe in that line.

I logged in to Twitter, a place I rarely visit. My friend had retweeted a link of a video. Now its been ages since I have talked with this friend so I had every intention of scrolling on & I did. But after refreshing my TL when I saw the link still at the top I clicked on it. I usually never watch videos unless I have specifically searched for them. But this one, I guess I was meant to see! And I spent the whole time sobbing my heart out. I spent a sleepless night thinking about what Mrs. Anuradha Prabhudesai, an ex banker & a common person like me had spoken about in the video.

The video was about the Indian Army. Mrs. Prabhudesai had gone on a tour of  Ladakh many years ago when she came across a quote which changed her life. The quote was: I only regret that I have but one life to lay down for my country

This one quote ignited the spark of patriotism as well as curiosity within Mrs. Prabhudesai & she started off on her journey of understanding our soldiers & the terrain & elements which they survive among many other things, better.

The interview is in Marathi but below are the main points covered by her which I have translated into English:

  1. She visited the place first as a tourist & on interacting with the soldiers there, as she gathered knowledge about the history of the place she realized that although she is an Indian she is completely unaware of the happenings in a part of her own country because although she had heard about a war taking place in Kargil she had missed out or forgotten the finer details as they had no bearing on her daily life. She was shocked to learn that the place where she was sitting at & enjoying a meal (Dras in Kashmir), during the Kargil war 1000’s of Indian soldiers had lost their lives at this same place.
  2. Next day she visited Tiger Hill, which is nothing short of a cave of death. Tourists can see the place from afar but our soldiers had entered it bravely & found a way in & then out of it.
  3. From there she visited “Vijay Stambh” & was shocked to see that most of the jawans who had lost their lives were in their early 20s. She is reminded of a poem from her childhood where a father of a martyr says to his son, ‘you have become immortal fighting for this country, I am fortunate to have a son like you, my love for you my son makes me shed tears of grief today but I am proud of you & your achievements. Till today I have blessed you but today accept my last salute.‘ When she realized how tough it must be for a parent to salute their martyred son she took an oath at that spot to bring people to this land of martyrs in order to spread awareness among them about the work of the Army, about the difficulties they face owing to the geography & climate, etc
  4. A colonel showed them a clip of the Kargil war where Paramvir Chakra winner Capt. Vikram Batra’ mother says that at least love the country on which I sacrificed my son. This made her think about the loss of sensitivity in humans with each passing day. She remembers that people in her times were a lot more humane than what they are today & each day humanity is attaining a new low.
  5. The Indian Army is one institution which is truly secular. Every single soldier there is an Indian. They do not know their caste or religion. All they know is that they are Indians!
  6. The Indian Army stands for secularism, courage, skilled leadership, love for the country & an inherent desire to serve India. But unfortunately the common Indian never gets to see this side of theirs in his daily life.
  7. Today there is a lack of a proper role model. It is not that people are not bothered, unfortunately they are not aware.
  8. Mrs. Prabhudesai has started “Lakshya Foundation
  9. The youth of today need to be trained to take up some responsibility. If a person cannot take up the responsibility of his home will he be able to take up the responsibility of the nation?
  10. It is easy to react but very difficult to act. It is easy to blame. She recently conducted a program where she had invited high ranking officials from the Army, Navy & Air Force to guide children from various schools. Many had warned her against it saying that children these days do not attend such shows & it would be insulting to these officers if the talk show went empty. However her efforts did not go in vain for 800 students from various schools attended the program & listened to the guests in rapt silence & after the lectures concluded many wanted to know how to enroll in the Armed Forces. “If you do good, people will take it.”
  11. Lakshya Foundation has published various books. They have also started various programs like ‘Diwali with soldiers’ or ‘Valentine my soldier’ When young children came in contact with these soldiers they realized how much these men in uniforms had achieved in such a young age thus providing much needed inspiration.
  12. The soldiers never relate the gory details of their duty when they come back home. They find it pointless to burden their families with their tales of woe & always paint a rosy picture of the things they face so that their families would not spend time worrying about them.
  13. We fret over how much weight a Bollywood heroine has put on. But she knows a soldier who had lost 18 kgs weight while at the Siachen glacier. This one guy came down, there were 889 others who never came down.
  14. While the soldiers fight for safeguarding every single inch of the Indian territory, our own textbooks cut out an entire Arunachal Pradesh from our map!
  15. Tourists crowd at the Pangong lake & click pictures of its beauty. But how many know that this lake had turned red in 1962? Today due to the movie  3 Idiots the Pangong lake is now called “Kareena Point”. Nobody tells the tourist that brave Indian soldiers laid down their lives while fighting the Chinese troops in 1962 at this very place.
  16. Mrs. Prabhudesai once met a soldier who was moving about a room in circles, looking lost. She approached him & offered to tie him a rakhi but he lost his temper & his hand flew across her face as he went on to insult her. She was reduced to tears but his officer explained to her that the man had come down from Siachen glacier just yesterday & was not in the correct state of mind. He will keep roaming about in this lost state for another day before they take him to get treated. Four years later this same man approached her once again after having traveled a distance of 70km just to apologize to this lady to whom he was once so rude.
  17. When a person reduces his needs then it becomes easier to focus on the more important things in life.
  18. If you sow goodness, the bad will automatically be overshadowed
  19. Not everyone needs to go to the border to fight. First learn to be a human! Everything else will come to you automatically.

A special mention to the interviewer Dr. Uday Nirgudkar is necessary here for allowing the guest to speak. Taking an interview is a skill, not everyone can get the person in front of them talking by asking the right questions. So thank you Dr. Nirgudkar for knowing what to ask, when to speak & more importantly when NOT to speak.