Some Thing That Hurts


I caught the glimpses of the Oscar winning movie ‘The Hurt Locker‘ some time back. Though I haven’t seen the complete movie, the glimpses were enough to unsettle my thoughts. The movie is about the plight of a bomb diffusion squad stationed in Iraq, deployed to help the American forces to combat the possible time bombs and suicide or human bombers. The movie is not only about how they diffuse they diffuse the bombs, but also about the plight of the team who is required to fight in challenging conditions for reasons not known to many.

It also made me remember an interview of a soldier Indian Express had published long time ago. He was deployed with the Border Security forces and was required to fight the Bodo ultras. I guess the character of Tarun Chauhan in the movie Tango Charlie was based on him. Today the news papers are full of stories on the Maoist insurgence and how they ran their armed business under our very own nose and without much ado. They have recently slain 73 policemen in one of the deadliest attacks on armed forces by the Maoists in India. A curious journalist interviewed Mr. Vishwa Ranjan, DIG of Chhattisgarh and asked him if we could use air strikes to negate them. To which he said, ‘Air strikes? we are fighting our own men who seem distracted.’ You know how it feels?

Few years back, my own inquisitiveness (probably after watching the movie Tango Charlie) had taken me to the house of my distant cousin, an Army man. A Major today with the Southern Command, he was an officer then, probably leading a company/platoon (sorry I’m not too familiar with the jargon). He had spent a considerable time at the borders in Kashmir and Rajasthan. He had been physically hurt few times during the war times. But he had said, the physical pain is meaningless when you are at war. What matters is the mental toughness. So I asked him a question, ‘What motivates you (or any soldier) to fight?’ The love of motherland and the sense of duty towards the nation was an obvious answer. And then I asked him, what motivates the Americans to fight? Or for that matter any armed force who goes on a rescue mission is motivated by what? He said he didn’t know what would have kept him going if he was with these forces such as the ‘drones’. He recalled his own horrors of the Kargil war when they were given a task to drive out the terrorist outfits in the Dras region. He recalled many incidences where they had to kill young boys pleading for life, just because they had a gun in their hand. He was a part of the platoon who had rescued about 20 young Kashmiri teens from a camp. But there were many who could not be rescued and who could have been killed by their bullets. The army didn’t have much choice but to kill them, though they knew the so called terrorists on the other side of the bullet were as clueless as themselves about the politically motivated wars.

In the end he agreed that most of the times it is the sense of duty that keeps the soldiers going. It is not possible to keep a calm against the maddened but equally innocent young guns… and kill them. But it has now become their job. They need to satisfy their employers. Sadly, for most of these armed men on the borders or in places like Iraq, Afghanistan or any other such troubled country, the employer and the motivator is not their country. It is the politicians.

It is a locker you wouldn’t want to open. Because it is a locker that hurts!

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2 thoughts on “Some Thing That Hurts

  1. Ask any soldier and he would say that peace is the most beatiful thing in the world. And to tell you the truth on the battle field it is not the love for motherland that motivates you, it is actually your sense of duty and your devotion to your commanding officer. That is the reason why armies are in disarray when the leader dies, if they were as motivated without a leader they would continue to fight on.

    As they say, an Army is as good as it’s leader.Maharaja Ranjit Singh once famously said and I quote “I would rather have a tiger leading an army of lambs, than have a lamb leading an army of tigers.”

    Why a soldier fights, Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem, ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ answers that question almost accurately, especially the two lines “Ours not to question why, ours but to do and die” Most soldiers on both sides have no clue why they are fighting. They are supposed to execute their orders without question. If you ask the naxals why they are fighting, what are their demands, chances are most of them won’t have a clue. They have all been brainwashed in an early age by a handful of power hungry people. Similar situation for all other terror outfits, anywhere on the globe.

    The next time you come to Delhi I will show you photographs of warzones in and outside India(mind you they are not for the weak hearted), and take you to people who have seen the fighting and you can hear their own account. Coupled with the accounts of your cousin, you would have a much deeper knowledge and understanding of life in the warzone.

    Though I have so many veterans in my family, even then I cannot imagine the old demons that might haunt them. A few months ago my father’s uncle, who is a veteran of two wars was telling us about the 1965 war and the charge in which 300 soldiers of his Battalion had died, and he also got a bullet in his leg(he still walks with a limp). I or anyone else can listen and marvel at these accounts, but we can never fully understand.

    Similarly, the politicians who make the decisions know nothing about war. For them it is just some stats on paper.

    P.S. It might be a platoon. A platoon is usually commanded by a Lieutenant. But it may also be a company if he was a Captain, because a Captain may command a company.
    Another reason for physical hurt being meaningless is that you are pumped up with adrenaline. In that situation, if I hit you, you wouldn’t even notice it.

  2. I dont mean disrespect to the soldiers in no way Patty. This is just a perspective I have written. I observed few things and I decided to rant, based on my conversations.

    I think you are right. The soldiers live and die for their commander. I watched Saving Private Ryan for the nth time yesterday. The movie motivates me, though it talks about the same thing.

    PS: Yes my cousin was a Captain. He too had almost lost his leg when the bus carrying their company was blown away by the terrorists in the Baramulla district. 10 of his soldiers had lost their lives. But he survived the attack.

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