I used to live at Hanumangarh when I was maybe 8 years old. Hot and scathing air would breeze all day and night carrying a lot of sand with it. There wasn’t much of development happening around. We had a few good schools, enormous paucity of electricity and a lots broken roads. But, the people were nice. We would often gather together with families to celebrate festivities, and everyone lived a life full of peace and comfort.
However, that’s not the only memories that I have of my five-year stay at Hanumangarh, Rajasthan. Here is the most amazing memory which I often ponder and cherish.
Every morning I would catch the school bus brimming with excitement. I would be eagerly waiting for us to reach the railway faatak (road-rail intersection) where we would be stuck for hours. Why? Because almost every day I would be greeted by someone special at these junctions. And, they always reciprocated to my beckoning with equal love and compassion. These were the valiant and jovial soldiers of the Indian Army.
Hanumangarh is a border town which is at a distance of about two hours drive from the Pakistan border. So, the army trucks, battle tanks and jeeps were a common sight out there. However, I would rarely see any of those vehicles, especially the trucks and the tanks coming back. Those would always be headed towards the hostile border- The border where our brave army men in tandem with the vailant regiments from BSF safeguard and patrol the sunny dunes and lands of Rajasthan against anti-national interests.
My friends and I were in the regular habit of cheering and saluting with the sacred incantation of “Jai Hind” whenever a truck with soldiers would pass by or would be stationed at a faatak. We were just so imbued by their smiles, uniforms, moustaches and big guns, that we would observe every bit of them in absolute detail. We were the ultimate fanboys and girls. And, then once the faatak would be opened and the train was gone, the fun moments would fritter away- the trucks would cross the path and proceed towards the border location, opposite from the direction of our school.
Back then I was too small. I never knew what really happens at the border. All I knew was that the big machine guns, tanks and fancy uniforms excited me. Also, because everyone would have so much respect for them in their mind, that I would just love it. I sort of aspired for the same thing dreaming of becoming a soldier one day. I guess that’s the reason why the fabled song, “Soldier-Soldier” starring Bobby Deol had turned out to be my favourite back in those days.
But, then I grew up. I read the newspapers. I saw the news on TV. I read things that were taught in school. Every day I would learn that some of those soldiers were gunned down at the border by the enemy. I would come across martyred soldiers and their stories. I learned about the tough travails and strenuous situations and the border areas- The tough life and rigorous living conditions. And, it was only then that I realized why everyone admired them so much after all.
I lived a happy childhood to grow into a well-educated 22-year-old who is right now sitting in front of a laptop screen in a spacious room of a great college. I grew up with family around, which would pamper me, love me and nurture me to the best of possibilities. I went to great schools, wore beautiful clothes and rode my bicycle all around the vicinity. And, for it all, I always thanked none other but just my parents, and that was my greatest folly.
It was not just my parents who ensured all the aforementioned imperatives. In fact, all of the above points would have been a distant dream had these soldiers not been keeping vigil at the borders, protecting the nation and its citizens. It is because of them that I could grow up in such a beautiful world around me. Had, these people not sacrificed so much in their lives, my mother, father, family, friends and I, none would have been the same at all.
It is these soldiers who deserve an equal amount of gratitude from me when I thank my parents for all the greatness they brought into my life. So, from today I am no more a product of just my parents sacrifices and values. Rather, I am a product of my parents, safely growing in the warm and protective arms of the Indian Army.
It is they who I will sing the national anthem as a tribute for tomorrow morning at the Republic Day celebrations of my College. It is them who I will salute to. And, finally, it will be these brave men who I will promise the following tomorrow morning-
“You are doing your part to safeguard this great land. I am going to dedicate myself to doing my part by becoming the best version of myself. And, when I do become the best version of self, I will help develop this nation to the best of my capacity. I promise.”
Love and regards,
A fanboy- Shilanjan