Lost in Longewala

Longewala

I still can’t describe how I felt walking in the empty battlefield. The fact that I was aware of what had gone down itself sent shivers down my spine. As I walked towards the many relics, including captured tanks and weapons, there was an almost eerie calm in the strongly guarded desert. It never made sense to me to pose next to artifacts and force a smile, but to try and capture what I felt at that very moment in order to relive it countless times after. Always in awe of the mighty Indian Army, the Battle of Longewala is an addition to it’s invaluable achievements.

There is no war or conflict which hasn’t been a turning point. In India’s scuffle against Pakistan in 1971, the Battle of Longewala was that turning point. Argued to be a part of the army folklore by some; the battle, fought between the Pakistani offensive forces and the Indian defenders at the Indian border post of Longewala in Thar Desert of Rajasthan, was the first major engagement in the Western Sector during the war of 1971. In the battle, not only were the assaulting Pakistani attack foiled and dented, the Pak forces were forced to withdraw when India launched an offensive attack against them. Thus, winning the decisive battle that changed the face of the Indo-Pak war forever. Major Chandpuri  and his battalion of 120 odd soldiers (comprising 23rd Punjab Regiment (Sikhs) and handful of Indian Border Security Force (BSF Rajputs), to defend the post of Longewala despite heavy odds from the strong Pakistani Army of 2000-3000 soldiers. The Indian troops battled the Pak army with all their valor and held the Pak army at bay all night before the Indian Air Force arrived at the break of dawn. By noon the next day, the assault ended completely, having cost Pakistan 22 tanks, claimed destroyed by aircraft fire, 12 by ground anti-tank fire, and some captured after being abandoned, with a total of 100 vehicles claimed to have been destroyed or damaged in the desert around the post. This scene is alive even today. An area of 2 sq km on both sides of the road lies strewn with anti-tank mines and has been fenced. No one, not even the BSF and Army jawans, are allowed to go there. Each year the Vijay Diwas — marking India’s victory over Pakistan in 1971 – brings in a stream of jawans who come to pay their respects to the martyrs.

The photograph by me as a part of an assignment in January 2013 when I visited Rajasthan. Folks, there is more to every city than what websites tell you and there is more to culture than exotic artifacts.

Assumed Roles vs. Identity

You

“Only in the water of rivers and ponds could he look at his face. And the very posture he had to assume was symbolic. He had to bend over, stoop down, to commit the ignominy of beholding himself.

The inventor of the mirror poisoned the human heart.”

-Fernando Pessoa

You and I, can heal, cure, transform, and inspire. We’re all storytellers. Constantly passing by other individuals, rarely taking a moment out to simply gauge that each one of them has a whole universe about them, consuming them. We’re too “busy” to reflect, to process or to empathise. For all those we do know, we judge. Judging is a relative term, isn’t it? We hold ourselves in a certain regard and in accordance to it do we view what’s around us. We also act in accordance, as we know we are constantly being judged by people around us. Our true nature reserved for when we are alone, not judged thus uninhibited. That is who you really are and that might just be more repugnant than what you pretend to condemn while playing your assumed role.

40 Quotes That Will Inspire You To Lose Yourself And Travel

If this isn’t inspiration then I don’t know what is. 🙂

Thought Catalog

“I beg young people to travel. If you don’t have a passport, get one. Take a summer, get a backpack and go to Delhi, go to Saigon, go to Bangkok, go to Kenya. Have your mind blown, eat interesting food, dig some interesting people, have an adventure, be careful. Come back and you’re going to see your country differently, you’re going to see your president differently, no matter who it is. Music, culture, food, water. Your showers will become shorter. You’re going to get a sense of what globalization looks like. It’s not what Tom Friedman writes about, I’m sorry. You’re going to see that global climate change is very real. And that for some people, their day consists of walking twelve miles for four buckets of water. And so there are lessons that you can’t get out of a book that are waiting for you at the other end…

View original post 1,801 more words

Remembering Maqsood Pardesi

KAFILA - 10 years of a common journey

Shiite_Calligraphy_symbolising_Ali_as_Tiger_of_God

On 23rd September 2014 Maqsood Pardesi lost his life. He had gone to the National Zoological Gardens in Delhi to meet a tiger. The tiger killed him. He was 20 years old. Maqsood worked as a daily wage laborer and lived with his family under the Zakhira flyover in central Delhi. He is survived by his father Mehfuz Pardesi, his mother Ishrat, his brother Mehmood and his wife Fatima.

There are conflicting reports as to how Maqsood found himself en face a tiger. Several reports state that, despite being discouraged by a guard on two occasions, he managed to climb into the tiger’s enclosure when the guard’s attention wavered. Some reports suggest that he accidentally fell into it. The authorities have vigorously denied the possibility of accidental entry and contested the assignation of blame on the zoo, or the tiger, for Maqsood’s death. Other reports have dwelt on Maqsood having…

View original post 1,582 more words

Independence Day Eve Musings

 “There are miracles. All indicators are negative, but we don’t want to lose hope.”

– Admiral D.K. Joshi, Chief of Naval Staff, on the INS Sindhurakshak Mishap

My father was posted in the Andaman Islands at the time of the horrific earthquake and tsunami which struck the Indian Ocean back in 2004. It was a normal day and I woke up with the intention of doing absolutely nothing, which, for a student enjoying his/her Christmas vacation is only expected. As I freshened up and walked to my parent’s room for the customary morning greetings, I found them glued to the television. My father was talking on the landline worriedly and I ignored the conversation as I crossed him to cozily slide into my parents unmade bed beside my mother, however, the visuals I saw as my eyes scanned the screen seemed to clog all the blood that ran in my system and I felt weak.  Once I began to slowly digest the reality of what had happened, having my family with me at home was a feeling I couldn’t describe. He had taken the Christmas week off and had come home to spend time with us in Bombay and had luckily escaped the clutches of nature back in the Islands. It was an odd feeling of simultaneous relief and immense pain.

During March ’05 my family and I packed our bags and flew down to the Andaman’s to spend our summer vacation. As we were landing, I saw the islands, like encrusted emeralds in the blue ocean, glimmering under the sun, beauty that will never cease to exist. The following two months we toured the islands and along with feasting upon nature at its best we saw the ugly side of what the natural calamity had done, literally, it had changed the face of the islands forever. The Indhira Gandhi lighthouse, which marked the Southern-most tip of the Indian territory had now been grudgingly claimed by the Indian ocean.  We even made a stop at Nicobar before heading back home, which was a sight I will always be in awe of. Clean, crystal blue water lapping against the golden shores, marred with debris. I distinctly remember the remains of a three storey building with whatever was left of Maruti 800 vehicle.  The Islands have made a special impact on me and are much more than I ever imagined they would. Their enthralling beauty mixed with horrifying events that once shook the living out of them only makes them more extraordinary and somehow very dear to me. What adds to the surreal charm is the popular story of a particular temple situated on one of the islands, small yet untouched by the ravaging oceans as they uprooted hundreds of trees that surrounded it within seconds. As I visited it, there was this eerie calm as the idolized goddess smiled at me, omnipotent and omnipresent.

As we go about our daily mundane or otherwise activities, we seldom reflect upon the value of security and human life. I for one do not thank my stars or life or even those who have been instrumental in shaping my existence. I woke up normally just as I do daily, half an hour earlier actually to make time for my pet before I ran off to work and waste time existing there too and found my parents, both wearing unanimous worried expressions watching the television which usually is ignored till about 2030 hours. With a heavy heart I sat down and watched the sad news of the explosions aboard INS Sindhurakshak and prayed that all the personnel survived. The pet was ignored and was left outside to entertain itself. It had occurred around midnight and there was no way to begin rescue operations, not till the flames were doused, trapping the sailors and officers inside.

As the time passes, the chances of their survival seem bleaker and it becomes difficult for me to swallow the lump forming in my throat. Somebody’s father, a husband, a son, a soldier serving his nation and doing his duty is trapped inside the gutted 2,300 tonne machine and is hopefully, alive.

Almost as customary as my morning greetings, are the ranting of news channels which have anyway lost their purpose amidst their 24×7 droning. Immensely insensitive yet ‘crucial’ statements pertaining to the ‘security and preparedness of the nation’ and ‘possible sabotage’ are as expected taking importance over the condition of those unfortunate soldiers doing their duty. Personally, I agree that the above are important takes on the tragedy as well, the very cause for the fire is still unknown and should be investigated to ensure the same does not repeat again, however, the insensitivity with which the incident is being reported, hurts. I believe that there is ample time to discuss the same, once the need of the hour, which is rescuing those affected the most, is taken care of. Instead, it is appalling to see the way the Indian media decides to report the same.

I will go on to cite an example, which itself speaks volumes about where the attention of the media really is, a leading news channel (unnamed) releases an article online and explains “The disaster at midnight explained in 10 points”. The title itself irks the writer but I let it be because who has the time to read about tragedies like these anyway, right? The points are concise and help the reader paint a picture about the tragedy, focusing on what type of submarine it is, it’s previous repairs and costs, it’s weapons systems and how it is a blow for the nation perceiving threats from her not-so-friendly neighbor. 

However, the unpardonable error comes in where the channel gets the name of India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, inaugurated just days back by the Honourable Defence Minister, INS Vikrant wrong.

“The accident comes just days after New Delhi trumpeted the launch of its first domestically-produced aircraft carrier, the INS Arihant..”

I make a note of the word “trumpeted” and clarify; the INS Arihant is a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine and NOT an aircraft carrier. But who cares about such errors anyway? It is only a great moment in history as India joins 4 other countries in the world to achieve this. But we are too busy flinging mud at each other, defaming anyone if and when we can and separating states for political gains and blatantly ignoring serious threats to national security.

One day before the country celebrates her 67th Independence Day, proudly hoisting the flag while singing the national anthem and merrily wishing one another, while singing odes to those long gone heroes and martyrs who laid down their lives dreaming that we would see such a day and rejoice and thanking those currently serving by raising a toast towards them. However, I am no longer brimming with joy and no longer waiting to wish my fellow citizens.

 The patriot inside all of us is dying a painful death, patriotism having lost its real meaning to the people of this country, amidst all the hatred, communal distress, LoC violations, Black Money scams, continual discrimination and abuse of women and the pitfall of the rupee and thus the economy whilst the political system is failing, the bureaucracy cowering under it, filled with criminals who are now taking a stand against the higher courts regarding the law which will eliminate them from the Parliament like a water filter. Not to mention the obstreperous abuse of our privacy by security agencies and great misuse of power and authority; which was not envisioned by the forefathers of India who, with their sweat, blood and sacrifice gifted us our motherland.

Image

So before celebrating this year, take a minute to reflect, do you really think of our soldiers who gave up their lives for the motherland? Do you really mean what you say while chanting the national anthem?

Do you really respect the Armed Forces of your country?