You’ll Want to Hear This? – I salute my countrymen

I salute my countrymen. Jai Hind..!

I was overwhelmed the other day when our family Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist) Dr Jignesh Gandhi instructed his Secretary, Ms Marilyn not to ask for the consultation fee from me.

On 19th July, 2017 my wife Shail, son Nakuul and self, had gone to Dr Jignesh Gandhi, at Juhu, for eye check-up. For me it was a first visit as patient, as I usually consult at INHS Asvini (Naval Hospital). On completion, Marilyn took the fee for wife and son and refused to accept money for me as advised by the Doctor. So, I went back to his chamber and in lighter vain questioned his intentions behind discrimination in charging.

He politely responded, “Sir, you have served the country, how dare I…?” That was enough to make my eyes moist and reflect that we still have many who appreciate the contribution of military veterans in India.

Cdr Darshan Lal (Oberoi), in his 80s, my morning-walk partner, confirms this when he says that he had visited him over 5 years back… he did not charge him then too.! Wow…! Unsung heroes.. of India..!

There is another anecdote which I read recently on social media (not verified) about the treatment which an Army officer on duty received at a Taj Group of Hotel in Delhi. Read on:

The guest, Army officer went to the reception, handed over the card.

Receptionist: ‘Thank you for your stay Sir. How was your stay?’

Army Officer: ‘Stay was very comfortable. My Bill please.’

Receptionist: ‘Your stay has been sponsored by our hotel. You protect our Nation. So, this is our small token of gratitude for you. We respect your patronage.’

“It was not about saving money which made me feel good, but it was about the respect they have shown towards the ‘Olive Green’. I was deeply touched by this gratitude. What a great nation we live in”, narrates Army Officer.

After that incident, he wrote to the CEO of TAJ group of hotels. Narrating the incident and appreciating the gesture shown by the Manager of TAJ Delhi. To his surprise, he got a return mail from the CEO stating that TAJ group of hotels have decided to give discount to Army officers for their stay in TAJ hotels across the country. (Not verified)

Wow, what a way to pay tribute and respect to the soldiers..!

However, many Indians thinks soldiering is a profession for those who have been rejected academically. Many Indians think a soldier is a paid servant. Yet a few Indians have very little respect for the men and women in the Indian military. They are treated as commodity and despised by the government. They are insulted, belittled, ridiculed and interrogated by the Indian media. Recently, on the Jihadi Intifada in Kashmir, Salman Khan stated “Oh, it was the fault of the security personnel.”

One of India’s greatest political strategists Chanakya wrote to Samrat Chandragupta centuries (about 200BC) ago: “The day the soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha. For then on that day, you will have lost all moral sanction to be king”.

In general, military veterans these days do not get nearly as much respect as they did during the times of the wars. Just think about the huge celebrity status Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Field Marshal KM Cariappa, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, etc. and many brave men of the Indian military who fought in WWI, WWII, Kashmir War, Indo-China War, Indo-Pakistan Wars, Kargil, Pakistani ISI and Communist Maoists insurgencies have brought glory to Indians.

Moreover, going to army is not considered an essential period in a man’s life as it did before. The military is a very demanding career.  They must be willing to go into places where people are trying to kill them.  They do this for many purposes, but deep down it’s to protect those of us who aren’t willing to do it.  Along the way, soldiers, sailors and airmen need to deal with drastic limits to their autonomy, a bureaucracy and lots of other issues big and small. It takes something special to be able to do this, and that’s worthy of respect. And if we do get invaded, I do not think you are going to call a plumber.

I served in the Indian Navy. Also, I am an individual who does not put his hand out for respect but, rather, believe that respect and trust are earned. I respect Veterans for singular reason, that this individual didn’t just defend and fight for this country and others around the world but also that this person was willing to kill or be killed.

As a veteran, I personally do not care if you respect me for being a veteran. Nor do I expect you to, especially if you were against any of the wars that I fought in.

However, you might want to take into consideration a few things.

  • We did not do it for the money, for my salary was around Rs 250 during the first year in 1971.
  • We did not do it because it was an easy job to fall back on. Feel free to try to make it through Marine Commando or Naval Aviation or Submarine training or sail in a ship during monsoon?
  • We did not do it for the women, who fall for white uniform. To the contrary, this is not attractive to most women who assume that we are “crazy”, “dumb”, or “rude.”

So why did we do it? Everyone has various motivations. But most of us did it because we appreciate the freedoms that this country offers.

Coming from an illustrious Noble & Dewan family, I can appreciate this country more than most people born here. My parents worked really hard in this country, paying taxes and obeying laws, while raising me to study for a career. I know it meant a lot to my father when I joined, and I think it was the only time he was proud of me. Serving in the military was an act of gratitude for what this country affords us.

I am writing mostly to inspire others more knowledgeable of their own country’s treatment of their military veterans. My knowledge of other countries’ treatment of their veterans is limited.

That said, here are a few personal observations that may go into this determination of respect that other countries have for veterans. Many countries put up monuments to their veterans. A number of the European countries established their own “tombs of the unknown”. Even Russia appears to celebrate its soldiers and veterans of the “Great Patriotic War”. The British clearly celebrate their veterans, and have much regard for their many accomplishments, and charities to help. The United States and the French Foreign Legion also seems to attract recruits from around the world, largely built upon its reputation as an elite fighting force. Arlington cemetery in Washington is a tribute to the war veterans. Perhaps these lend some credence to which countries respect their veterans the most. On the other hand, I believe that real respect is best shown by how countries care for their veterans after the fighting is done… during their retirement days.

Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Member of Raj Sabha, states “It pains me to see that our country, our government and a large number of our citizens and fellow parliamentarians are unaware and unappreciative of the bravery and sacrifice made by Indian armed forces personnel”. On the issue of one rank, one pension, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, states “I could not get myself to accept 300 percent salary hike (for Parliamentarians) when armed forces veterans are forced to take to the streets demanding equitable treatment for their pension”.

As John F Kennedy said, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honours, the men it remembers”.

Character of a society is reflected in the manner it demonstrates gratitude and support to the brave men and women who protected the nation and who ensured people are free to pursue their dreams. Why should any man or woman in uniform want to lay his life and career on the frontiers, if it is not seen or appreciated by the people and the nation they do it for? Nothing can be more demoralizing for a soldiers or veteran, who fight night and day to keep the citizens safe, to know that the nation or Government is not backing them and people have no sense of appreciation to their efforts. However, I salute all those who respect Veterans and, also who do not, for respect is to be earned and not demanded. Jai Hind…!

An Ex-servicemen during the protest over the delay in implementation of One Rank, One Pension (OROP) at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI Photo by Manvender Vashist





20 thoughts on “You’ll Want to Hear This? – I salute my countrymen

  1. When I visited USS Midway (aircraft Carrier converted into a lively museum) at San Diego, USA, the ticketing clerk came to know (overheard my cousin talking to me) that I was also an ex Navy Officer. Though I clarified that I was ex Indian Navy, She quickly asked somebody in the back office and gave me and my accompanying members the same concession at par with US Navy Veterans with an added, ” Thanks for your service, Sir.”

  2. When I visited the war museum at Ottawa and informed the ticketing counter that I was an Indian Naval veteran she issued me a free pass saying they do not differentiate between the armed forces of any country!! I was not even asked for any proof of identity. That made my day.

  3. I had a similar experience as Mehta. I needed a medical certificate for renewal of my driving licence at the RTO last year. I was guided to an Eye specialist who sat under a tree in one of the by lanes. After examining my eye sight he signed the requisite certificate. When I enquiries about the fee he said he does not charge anything from the faujis. When I told him that I am an officer and can easily afford to pay and that privelidge should be only for the javans. He did not budge and said that this was the least he could do to honour the Indian fauj for whom he had great respect. The fact that this doctor sat under a tree in the hot June sun showed that he was not too well off yet he insisted on not taking fee from Faunus.

  4. excrllent statement. Indian Nationals to be motivated by such informations, real stories and veterans experiences during wars.

  5. Except Indiaevery country respects its soldiers. I got 10% discount being an ESM in a Coach factory outlet. It did not matter to them that I was from India .

  6. Proud to be a veteran and honoured to read that there are good samaritans who recognise the sacrifices made by the men in uniform.

  7. your article is tremendous and inspirational I served for 9 years and am proud to have been in the airforce
    I always tend to remind people in civvy street exactly what you have witten about what the armed forces do for our country and all that they want is just simple respect

  8. Only when bombs fall in civilian areas most of them will ever know that for their tomorrow our veterans gave their today’s.

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