Author: Rajesh Pandit, Professor at IIM, Bengaluru.
Dear Soldier,While you have been defending the nation and the motherland without asking for anything in return, the man in the mirror is posing some serious questions to me in the backdrop of recent tragic incident. Question is “Do I deserve your supreme sacrifice?”.
I am an integral part of a nation where corruption is systemic. If not actively, I tolerate and in fact, softly celebrate the corrupt practices by passivity. I will not be surprised to soon discover the handy work of more than a few corrupt people living in this country being behind the enemy getting access to 100s of kilos of RDX. In the best case scenario, I may even discover that this corrupt person perhaps didn’t know the actual intent behind the accumulation of such large quantities of ammunition. Anyway, I will defend my actions with “Kuch lenge nahi to jindagi chalegi kaise?”, “Mehangaayi bhi to itni badh chuki hai”, “Uparwaale ko pahunchaanaa hai” and the list will go on.
Please don’t be shocked if I am part of the debate on one of the national TV channels attributing the incident to significant difference between haves and have-nots, inflation, ambition, left-right ideology, number of such incidents that took place in the past regime vs current regime. Frankly, the man in the mirror asks me, if I will care for you beyond this. Will I have the tiniest amount of your courage to stand against the officer asking me for a bribe next time? Will I have the guts to show him the picture of 40 of my soldiers who laid down their life due to a similar irresponsible act by another citizen of my country?
The criminals you are fighting against have every bit of information about me and you. They have access to sophisticated systems. I am willing to share the last inch of information on my body and soul with an unknown system that is monitoring every act of mine. However, if the state takes a step to link all the citizen information, I have a serious reservation to the same. Privacy of my information is more important than providing intelligence to you that can help identify enemies within. The fear of the state misusing the intelligence to create trouble for the political opponents is legitimate. Will I and the state that is my representative earnestly go all out in bringing that confidence among its people so that we share the necessary information from which our enemies stick out like sore thumbs against whom you can take a decisive action? It is better that you don’t know my response.
I have also started blaming the neighbouring country. Yes – Indeed we are unfortunate to have some treacherous neighbours. It is important to teach them a lesson and make them pay for the 40 brave lives. However, I am wondering if I am using this as an excuse to not take a closer look at myself at the same time. Please know that I don’t like following rules. Right from breaking all the traffic rules like driving on the wrong side, breaking the traffic signal, not standing in line in virtually any place, to urinating openly everywhere, I have scant respect for rules. In the name of caste, religion, language, faith…oh, give me a coin that has two sides…I can get into a serious conflict with my own countrymen and not think twice before harming someone. Will the incident of losing the best of my 40 men trigger the crucial change in my thinking?
I don’t like the inconvenience of being subjected to security checks in my own country. It is a different matter that I laud such efforts on a foreign soil. It is slowly coming to light that we even forced you to remove some of the security checks that you had placed for your own safety in the very place where the incident took place and that was in name of civilian freedom. When will I save you from my pettiness to gain political advantage?
Before concluding, I would like you to know that I am neither right, nor left. I am right at the centre lost in thoughts on how to face a child of a soldier. I did light a candle last night and pledged some money to financially support the families of the brave men.
Is this sufficient?
Symbolism does have its importance. Time taken out to light a candle at least helped me reflect deeply. Is this sufficient unless I changed myself drastically in my daily life to create a favourable atmosphere that will help in preventing a similar incident in future? An atmosphere that will make you feel proud of defending me with your life!
Dear Solider, this incident has helped me realize how blessed I am to have my defender in you. Now, I promise that I will relentlessly work towards becoming worthy of that defender.