A Calmer You, by Sonal Kalra: No calmness about this one!
We’ve become frightfully used to feeling sad and outraged, one incident after the other.Updated: Feb 16, 2019 18:41 IST
I have been sitting in front of the laptop now for twenty minutes. Tried to type, but there’s such numbness — in fingers, in thoughts, in mind. This column is supposed to be light-hearted. I just wish I felt light-hearted enough to take my mind off the 40 coffins wrapped in the Tricolour that I see on the TV screen in front of me. I see visuals of wailing mothers, grieving fathers, miserable wives and heart-wrenchingly oblivious babies, a 22-day-old among them. These are loved ones of those CRPF soldiers whose life was unsuspectingly cut short recently in a blast lasting a second-and-a-half. I experience myriad emotions — sorrow, anger, helplessness, shame, guilt, outrage. A friend who is watching the TV in front of me shakes his head. “I really hope they do something,” he says, and looks up at my blank face. “I mean, hum aam log toh bas wish hi kar sakte hain that something is done about it,” he mumbles, anxiously. He need not have explained. If by ‘doing something’ he means a counter-attack to avenge the deaths of our own, it’s a decision left to those who have the rightful authority to take that call.
But at that moment, I craved for a different definition of something that could be done — by me, my friend, my family, all of you. Because kya hai nah, I’ve duly expressed my sadness on social media, I’ve duly reposted ‘kadi ninda’ type messages of politicians, I’ve duly read and forwarded patriotic, sentimental posts on WhatsApp groups, but I’m not getting a sense of closure. I’m not getting an assurance that this was so huge, so heartbreaking, so not acceptable that it would never happen again.
We’ve become frightfully used to feeling sad and outraged, one incident after the other. Our heads have gotten used to being shaken, our eyes used to shedding a tear or two, our minds used to typing a sad/angry status update, and our lives used to moving on, merely moments after all these reactions.
However, what does not move on for a long, long time, are the lives of the families. The families that live in the constant fear that a phone call would come and their world will crash. And that their grief then would suddenly be in the spotlight, on national television, in newspapers, on the phone screens of strangers. That in the middle of crying inconsolably, they’d have to pause, check their emotions and accept condolences from politicians, with a certain composure and within protocol. The visitors, of course, mean well from their perspective. But then only after the melee of neighbours, relatives, media, seniors and politicians leave, that a martyr’s immediate family sits and tries to put together the pieces of all that’s broken deep inside of them. And a big part of putting together the thought of a future involves worrying about finances for kids, for elderly parents, for spouses, for younger siblings, who were till now blissfully ensconced under the protection of the soldier who was their pride, and provider. To my understanding, our armed forces are fairly generous when it comes to providing financial assistance to the next of kin of the soldiers that lose their lives or limbs in the call of duty. But that help takes its own procedure and time to materialise.
It is here that you and I can help, beyond our expression of sadness and anger. No matter what we earn, no matter how happy or sad we are with our lives, we can’t deny that we lead a cushioned existence. A lot of which is thanks to the men and women in uniform who chose meagre incomes, tough circumstances and extremely unpredictable lives to form a protective circle around us. The least we can do is to assure them that we’d do all that it takes to support their families in their time of grief.
Our Home Ministry runs a website: bharatkeveer.gov.in, that allows us, from anywhere in the world, to directly transfer money into the bank accounts of the next of kin of a slain paramilitary soldier. There is no bureaucracy, there is no politics, there are no middlemen. You can simply click on the soldier’s photo, read up a bit about how they lost their life, and the family he/she has left behind. Follow some basic steps to transfer your contribution, which immediately reflects in the family’s bank account. If it is of any consequence, your contribution is also exempted from income tax. Do try it and give whatever little you may want to. It might just give more satisfaction than forwarding a WhatsApp text.
And yes, one last point. We need not wait for a soldier to die, for us to express our respect and care. There are cynics who may argue that a jawaan at the border is merely doing his job and getting paid for it, but I really wish for these bitter, negative people to lead the life of a soldier for just half a day. Such people usually don’t have a heart but they pride their intellectual brains. I’m pretty sure even the brain would make them realise the hollowness of their argument. Next time you see a uniformed soldier anywhere, do make the effort of going up to them, giving a smile, shaking the hand and saying a thank you. That’s all it sometimes takes to make a tough life seem a tad bit worthwhile. Theirs, and yours.
Sonal Kalra has decided to ignore vile and obnoxious people looking for politics even in the deaths of fellow countrymen. Sometimes it’s satisfying to see them drown in their own toxicity. What say? Mail your thoughts at sonal.kalra@ hindustantimes.com or facebook.com/sonalkalraofficial. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra
First Published: Feb 16, 2019 18:28 IST