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Anushka Sharma does Indian Army families no favours with her spin on their sentiments

When we beat the military drum and claim we’re special or better for doing so, we only reflect our immaturity as a democracy.

columns Updated: Feb 18, 2018 09:10 IST
Anushka Sharma,Indian Army,Army wives
Indian Army soldiers arrive to take position at an Army camp in Jammu. Army hearts sink when war breaks out because wives and children know their loved ones could pay the highest price. You live each day – probably every hour if not minute – dreading the telegram or telephone that could bring bad news. Indeed, there are times when you wish dad had a comfortable desk job far away from the dreaded war front.(AP)

We’re all patriots, but as an army officer’s son, I want to add that in a self-respecting, confident democracy, our armed forces have no special claim to be loved. That’s entirely a matter of individual preference. Love of the army is not a superior sentiment to any affection you may feel for nurses and doctors, pujaris or maulvis, farmers or manual labourers. Indeed, when we beat the military drum and claim we’re special or better for doing so, we only reflect our immaturity as a democracy.

Beyond this wider point, there’s also a lot of rot that’s spoken in the army’s name. Because I feel a special kinship to this institution and I’m second to none in my respect for it, I also feel an urge to correct this overblown rhetoric. It’s because I love the army that I feel I must quarrel with the nonsense spoken about it.

My example is a WhatsApp video featuring Anushka Sharma in which she speaks about what it’s like to be an army child. Army homes, Sharma begins, have a completely different atmosphere to other homes. This is because discipline infuses the air. So, I presume, military moms and dads don’t spoil their kids? They don’t have ‘ladlas’ and ‘ladlis’? And, of course, army brats don’t cry. They don’t fib or pinch. Because dad wears a uniform, we’re different. We’re brought up with the metaphorical equivalent of cold baths, physical drills and regular marches!

Sharma talks about how army wives and children respond when husbands or fathers are called to war. Army mums are tough and hide their emotions. I won’t deny they’re special, but Sharma seems to also suggest there’s no fear, no apprehension, just an effusion of national spirit.

But when was the last time an Indian officer was called to war so his wife and children could feel this profusion of patriotic passion? If you don’t count Kargil, it was as far back as 1971. Unless I’m mistaken, Sharma wasn’t around. I was. I was in boarding school and it turned our world upside down.

Let’s be honest, army hearts sink when war breaks out because wives and children know their loved ones could pay the highest price. You live each day – probably every hour, if not minute – dreading the telegram or phone call that could bring bad news. Indeed, there are times when you wish dad had a comfortable desk job far away from the dreaded war front.

It’s easy but foolish to gild the sentiments of army families, and it’s always wrong to do so. The reason is simple. It’s the apprehension and fear they so keenly feel that makes them brave and special. Don’t undermine that by refusing to recognise it or romanticise them by calling it something else.

Our soldiers and officers are human beings and so are their wives and children. You do them no honour by pretending they’re different from the rest of us. That only cuts them off, sets them apart and, ultimately, dehumanises them. Because they bleed like you and me, feel pain and fear, miss their loved ones and long for home, they’re also braver than the rest of us. If you won’t recognise the former, you can’t respect the latter.

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Feb 17, 2018 18:18 IST