I salute the Soldiers of Indian Defence Services -
The Army, Air force, and the Navy.
But my imagination went for a toss, once, the youngest of my two brothers, Ravi joined the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune to pursue Medicine.
The anecdotes he narrated about his hostel life, first shocked me and later stirred the process of eliminating my rose tinted glasses. I began to view our soldiers in a different light, with respect and dignity for the tough lives they led with discipline and endurance.
My brother graduated from AFMC, and we, his proud family attended the passing out parade at Pune in March 1999. He was commissioned into the Armed Forces and he became Lt. H Ravi Ramamurthy.
His first posting was at Ladakh, a region in the state of Jammu & Kashmir in Northern India which is surrounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram. Ladakh lies at altitudes ranging from about 9,000 feet (2750m) at Kargil to 25,170 feet (7,672m) at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram. Ladakh is the only place possibly in the world where a man sitting in the sun with his feet in the shade suffer from sunstroke and frostbite at the same time! The largest town in Ladakh is Leh. Ladakh is prominent for its remote mountain beauty and Buddhist culture.
During Ravi's tenure at Ladakh, he was posted at Siachen, the world's largest non-polar glacier, sometimes referred to as the third pole. The Siachen Glacier has no significant strategic value. Since 1984, the "snow-warriors" of India and Pakistan have been locked in supremacy for the control of Siachen glacier. Its inhospitable terrain has taken heavy toll of men and resources on both sides. The world's highest battlefield, for over a decade India and Pakistan have fought at altitudes of over 22,000 feet in minus 60ºC temperatures. It is 78 km long and situated at an altitude of 5,400 meters above sea level. The Siachen glacier is the great Himalayan watershed that demarcates central Asia from the Indian sub-continent, and that separates Pakistan from China in this region.
Operation Meghdoot [named after the divine cloud messenger in a Sanskrit play] was launched on 13, April 1984 when the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force went into the Glacier. Pakistan quickly responded with troop deployments. The Pakistanis can resupply most of their posts by road and pack mule. Indians, at their forward positions, some as high as 21,000 feet, must rely on helicopters. Casualties on both sides have been mostly due to extreme weather conditions.
Ravi had many interesting anecdotes to narrate about his stay at Siachen. To briefly recount a few, Tomatoes as hard as cricket balls and Bottle Gourd (Lauki) as hard as cricket bat, and their game of cricket; A bottle of PEPSI heated to make it drinkable; Huge rats scrawling all over when asleep; heating up a bucket full of ice before going to the toilet, Enemy troops firing and many more. He also had a very difficult time acclimatizing when he visited home on his annual vacation. We were actually petrified seeing his plight.
Ravi, now is Major. H. Ravi Ramamurthy, presently posted at the Army Command Hospital, Pune, where he is on the verge of completing his Post Graduate Studies in Paediatrics. I refer to him as an Officer, Paediatrician and a Gentleman.
Thank you Ravi for facilitating my focus on the realistic aspects of a soldier's life. A soldier has to be mentally and physically strong and disciplined to sustain any harsh conditions, maintain sanity despite being away from loved ones and protect our country from enemies. It certainly is a high pressure job which requires the highest level of motivation. A standing ovation to the defence services whose contribution to our motherland during war and peaceful times is unparalleled .
Jai Jawan !
Information on Siachen & Ladakh Courtesy: Wikipedia & other sources