March 09, 2005

For a soldier

You may know that I won the recent Outlook/Picador nonfiction competition. (Which is why I posted my Distraction Alley a few days ago). The essay that won was about a Major in Kashmir. It should be in the next issue of Outlook.

There was a small award function in Delhi last week. I read a little bit from the essay, and also spoke for a few minutes. This is what I said.

***

This essay came out of a trip I made almost by chance. I went in search of a man I knew I wouldn't find, yet I came back with the feeling I had found him, and in some strange way found myself too. Major Abhimanyu Sikka of the 22nd Rashtriya Rifles died in a blast in Kashmir in 2001, and it means a lot to me that his family is here with us today.

Abhimanyu was an unusual man for many reasons, and gives us things to think about. For one thing, he was the grand-nephew of Phizo, whom you might call the grand-daddy of what we so easily refer to as separatism, or insurgency, in the Northeast. Phizo's grand-nephew joined the Indian Army and served in Kashmir, battling more separatists with courage and distinction. Think of that.

But more than that, Abhimanyu also saw his job as reaching out to the local civilian population. Not just for information, necessary as that is, and as other officers I know do. But also to get to know them and win their hearts, which he knew was key to winning our war there. And he did this so well that he was known by all as Boba, Kashmiri for "mother". Think of it -- a tough soldier, and he's called "mother".

To me, Abhimanyu says things about patriotism -- about how it is embodied in reaching out to your fellow human, in the caring qualities we all remember our mothers for. This idea of patriotism, this reaching out to your fellow human, is the only way it makes any sense to me. I'm intrigued enough by it that I want to go searching for it some more.

Sure, there are the conventional ways to consider patriotism: the words like glory, and motherland, and valour. But Boba, he shows me another way. He shows me what my country can be. He takes me places I haven't dared dream about.

I wish I had known you, Abhimanyu. But I am honoured I do.

17 comments:

Abhi said...

Congratulations! Good speech.

Anonymous said...

Nice try Dilip. You have tried ur best to project urself as a patriot. Unfortunately, ppl who have read ur columsn b4 can see thro ur acts.

I find ur writing to be stupid at best and hypocritcal at worst. I am not sure if all ur readers remember ur last column on Kashmir in rediff (what the low turnouts tell about Kashmir and India). How subtlely anti-Indian you were! My man - you were amazing at forgetting inconvenient facts about Kashmir and literally talking for the Pakis.Show me ONE pakistani who speaks for India in the whole of Paki media.

You were mourning about the presence of gun totting security personnel in Kashmir. And you never uttered a word for the innocent Kashmir Pundits - 400,000 of them forced to quit Kashmir.

But then, you are a typical "secular" person who cries only for all non-Hindus in India.

Have you ever watched the documentary by Ashok Pundit titles "And the World Watched in silence"? If you did, then how is it that u have never written a word supporting the Kashmiri Pundits? After all, they are also Indians and their kids also suffer from lack of education.

but then, if u do that, you will not be a pseudo-secular hypocrite that you are.

wise donkey said...

i disagree with the previous comment by annon. i have read ur articles in rediff, and it has made a difference in my life.
ur articles on Pappu in Mumbai riots, On female foeticide figures and most importantly the Gandhi and his views on violence/non violence made a huge impact and also on the relief operations during Gujarat earthquake.

i would just like to point out to annonymous that one need not write on every topic to be a patriot or more specifically a person who writes about Kashmiri Pandits may not write about why a woman dies every 5 minutes in India due to childbirth, does that mean, that the person doesnt care for women??

Anonymous said...

Dear Wise donkey,

I agree with u that a patriot need not write on ever issure facing India.

But what I am talking is a completely lack of mention about Kashmir Pundit's sufferings WHENEVER Dilip cribs about the presence of 'gun totting security men' in the Kashmir Valley.

Please read this article in rediff and tell me honestly without trying 2 defend Dilip excessively: http://www.rediff.com/news/2004/oct/14dilip.htm

Dilip says: "all I see are several gun-toting military men" and then says again: "You also can't help but wonder about an election, an entire society, so drenched in security"

What does Dilip expect Indian Govt to do? Vacate Kashmir? And leave everything to Pakistan? Then Why not give away Arunachal Pradesh to China also? You may know that China claims the whole of AP anyway!

Here are some facts that Dilip leaves out everytime he writes abt Kashmir!

1) Does Dilip care to mention the fact that there has been NO ELECTION AT ALL in the "AAZAD" Kashmir?

2) Does Dilip care to mention that the condition of the Kasmiris in India is much much better financially than in the POK? Do you even know that the poverty rate in Kashmir is just 3.4% when compared to the rate of around 25% in the rest of India?

3) Does Dilip care to mention that according to the UN resulution, Pak is first supposed to TAKE BACK all their millitants before an election can be held in Kashmir? How can Dilip even talk about holding a plebicite in Kashmir without the pakistanis calling back all their stupid Jihadis? Does Dilip care to write a single word about this fact?

Dilip, claiming to be an Indian, talks against India - let him show me ONE pakistani Journalist who talks for India in the similar way that Dilip talks for Pak. Then I will change my opinion.

The willful neglect of even the mention of the huge sufferings of the Kashmiri Pundits is NOT a coincidence. Did Dilip suffer from selective amnesia all the time he wrote about Kashmir?

And regarding Gandhiji and his views - better read Gandhiji's books urself than leave that to these pseudo-seculars.

Do you know which person ends his autobiography with these words:

"I can say without the slightest hesitation and yet in all humility,
that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do
not know what religion means"

If this sentence is uttered today, I am sure this leader will be
branded as a 'Hindu fundamentalist' by these pseudoseculars. And the writer? M.K. Ghandhi, in his "Experiments with Truth"!

Did Dilip care to mention about this view of Gandhi?

And what about the views of Gandhi regarding the menace called conversion by the missionaries? Has Dilip told u all that?

Common guys, wake up...read up things for urself... the rightists and the leftists are equally abhorable. And Dilip is an open lover of these leftists. Can you afford to believe what he says about the "rightists"? In the same way, you cannot also believe what the rightists claim about these leftists.

Both these extremes need to be shunned for India to progress.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Wise donkey, thanks for reading my stuff! I appreciate it. Actually I was very disturbed by those figures about the falling female/male ratio. The one silver lining (if you can call it that) is that there are some reports of the natural fallout of that: that men in some areas are finding it hard to get brides, and are having to pay for them. Seems to me that's the only thing that will turn that situation around.

Anonymous said...

Dilip,

It is true that female child killing is a big menace. And I do feel very disturbed by these numbers that u talk about.

I get very happy when I read reports of men in Gujarath and Haryana actually PAY DOWRY to the women.

I would like to bring one fact to your attention: that these stupid things like male domination, dowry and female infanticide etc. is NOT a part of Indian Culture or Hinduism in any way. Not a SINGLE Hindu Scripture approve of such acts. It is only during the last few centuries that Indian Culture has accumulated such dusts.

Indian Culture and Hinduism are the ONLY Major Culture and religion today that regards God as Women also. All Other religions/ Cultures regard God as a MAN only. I am not talking about the presence of Women Holy figures in religion (who are present in all religions). I am talking about attributing gender to the Supreme God.

I am saying all these because you seem to imply that such male domination is present only in India and Indian Culture. Unfortunately, even in the West, for every dollor earned by a man, a woman earns only 72 cents for identical jobs. When was the last time a Women became the President of the USA or France? When was the last time a man from a minority religion became the head of the state in these Western countries including communist countries?

The male-preference is also present in the oh-so-lovely state of the communists - P R China. Because of the strict on-child policy and male preference, there will be something like 30 million surplus men in another decade or so.

SO when u criticize India, please look at the big picture. I agree that we have do correct this non-sense of female child killing. But you should not put the blame on our Culture when the real fault is the poverty of India as a result of repeated foreign invasions.

BTW, did u know that before the British looted India, India's percentage of World exports was something like 25%? This is equivalent to the best of the countries in todays's world.

Also, u didnt care to answer any of my previous points regarding Kashmir and Gandhiji.

wise donkey said...

annon i dont think dilip said dowry infanticide is part of Hindu culture http://www.rediff.com/news/2004/aug/09dilip.htm and well i am not happy if men have to pay dowry:) dowry is condemnable either way.

but back to the question of definin patriotism, a person who puts forward another viewpoint is not unpatriotic.

Unpatriotic are those who say during election speeches what the public wants to hear but never does what needs to be done.

do i emphatise with the kashmiri pandits cause, YES. but that does make me a better patriot then dilip, NO.

you are entitled to ur opinion of Dilip bein upatriotic but I am equally entitled to judge a person on whats written then on whats not written.

so i think agree to disagree.

wise donkey said...

read the article u mentioned annon.
Nowhere has Dilip said or implied that India must vacate Kashmir
What has he said against India?

So he has not written an article on Kashmiri Pandits? (I am not sure if you have written elsewhere Dilip)

Instead of questioning Dilip over why he has not mentioned the plight of Kashmiri Pandits, I would prefer to question NDA what they did for them. Whether India shines when there is no light for the plight of Kashmiri Pandits.
Oh but according to some, when I question Congress over Kashmiri Pandits I am being patriotic,but when I ask the same question to NDA, wonder what that will be, pseudo patriotic?

A writer or a politician owes us their honest opinion and judgement. Hopefully people wont write or say things just to be popular, that would be truly pseudo patriotic.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Wise D, I've written in various places about the Pandits, given lectures about them, spent time in two of their camps last year (Jammu and Delhi) and have written about that (should be in Tehelka one of these weeks) ...

A lesson I learned a long time ago: people will choose to believe whatever they want to believe about you, regardless of the evidence. So I don't pay attention to these tests ("why haven't you written about XYZ?"), I just write. This comment, only because you asked. Thanks for your thoughts.

wise donkey said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
wise donkey said...

:)thanks.
well since u mentioned camps in the article i thought u would have.

but even if you hadnt written wouldnt have made a difference.

u have written plenty of good stuff which made an impact. the ones on bag lady in Mumbai, Meanwhile in Bhopal etc.

Anonymous said...

Dilip,

I am pleasantly surprised that u have written about Kashmir Pundits. It is not like I am believing what I want to believe. Not all ppl are like that. To me, if u show evidence for anything, I am ready to believe u.

And with Wise Donkely comments about NDA - I hate them too. I hate all those noises made about the bad situation of India that they make now. What the hell were they doing for 6 years. I also believe that the Congress and Commies raped the country with their socialist policies for more than 4 decades. So, both of them are wrong.

So, I condemn the Congress, the Left AND the NDA. All of them are equally bad when it comes to doing something good for the people are keeping up their promises. Unlike Dilip, I condemn ABV, Sonia and that sainted commie Surjeet. I have never seen any Dilip article throwing mud on Sonia or Surjeet like he has done for ABV elsewhere in the blog. Again, I am NOT a fan of any of these ppl.

BTW, Dilip, I have never seen any article in which u condemn the ANY CPI kind of guys. Dont take this to be any kind of "believing what they want to believe" thing.

I read most of ur recent articles in rediff and that is where i form opinions abt u. If you have written abt any topic elsewhere, I have no clue. EVen in rediff, I cannot exhaust all that u have written since 1996!

So when someone like me asks if u have written abt sth, it is NOT always about criticising u deliberately. Some of it might be geniuine.

plz post the articles abt Kashmir Pundits that u have written if that is possible. You probably will have a copy of all stuff u write right?

regs,
Anonymous123 (let me take this name from now on)

Dina Mehta said...

Dilip ... i just stumbled upon here ...congrats for a lovely speech and the award.

Am just curious .. and this is for Anonymous whosoever he or she may be... when you have views, and wish to air them, why not with your head held high ??? Its easy to do .. you just sign in at Blogger ... or at least sign in your real name. Are you scared of something?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Thanks Dina. Means something to me coming from you, as you know. I hope you read the essay as well.

Abhishek said...

hi
Were u a bully in you school or college days?Or did you beat up some bullies in ur sch/coll days?Or did you not help ur mates in cheating while appearin for exams?It seems that they are trying to take badla here.
The whole thing is very hilarious.
However, for myself, I beleive in what Voltaire said that I shall diasagree but shall defend till death............
Keep up the good work.
Bye

SUMESH BIJLANI said...

Hi Dilip,

thanks a lot for the article. I am not going to get into the pros and cons about war ( there are no pros anyway ) and the situation in Kashmir or for that matter what people think about and comment on your article.

I am more interested in the man called Abhimanyu. I knew him very weel, we were good friends in school and shared a small cubicle with other students while there in Shimla. This friendship carried on while he moved to Delhi and even college in Chandigarh.I had the pleasure of meeting his mother, father and sister during the years. He as a person I would say was a very humane person even while he was in his teens!!!Not easy to be that at that age but his love for the ARMY was more than his love it was bordered on fanatical. It was just what he wanted in life and he was lucky in that sense he got it. He would have been unhappy in any other job. He I know was aware the dangers that came with it but that was his love, his life and he would not give anything to change it even today. I could write and write many a things about my wonderfull friend and I do miss him as a friend and as a human being. I salute him for that.

Thanks for bringing up his name in your article.

Sumesh Bijlani

Dilip D'Souza said...

Thanks Sumesh. It's always good to hear from people who knew Abhimanyu -- I never did, and the more I hear of him the sadder I feel that I never knew him. His family lives in Delhi: if you ever want to get in touch, send me a note at dilip DOT fbk AT gmail DOT com.