20 October, 2020

Living And Dying For The Country Is A Way Of Life Here

Ranikhet is home to the Kumaon Regimental Centre; ­almost every village in this belt has men in the army. They need no sermons on patriotism: living and dying for the country is a way of life here.

Photograph by Suresh K. Pandey
Living And Dying For The Country Is A Way Of Life Here

You feel it on your skin every moment in this house: there is a gap, a yawning gap, between reality as a felt, lived thing and the story it becomes. For the public, the Indian soldier-martyr is an emblem, his sacrificing family an aura-laden legend. Reality is here, and it bites. Sher Singh Bisht, 82, is a retired army subedar. Paralysis chokes his nerves. His wife, Janaki Devi, ten years younger, struggles to retain her sanity. Years have passed, but her pain is without end: her elder son, Jogender, was killed battling Kashmiri militants in September 2003. He was just 25 and did not even once see his infant daughter.

There’s also a gap between the picture-postcard prettiness of Ranikhet, its green-clad hills and valleys, and the vacuum in their lives. The prime-time anger of faraway TV studios, where their names are taken in awed tones, stirs not a leaf in their mind. “Jo poochhne wala tha, wohi chala gaya, ab kaun poochhega? (He who would have really cared, he’s gone….)” says Janaki Devi, choking on her words. Her husband sits on a...



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