"Serving in the Army is not a job. It cannot be a job. Army officers are well qualified to get any top ranking job in the world. But working in the Army is about love. It's a passion. You do it for the pride and honour of your country."
-Major S.K. Yadav, Indian Army
Life in the armed forces isn't like any other. When you're protecting your country's borders 16,000 feet above sea level at a temperature of -50 degrees at the Siachen Glacier, it can't be just another job, right? Neither is battling an average temperature of 50 degrees in the blistering heat of Rajasthan.
You're not working for yourself. You're doing it for your country and for its citizens. You're ensuring that they go about their lives normally even though your life is anything but that. It's not easy to be so selfless and that's exactly what makes these ordinary men extraordinary.
In the wake of the Uri Attacks and the Surgical Strike that followed, the political climate between India and Pakistan is quite tense. Even as both governments are busy taking on their counterparts on national television, we, as regular citizens, have taken social media by storm with our tweets, status messages and open letters. There's also a debate on the position of artists amidst all this.
But while the rest of us are busy taking sides, calling out for a war or praying for peace, it's the army that's busy fighting bullets at the border amidst all the ceasefire violations and growing tension.
As Major Yadav puts it, the hardships for army men begin at the training level itself. "Our training is done under strict discipline with absolutely zero tolerance for mistakes. The schedule is tough and leaves little time for rest. Not to forget the strict punishments we get".
During the training period, the cadets operate on little to no sleep and have a rigorous exercise routine to follow including speed marches and runs with full battle load on their backs. And these routines are practiced everyday for long hours.
But what makes everything worthwhile are the benefits. Every single person coming out of army training is impeccable with manners and style. They know the right way to walk, talk, dress and dine. Haven't we all always looked up to the lifestyle of the armed forces? "The bonds your forge during those training days last a lifetime" adds Major Yadav.
The struggle for an army personnel doesn't end at the training level. Actually, the real struggle begins from there.
For instance, at the Jammu & Kashmir border, the life of an army person involves being on duty 24x7. "We work under extreme cold conditions with no proper roads and tracks for transport and little to no public support. There isn't enough drinking water and sometimes, operations require us to stay on duty for weeks on end without any rest in between" points out Major Yadav.
Our soldiers aren't just fighting the enemies. They're also fighting natural disasters. At such high altitudes, frost bites, chilblains, loss of memory and pulmonary edemas are common problems. "We're also dealing with avalanches and crevasses along with the threat of enemy attacks at any given time". In J&K especially, allegations of human rights violations are also common.
The problems are similar even at the borders in North-East India. "There's a serious language problem there. Anyone not belonging to those states is not familiar with the local dialect" says Major Yadav. "Also, the army is responsible for aiding civil authorities to maintain law and order and that adds to the burden".
Thanks to the topography, there are vast and thick jungles along with heavy rainfall every year. All this makes it easy to have gaps and also provides an easy pass to Myanmar. The Army also battles with poisonous insects, leaches and reptiles on a regular basis.
"Since people from the North-East have a distinct look, a majority of the army personnel are easily identifiable," laments Major Yadav.
Life in the armed forces isn't easy. It's a new challenge everyday. And the challenge isn't just from the enemy but from nature too. You're far away from your loved ones, fighting for life every single day. But it's the spirit of these men and their undying love for India, that keeps them going.
Captain Manoj Kumar Pandey, PVC 1/11, Gorkha Rifles once said, “If death strikes, before I prove my blood, I swear I'll kill death."
It's this indomitable spirit that's worth a thousand salutes.