Thursday, September 24, 2015

I am Siachen…

How am I ever gonna say all that is there in my mind, I wonder! Earlier, I tried to give you a glimpse of a retired soldier's journey when I posted I am coming home - a poem very close to my heart. 

Now, this is the least I could do as my mind took me the cold, wild, harsh fronts of Siachen. A land that is silent and violent at the same time. I am Siachen... is therefore an attempt to bring you face to face with the toughest battlefield in the world. Compared to LOC, this place has remained forgotten and not been an active part of the "news". However, this place is no less than a hell for the soldiers who serve there. It is strategically important for keeping a hold on Ladakh and Kashmir too. Therefore, in spite of the hardships and the harsh weather conditions, soldiers consider it their pride to serve a tenure of 90 days here.

Siachen is known for the legendary soldiers like Capt. Bana Singh (PVC) who went against all odds to capture the Quaid Post in 1987 (now named Bana Top) and regained control of this place. I and my partner in crime, Shwetabh Mathur dedicate this poem to the dare devilries like these and we salute the utmost commitment of every soldier who has dared or will dare to serve under the extreme weather conditions of Siachen.

So up, close, and personal - Here's Siachen for you - the most unforgiving battlefield of the world! Come walk with us as we march through this cold, numb, bone-chilling land. My friends, my lovers, my companions - Let us all go hand in hand...

"I am Siachen..."

I am Siachen… the land of wild roses.

I am the highest, coldest battlefield of the world, the bone of contention between two countries.

Life is anything here… but rosy.

At 21000 feet above sea level and temperature as low as -65° C, I can be a cold hell; sometimes even worse than the arctic.

Yet those guarding me go about their job in the bone-chilling climate which freezes weapons and makes walking a mammoth task.

I cover an area of 700 kms… for I am Siachen.

The more “active” of my counterpart extends till here – the LOC.

The world treats me as a demonic place where angels fear to tread and death seems to be something which lurks at every corner for the soldiers.

But believe me, it’s not me who takes their lives, it’s my climate which is too extreme for their bodies.

The melting glaciers and avalanches aren’t my fault too, yet I am seen as a brat.

I am Siachen…the land of wild roses.

I have seen wars fought for my control; such heroic sagas are embedded in my history.

I have witnessed Operation Meghdoot in 84 and then Rajiv in 87.

I have seen sweat turn to ice, fingers and limbs lost to frostbite more than hostile fire.

Where kerosene stoves are used just to keep weapons warm, the green parkas becomes black, food comes from cans and oranges become hard as cricket balls.

Where hunger and appetite take a backseat at these heights and food is eaten just to keep the body energized.

Where choppers behave like oversized bumblebees.

Where artillery guns have opened up in support of the soldiers whenever needed.

I have seen Lt. Rajeev and others sacrifice themselves in the capture of Quaid post.

I have seen Bana Singh defy elements to capture the same post with just 4 men.

With a fury of a wounded tiger he avenged the death of his comrades and captured the post.

I have seen the dying light and soldiers raging against all odds and elements.

I have seen them climb near vertical walls of ice without second thoughts, for this is what the Siachen battle school trains them to do - where only the fittest are sent to serve.

I am Siachen…

I share the jubilation of the troops at the bada khaana when they return to base camp after 3 months tenure.

They go as soldiers, return as veterans.

I share their gratitude to OP Baba for keeping them safe all throughout.

The faith in him so strong that soldiers vow to keep away from alcohol and tobacco during their tenure.

Ceasefire or not, soldiering continues, if not for surveillance, just to tread on trodden tracks so that the trail does not disappear in the snow.

There are angels here too, they are called as the Air Force and Army Aviators who make sure to keep the posts supplied all the year round in their choppers, in conditions which test both men and machines to their absolute limits.

Leave no men behind is their aim as they help bring casualties back irrespective of the weather.

In spite of all this, I am worried about the ecology of my own area.

Bio-degradable waste generated is a threat to me and I am highly affected pertaining to that.

I can be peaceful and tranquil to the human eye, but my wrath comes to the fore when I am exposed to such treatment.

My glaciers melt away causing avalanches, crevices which can open up suddenly to nearly 100 feet. I die out daily because of the imbalance that is created here.

It causes me pain and sorrow; pain because of my disturbed ecology, sorrow for the ‘purple’ bloodshed.

Soldiers are not born every day, they are special and thus it tears me apart when I see their blood being ‘purple’, so rare, being shed.

What’s the use of all this? Crores being spent on me just to maintain control and vigil on me.

Even then, we share a love and hate relation; they need me and yet tend to go carefree.

For now, I sit here as every year more brave-hearts come to prove their mettle as I pose challenges in front of them, to protect me and then be proud that they searched at Siachen.

For I am… the land of wild roses. I am Siachen…
“Quartered in snow, silent to remain… When the bugle calls, they shall rise and march again.

To every man upon the earth death cometh soon or late. And how can a man die better, than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his gods”.

- Scroll of honour at Siachen War Memorial.    

 Post Script: This poem is written in collaboration with Shwetabh Mathur

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tech Talk: When Technology Backfires!

By Ila Garg 

Technology is ever growing, ever expanding! With the market flooded with gadgets of all shapes and sizes, it is nearly impossible for a person to pinpoint one gadget that they won’t get bored of. Well, yes eventually we all find something new, something better that tempts us to dump our prior gadget and happily switch to the new one. every other day a new gadget is launched with an array of fancy features, but do we really need them? Are they ever going to match our expectations?

But even after changing your gadgets multiple time, you encounter similar issues, don't you?

Technology fails you just when you think you have found the right match. Even iPhones don't hold your interest for too long then how can smartphones ever match your ever changing desires!

Only a few months back, I got this pretty hyped smartphone by Xolo – Omega 5.5. I thought it would be nice to get a hands-on experience of this gadget as it is not only affordable but offers a 1.4GHz octa-core processor. This means I can use multiple apps without cutting on the speed. With a HD display and a 5.5 screen size, this seemed to be a promising product at that time.

Next in its specs list was a 13 megapixel rear camera equipped with flash. I was hooked instantly as the shop assistant told me that yet I decided to act rationally. Before I could ask for other options, this assistant told me that it has a 2 megapixel front camera1 GB RAMHIVE UI skin, and has a 2600mAh Li-Ion battery.

Of course, I bought it.

So my experiment started. I was disappointed by each passing day. The 2 megapixel front camera wasn’t worth anything as howsoever hard I tried to click a selfie, it was blurred. An abrupt haziness surrounded my pictures and I was compelled to stop taking selfies. From a phone filled with thousands of selfies, switching to a phone that doesn’t allow me to click one single shareable selfie was a pain. Anyways, I survived that somehow.

Only after a month of my purchase, the screen of this “smartphone” cracked, breaking my heart into pieces. How? Oh no, it didn’t fell. I had nonchalantly kept some books on it and later when I finally reached for my phone, it was cracked. Oh wait, that’s not all. I was gradually coming in terms with the cracked screen as the phone was working fine but suddenly another problem started to occur. The touchscreen encountered some defaults making it impossible for me to type anything correctly in one go. I had to at least tap multiple times before seeing an input on the screen.

And the problem just worsened when I woke up from my slumber only to find my phone super-heated. A pop error message said – Overheated. Remove your battery immediately – I was obviously scared. We have heard cases of battery blasts, haven’t we? With shaking hands, I finally managed to remove the battery. It was so hot to touch. I kept it separately for some time and then replaced it back into the phone. I breathed a sigh of relief as the phone finally came back to life.

But this experience has made me lose my faith in technology. It can backfire anytime, anywhere. For now, I am seriously about to dump this “smartphone”, maybe I need a smarter phone and not just a smartphone.

Time to explore the market once again. Any suggestions? Did I hear someone say iPhone 6s? Do you think that would satisfy my longing? Will it satisfy yours? Let's put our thinking caps on and maybe for once let the rational mind think and decide.