Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad, dug out alive after being buried under ice for six days in the Siachen glacier, died yesterday. Koppad was found under 35 feet of snow and hardened ice at an army post in the Siachen glacier in Jammu and Kashmir six days after an ice wall crashed down on the post he and nine other soldiers were occupying.
In a story that had the nation oscillating between despair and hope, Hanamanthappa was evacuated by a helicopter from the site of the avalanche, that hit his post on Siachen Glacier, before being shifted to Delhi. A medical team treated him, while a country held its collective breath.
We will naturally see a flurry of reports in the media now, for a few days, many heart-tugging as different villages await the bodies of their sons.
In our world, where we are too busy with our lives, few of us really remember or think about the defence forces, except on days like I-Day, or Republic Day, and much of this is mere tokenism, and symbolic.
The Siachen tragedy must make Mumbaikars introspect about how little we know about the huge sacrifices made on the border, everyday. Mumbai is often rightly seen as a metropolis where there is very little awareness about the forces. We do not have what is called a ‘defence’ culture like there is in the North. Let us in the hurly-burly whirlwind that is our life, spare some thought at least for the soldier, who in contemporary times, battles a dark, deadly force called terrorism, much more insidious than conventional warfare.
Take some moments out from our daily grind to think not just about Koppad but the nine others that died on Siachen along with him, and so many more before that. These often become mere statistics for ‘civilians’ like the men in uniform often call us.
Go beyond defence forces day or other feel-good days, to make them part of our consciousness. They are posted many miles away, on our borders, but let’s bring them much closer to home. In our hearts and minds.