Thursday, January 28, 2021

Indians and Australians marching side by side

Reading Time: 3 minutesRemembering our fallen heroes at Sydney’s ANZAC Day parade, writes NIMA MENON
The marching contingents at the ANZAC parade in Sydney this year had a very valuable addition, 10 veterans from the Indian Army and Navy. They marched under the Indian Defence Forces banner honouring and remembering the Indian soldiers who fought alongside the Australians and the New Zealanders at Gallipoli. The reaction from the spectators was one of jubilation and surprise, for very few people are aware of the Indian presence in the campaign. As in previous years there was also a Sikh contingent marching under the banner of the Sikh Council of Australia.
The 7th Indian Mountain Artillery Brigade, the Indian Mule Corps, a medical establishment and the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade  represented the Indian Army at Gallipoli. The artillery landed with the ANZACs on the 25th of April and stayed on till the final evacuation in December. The gallantry displayed by the soldiers of the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade in the battle of the Sari Bair Ridge was unassailable. It is believed that over 1000 Indian soldiers lost their lives in the Gallipoli campaign and records indicate that 371 of these were from the battalion of the 14th Sikh regiment. The first battalion of the 5th Gurkha Rifles also lost 136 of their brave soldiers and one of their companies was one of the last to leave during withdrawal. The Indian presence may have been in smaller numbers, yet their  contribution was a very significant one. The valour of these soldiers has left an indelible mark on the pages of history.
Watching the ANZAC parade and the marching Indian contingent brought back a number of nostalgic memories. I have watched a number of Army Day and Republic Day parades, sat in the ramparts of the Red Fort listening to the Prime Minister deliver his Independence Day speech, and the feeling I had watching the parade was no different, it was unique, binding and  enthralling. I have had first-hand experience of bidding a beloved one good-bye as he leaves in preparation for war and have experienced the uncertainty, the fear, the hope and the pride- all at the same time. As we wives stood on the sidelines, watching the serving personnel and the veterans march past, we were engulfed by a deep sense of gratification. We ran alongside our marching husbands, cheering, clapping and waving with pride and joy. Seeing your husband march in a contingent in India or march as part of an Indian contingent in Australia is no different. Patriotism and the satisfaction of being part of the ‘fauji’ fraternity surpasses all boundaries. You feel connected to the people who made history in a different era and time.
The participating veterans had their own story to tell. “[It was] a glorious day in our lives. It was a privilege and an honour to march to the ANZAC spirit and values. The reception and welcoming gesture from the crowds were overwhelming and humbling,” commented one of the officers after the parade. “It was indeed a ‘great day’  with the spirits high, the turnout immaculate,” said another officer. They all felt that they had taken off from where they had left more than 10 years ago and that they “would be eternally grateful  to the traditions of the Indian Armed Forces for moulding us to fit-in to any service environment”.
Let us not remember our fallen heroes just on the ANZAC day or the Independence day, let them be in our thoughts everyday as we enjoy this bountiful life of ours, let us acknowledge that  they  sacrificed their today for our tomorrow. Let us also take a moment to pay homage to all the surviving veterans who have given their all and will always be haunted by the memories of their fallen comrades.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest we forget

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Nima Menon
Love the outdoors and my idea of indoor bliss is a tub of ice cream with a favourite movie or book

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