Chillaikalan – the harshest, 40 days spell of winters in Kashmir. It is the most difficult period of year for millions of people in Kashmir. One such morning, Parvat Singh curled himself on a wooden stool inside a bunker, his rifle still pointing towards the slow and melancholic movement of road in Srinagar. Life of a soldier in Kashmir is difficult, both physically and psychologically due to bitter cold and always existing threat to life.
The officers and jawans posted in Kashmir remarks that serving in other parts of India is not an easy job either but it is relatively better in terms of safer working environment and better weather conditions. At all times confined into a brick, mud and sand bunkers or pill boxes made just out of piled up sand bags, peeping through a narrow hole is the only way to know about outside world. With an ever-existing threat to their life, the soldier’s finger is always on the trigger and with eyes darting – searching for someone who would be a grenade thrower or hiding a weapon to shoot him. The uncertainty of a terrorist shooting them or hiding an IED to inflict casualties to a military convoy is the only certainty. There are no battle lines, unidentified enemy exists and inspite of all these odds a soldier understands his responsibility towards the nation and tires to instill Indian belonging in citizens by the acts of kindness towards the awam.
Akin to Parvat singh, day of thousands of soldiers in Kashmir starts around 5:30 in the morning when the Srinagar city and rest of the valley is in deep slumber. Prior to his morning patrol or routine duties, he waits for his turn to use the common washroom complex and many a times uses icy cold water when the supply of warm water runs out. In this chilly winter morning, a walk from his dormitory to washroom complex and back is the first among the many daunting tasks which he performs throughout his day. In the environment of insurgency and terrorism, a soldier is always on a look around him for suspicious people and things. And still, at times terrorist gets an edge over him. Also, training is a must, a daily physical and weapon training session is carried out for the soldiers because anything can happen in a battle with the gun and at that moment the only best friend is his rifle.
Areas of North Kashmir are considered the resting places of terrorists. The soldiers walk for several kilometers in snow in these areas to carry out daily patrols in order to keep these areas in check and to cover all infiltration routes. Kupwara is just one of the examples of many places where a soldier risks his life daily to protect the lives of his countrymen.
For a soldier serving in any part of world is an honour but the sense of pride and job satisfaction he gets while serving in Kashmir is extraordinary. Inspite of all the odds that an officer and jawan faces during his service in Kashmir; their juniors, seniors and the unit becomes their home away from home. They play together, celebrates each other’s festivals and supports each other’s family in individuals’ absence. With the motto of nation first a soldier is always ready to face anything and everything that comes between him and his duty.