When was the last time you witnessed a male army officer cry his heart out? Never, right? For the soldier, it is almost a sin to admit to the stress and strain he faces in front of anyone, let alone the media. Our men don't snivel and sob or make their troubles public, just as a tiger never cries. They are a breed apart, positive to the core even in the most downbeat circumstances.
It's only when you look a little closer that you realise that our army is plagued by something commonly known as PAS or Pressure, Anxiety and Stress syndrome. It's not just about pay, perks and promotions; there are a number of issues that on a day-to-day basis take a heavy toll on an army officer and his family, mentally as well as emotionally.
A majority of army stations do not have good schools and one is left with two choices — either the family stays separated or compromises on the child's school. A third option would be sending the child to a boarding school. But think about boarding school expenses and again an army officers' child takes a beating. Army children do get good exposure to physical activities such as horse riding, swimming, tennis, basketball and golf, and quality schooling would be a natural extension to this. Sadly, that is not possible in many cases. A better salary would definitely help to some extent.
There are a number of issues that on a day-to-day basis take a heavy toll on an army officer and his family, mentally as well as emotionally.
There are instances of couples staying together only for 3-4 years after 11-12 years of marriage. Rest goes into the field tenures. An oft repeated incident is of children referring to their fathers as "uncles" who come back home after a long period. By the time they get used to their brand new "papas" it is time to say goodbye again. Field tenures should not be assigned too often.
When an army officer goes on a posting he, along with his family, has to stay for 3-4 months in a room provided by the officer's mess, since a temporary accommodation is allotted only after a waiting period of 3-4 months. Though comfortable, temporary accommodations can be nightmarish if any stay-over guests land up. By the time a nice and spacious permanent accommodation is allotted, the next posting is due again. A Marriage Accommodation Project (MAP) should be started in all the stations. Looking after aging parents is another grave concern for every soldier. Frequent shiftings, lack of healthcare facilities in small stations, bad road or air connectivity, make it difficult to have old parents stay with you.
An oft repeated incident is of children referring to their fathers as "uncles" who come back home after a long period.
Many army officers are facing rejection in marriage proposals now as girls are becoming more career oriented and the only job possible for an army wife is that of teaching. Frequent postings wreak havoc on an army wife's professional aspirations.
They might not immediately seem important, but issues such as these are vital to a soldier's well being. A few corrective measures and a little better planning will go a along way in addressing things rather than merely politicising the issue. Or else, this tribe of jubilant jolly good fellows will become endangered.