When Douglas McArthur mentioned that ‘old soldiers never die; they just fade away’ he did not really mean they intended to retreat from our memory because he was the one who had also said: ‘We are not retreating – we are advancing in another direction’. This is as true now as it probably was in his own time.

Generals have risen to powerful positions in politics, and have always managed to resettle and rehabilitate in the civilian universe far better than those who stayed there all their lives. Soldiers know how to navigate into attention wherever they are. I guess they are the peppiest ones the world gets to see and meet. Switch on any news channel and wherever there is a hot debate going on there will be people like G D Bakshi (he was my instructor when I was a Gentleman cadet at the Indian Military Academy), Maroof Raza, and Ajai Shukla making sure that they give it a pertinent direction. Soldiers like V K Singh and K P Singh Deo are in politics. Our private security agencies have hundreds of them running the show successfully. The corporate world has them in positions of responsibility. The media is full of them. They leave their regiments and adopt whatever fascinates them… sales, HR, activism, politics, writing, speaking, trekking, mountaineering, and even consulting. And yet we love to believe that old soldiers fade away.

Old soldiers never fade away. They stay and fight a different battle and are always in love with advancing into another direction. This is what resilience is made up of. This is what morale is all about. There are times when I am tempted to say that old soldiers are like the Tata Zica that has redesigned and reinvented itself according to what the world needs. They are what McArthur meant when he said: ‘Life is a lively process of becoming.’ They are forever becoming an anchor of goodwill at all times and in all sorts of responsibilities.

Is there a reason why we are not going to ever see old soldiers fading away? Well, look at what they do while in service. They are not just training themselves to protect our borders but are also ready with tactical and strategic insights and actionable plans during any emergency. From floods to rioting and from insurgency to managing rescues they are the ones who get things done. They are the ones who have managed to let their genetic code believe that they are fit for any responsibility at any time… even after they have kept their rifles back into the kot and come out of their OGs to join us all.

This is one breed that doesn’t possibly understand what it is to fade away. They do not and will not fade away… and let me add here that it will not be because they get identified easily with their ‘shoulders back, chin up’ posture or their gloriously peppy moustaches or the stories of adventure that they are full of. It is because they have understood well that ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’.

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Old soldiers aren’t going to fade away

Old soldiers aren’t going to fade away

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This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

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Arvind Passey
02 February 2016