Why Heroes Fall

Image credit: Dall-E

She looks beautiful today, draped in a saree that’s almost white, with a hint of yellow and a grey border. A simple yet elegant necklace with a pearl adorns her neck. Her hair, neatly arranged and secured with just two black clips, falls gracefully over her shoulder, free from additional adornments. No earrings or no lipstick. Not for today.

Martyr Major Paramveer Karan. As her husband’s name is announced, she walks slowly towards the podium, accompanied by a marching soldier. Behind her sits the ministers, the army officers, and the other high-rank guests. The national anthem fills the hall. She accepts the medal handed by the President, poses briefly for a photo, and then bows slightly in a gesture of namaste. As she returns to her seat, the camera shifts to another lady, equally poised and elegant, awaiting the announcement of her own husband, Martyr Colonel …

What emotions stir within her? As the national anthem resonates, her heart swells with adrenaline. Is there sadness for her husband’s absence, or is there pride and happiness for his bravery? Or both? What did her husband feel? Though no longer here, he must have harbored feelings while alive. What went through his mind at the thought of possibly dying in war? How did he march forward to the frontier, knowing possibly that could be his last? Did he feel proud, anticipating how his loved ones would honor his sacrifice? Did he ever consider that he wouldn’t be there to witness that proud moment?

Why do men willingly sacrifice their lives for a moment of glory that they won’t live to experience? Is our existence less significant than a brief instant of pride? Why are we prepared to forsake our lives for a proud moment we will never feel?

Or is this the only way of defying death? To live beyond death by glorifying it? Is it ironic, or is this the only way for humans to find our own answer to the looming question of mortality?

Image credit: Dall-E

Most animals probably do not comprehend death as we do. They might not ponder a world without their presence but instinctively avoid death. Evolution has equipped them with instincts that trigger fear and evasive actions in life-threatening situations. Humans are also animals, sharing these instincts. However, our gifts from nature include rationality and imagination, the ability to think and understand the world more deeply. We know that one day, we will cease to exist. We constantly flee from death, yet we know, perhaps unlike other animals, that eventually, all efforts will be in vain. We continuously witness the painful demise of our loved ones.

How can humans reconcile their awareness of death and reality with their constant efforts to combat it? In a ring of gladiators, how do you cheer the gladiator to fight the lion when everyone, including the gladiator, knows that he will die, no matter how hard he fights? Why doesn’t the futility of our efforts render us completely inactive? Why do we choose to live anyway?

Is heroism a construction to block the truth of death constantly lurking out there? Just as flies are drawn to fire and accept death, we are attached to heroism and accept death. Heroes are not only the soldiers fighting on the battlefield. We all aspire to be heroes; we are constantly being heroes. We are parents, sacrificing our pleasures and working hard to improve our children’s lives. We are suppressing our biological urges and desires every moment — driven by the glory of being an honest lover and a good partner. It is recognition that motivates us to work hard in the office. Our fight so that our colleagues or neighbors do not perceive us as useless is driven by the same force — our attraction to glory, pride, heroism, self-esteem, and the feeling that we are important in this world, even in our small ways. Even though death will eventually claim us all, we live in our struggle to be a bit significant in the world. Is all of it futile at the end of the day?

The ceremony has concluded. As she walks out, journalists jostle for a glimpse of her. Was she aware of the meeting between the Prime Minister and the army officers just before the ceremony? They deliberated on whether to prolong the war, assessing the death toll. So far, seven hundred thirty-four soldiers have perished. The army’s leader is adamant about continuing the conflict, asserting they have ample personnel. The Prime Minister, though hesitant, eventually concurred with the army chief’s judgment, as conceding defeat is a bitter pill to swallow.

How many lives does it require to end the war? What is that number? Is Martyr Major Paramveer Karan merely a statistic? A sacrificial piece in a strategic game? Or is he a national hero inspiring millions?

Image credit: Dall-E

Is this even a valid question? Is the underlying social construction, the power game, a truth to discover for her? Is it even wise to lift the veil that sets our attention away from reality?

Or is the legacy of a soldier, the tale of heroism, meticulously preserved and nurtured with tears and love, with garlands and photographs, the genuine truth? Which is the bigger truth — the inevitability of death or our modest endeavors to transcend our mortality through the memories of our loved ones and the mark we leave on the world?

In a meaningless world, does the Truth even deserve a discovery? Is there a truth to be unearthed at all?

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A Soliloquy
A bilingual blog in Bengali and English. © A Soliloquy