Death as a civilian is a tragedy. Death as a soldier is a fact, a count.

War is brutal. War is real. War is an ecosystem.

An industry that employs, enables, supports and at the same time devastates, deceives, kills and rapes multiple nations of their culture, their art, their people. War is not just an article you read in the news paper. War is more than words. War is lives. War is grit. War is sacrifice. War is fought by brave men, not just by sophisticated artillery.

I confess not knowing war as closely I got to know it at the World War II Museum in New Orleans this past week. If you ever had doubts about visiting New Orleans, here is another reason you should go ahead and book those tickets. And make sure you keep two days for the museum. You cannot cover it in one day, that’s my claim.

I am not a history buff. And except for learning about the two world wars in my history text book, a few war movies that I saw as an adult and a few books that I read on the holocaust, Man’s search of meaning by Viktor Frankl being one of them, I had never even wished to understand war.

But my view of the world has gone through some serious changes this last week as I slowly absorbed and comprehend the meaning of a country being at war. I have newfound respect and gratitude for the men and women who died in WW II. And the same for the lucky few who survived it. Also the ones who strategized it and the ones who persisted. I don’t yet see what you saw at the end of that tunnel, but I am sure it has to do something with a word called hope.

The multi faceted perspectives of a war come to life in the personal accounts of the veterans, that are exhibited at the museum in New Orleans. There were people who wanted to serve, some who were drafted against  their will and some who simply did not want to be left out. They all had different stories to tell, different reasons, different convictions. But one goal. To win.

Why am I so surprised? So aghast?

 Because I look around in our society today and I see something is missing. Somewhere we are all missing the point.

We fight to be unique, they fought to show solidarity in purpose. We fight over money, they had none to begin with. We fight over religion, they couldn’t care less. We fight over individualistic achievements, they fought for team spirit. They died for freedom, we die of boredom.

I am not promoting war. Don’t get me wrong. I am just pointing out that my generation has not seen calamity closely enough to know the real value of life. I have not heard enough about the wars from either of my parents or my grand parents. And partly thats because none of these wars impacted India as much (and I might as well be wrong on this account. But that’s my guess).

I don’t know what it is like to value what. I don’t know what it is like to be in a calamity where I will be asked to give every penny to win my freedom back. May we never see that day in our lives. But the fear of it, or perhaps an acknowledgement of such a possibility can definitely humble us.

We might as well think that such a large scale war will never happen again. No one will ever ask us to eat less so that the soldiers on the front can have more. No one will ever ask us to drive 3 gallons of gas and consume 256 units of rationed supply per family per month. But it happened to people we know or people our parents knew. It happened on this planet. And it is still happening, just not in the countries that we chose to live. War is real.

I sound pessimistic. But really, I am just moved. I am humbled by war. And I think that is the best way I could have started my year. With just a little bit mindfulness of what our lives could have been. And what all we must be thankful for.

To the men who fought and died and their families that perished and cried. One additional count of respect comes your way from an ignorant civilian who just learnt about war.

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