As India celebrates its 76th birthday this year, we track people who were born in 1947 and went on to join the Indian Defence Forces to ensure the nation remains safe.
Commodore RM Sreedharan, a retired Air Force officer is a second generation of armed force officers in the family. Born on November 6, 1947, in Kunnur, in newly independent India, Commodore Sreedharan was raised by his mother when his father was serving in Jammu and Kashmir as an Army officer. "When I was born my father was posted in J & K. My mother raised me by herself till I was two-year-old. It's an enriching experience to see the country developing,” says Commodore Sreedharana.
The officer participated in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. He calls it an exciting experience as a soldier, for the war led to the birth of a new nation, Bangladesh. “I feel good that being born in an independent nation, I helped breathe life into another nation, Bangladesh. When I was growing up, there was so much uncertainty; but now things are better. Individuals are free to enjoy their rights," he says.
Lieutenant Commander Jagbir Singh (Retired)
Although India's independence from the British Raj was a milestone, the partition that followed and left the one nation torn into two with Pakistan the second nation, left many scars on thousands of people. Lieutenant Commander Jagbir Singh (Retd), rues the day he was born. Unlike many, Lieutenant Commander Jagbir's family members were uprooted from their homes to different camps. He was born in Hazira, a district of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) on July 21, 1947. Singh, while feeling privileged to have started life in independent India, feels upset that his parents have led a tough life during the chaos of partition.
“I was two months old when my family was shifted from POK. We came to a border town in Poonch in 1947. We were the first to be accommodated in an open area. Rations and other supplies were limited. The city was under lockdown for 14 months before some military help came," says the officer, who later joined the Indian Navy, following his father's footsteps who was in the Indian Army. He says his father joined the armed forces to put food on the table. “Defence services men were paid well. But when my father retired the responsibility of the family fell on me,” says the officer and states as matter-of-factly that growing old with the nation gives him much satisfaction, “After the suffering our families underwent.”
Commodore Shyam Kaushal (Retired)
Commodore Shyam Kaushal, a retired Naval officer feels privileged to have been born to see India getting independent after a week he was born on August 6, 1947. "It’s a wonderful feeling being among those who were born just before India attained freedom," he says.
Born at a time when the country was in turmoil, Commodore Kaushal recalls how his mother faced challenges raising him in those days. He was born about 22 kilometres away from Lahore in Amritsar. “My mother used to tell me that it was a time of turmoil. Communities were fighting and there was a lot of bloodshed. My uncles took me from one place to another to keep me safe, travelling on the roofs of trains," he recalls.
Though a newborn, the veteran officer rues the loss of life during the partition, which he says, “Could have been avoided.” Following in his father's footsteps who served in the Royal Indian Navy, Commodore Kaushal joined the Indian Navy, a step that changed the course of his life. “People and their approach have changed since the early days of Independence. Earlier, the nation was everything, but now people have become more materialistic," he observes.
Commodore BK Ahluwalia (Retired)
Born on August 21, 1947, in Meerut of Uttar Pradesh, a few days after India gained independence, Commodore BK Ahluwalia retired from the Indian Navy. Though UP wasn't much affected by the partition massacre, Commodore Ahluwalia saw bloodshed closely in 1971 when he participated in the India-Pakistan war. “So, I could imagine how it could have been for India at the time of partition. I am proud of the nation for how it is developing at a rapid stage. We Indians have the moral and physical courage to safeguard our borders. I am happy and satisfied to be born in the nation that was born just a few days before me," shares the 76-year-old Commodore Ahluwalia.