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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Delhi South chapter.

Wars, for the longest time, have been glorified and romanticized. When one thinks of war, the picture of ‘able men’, strong and brave, ready to kill and die for the sake of protecting one’s nation, flashes in front of their eyes. From a very simple and uncomplicated perspective, it is something to laud and take pride in. We often see a twinkle in the eyes of people who introduce their family members or friends who serve in the military. There is no pride bigger than a mother introducing her son, “He is my son, you know; he is in the army”.

This is the story of John Brown, a soldier who went to war. I was introduced to Bob Dylan’s poem, John Brown, in the eleventh standard, as part of our English syllabi, and it thoroughly changed my idea of war. John Brown’s mother boasts about him in the neighbourhood, she tells her son that her heart swells with pride seeing him in the uniform and holding a gun. She advises him to do as the captain says and win loads of medals, which she can later put on her wall.

The mother does not hear a word from her son for months and when he finally comes back, she is not able to believe her eyes. Her son now wears a metal brace around his waist, his hand is blown off and he can barely smile. This is the outcome of what Bob Dylan calls a ‘good old-fashioned war’. What led to this circumstance is something to really ponder upon.

One thing that strikes you like a sharp knife is when John Brown tells his mother that the most petrifying experience was to look at the faces of his ‘enemies’ and realise that it looked just like his own. The circumstance of every soldier, irrespective of the side they fight from, is the same. One cannot fathom the miseries- the physical, mental, and emotional agony and torment until they stand in a soldier’s shoes. This is often overlooked by the flashy romanticization of war. Glorified by the countries competing and lauded by people, the actual and real catastrophe goes unperceived and unwitnessed.

I would like to mention one such incident from history. During the First World War, along the Western Front, there was a cessation of fighting between the Germans and the British soldiers. It took place during the 1914 Christmas and is famously known as the Christmas Truce. On Christmas eve, both parties sang Christmas carols from their side of the border. Eventually, they gathered on no-man’s land and exchanged gifts, drank wine together, and even engaged in games of football. This incident has great historical significance. There have been several songs written and sung around the theme of truces, especially the 1914 one. One of my favourite ones is ‘Christmas 1915’ by Celtic Thunder. The song opens with the lines:

1915 on Christmas Day

 On the western front the guns all died away.

The most impactful line for me was:

And I killed the boy that sang in no man’s land.

Post the truce, the war resumed and both parties once again started to kill each other. This reflects how soldiers are just puppets in a play scripted by governments and authorities who put the lives of so many at stake for their selfish ends. The fatalities of war are regretful.

I have begun to look at things from a different lens and I owe it all to the discipline of Sociology, which I am currently pursuing. I, along with all my peers went through a plethora of emotions when last year in our department, we had the screening of the Hindi movie, Shershah. It is the story of the brave, Captain Vikram Batra, who lost his life in war. Our empathy for him is lesser than our pride in winning the war.

Why is it that at times our hatred for another country is bigger than our love for our own? These extreme forms of sentiments do not grow one sudden day; it accumulates over time, starting right from childhood. Wars have been forever glorified in textbooks and every innocent child learns to differentiate people from there itself. Why does an India-Pakistan cricket match gather so much hype? How is it any different from India versus New Zealand? Why is there a ‘need’ to win, not just ‘want’? We must all wonder why.

Shreyashi Paul is a student of Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi. She is a Bharatanatyam dance, who is self-trained in waacking and loves to explore a wide range of dance and music genres. A girl from the North-east of India, she is obsessed with green mountains and blue skies. She loves to read, write, capture and perform.