In a Post-Truth world, I am wary of messages on social media. But a recent one has got me thinking for some time now. And having just watched ‘71 – a hard-hitting independent British movie about a soldier inadvertently left behind on the riot-ridden streets of Belfast at the peak of Northern Ireland conflict, I began to realize the enormous significance of hope in the midst of fear and violence.
At National Defence Academy, India’s premier training institution for young military cadets, the dining hall is a prime attraction for outsiders. Officially known as the Cadets’ Mess, it has a seating capacity of 2100 cadets at one time. But little do people know that just outside, stands a solitary table set just for one with its chair tilted forward. This arrangement is in remembrance of all those brave souls either Missing In Action or taken Prisoners of War.
On the table is a vase with a single rose indicating the love of the families who still hope for their return. Tied around the vase is also a red ribbon to show solidarity with all who demand a proper accounting of the missing. The candle on the table is never lit, symbolizing lack of light and happiness in their absence. A slice of lemon placed on the bread plate stands for their bitter fate while the salt is reminiscent of the tears shed by their loved ones. Finally the glass is upturned indicating that they cannot dine with us tonight.
What a remarkable symbol of the sacrifice of all those who left to do their duty by their country but never came back!
“Let the chair remain tilted
Let the lonesome table still be set
The candle keeps its dark vigil
lest we forget, lest we forget !”