At the Border Security Force camp in Jammu, uniform isn’t the only thing common; it’s the shared passion for singing, dancing, and a heart, which beats as much for the nation as for their secret dreams.
The jawans in the camp train hard everyday. They have a tough routine. But scratch the surface a bit, and some of them carry not just guns, but aspirations which never came to life.
One such, Kishore Kumar—named after the iconic singer—has been in the Jammu BSF camp for six years. He says, when he watches singing reality shows, he often imagines himself on screen.
“When I watch singing reality shows, I feel happy to watch others win. Of course, you feel you could have also sung that particular song in your own way. But I keep telling myself: so what if I didn’t get into Bollywood, I got into the force and I am proud of it,” he says.
Born to a family of musicians, Kumar’s father was a violinist, and being the youngest in the house, he grew up hearing the tunes. But in the camp, there is little he can do, not that he is complaining.
“My practice time is not rigid. I can’t keep singing and disturbing everyone so, I quietly practice whenever we get time. When you join the defence services, you have sworn to protect the nation, you need to balance everything. You need to do your duty and keep a good friendship with your hobby.”
While Kumar took to singing since he was a child, the realisation of having a melodious voice came much later to BSF jawan Vijay Singh. A fan of Arijit Singh, Vijay, hailing from Kolkata, started flourishing only when he joined the camp.
“During our training, my friends used to say I sing very well. I started singing in 2014 after my friends encouraged me to go on the stage during BSF functions. Today I have the confidence to go on stage and sing in front of the crowd,” he says.
For him, singing not only gives confidence in public, but also acts as a let out when he is missing home.
“I always listen to ‘Sandese aate hain’ from Border. When we miss our homes, that is our ideal song. I listen, I hum, I sing, I match the notes and miss my home, may be have tears in the eyes but then get back to the job.
Shillong-based Avinash Pone began as a crooner, but things changed when he chanced upon a dance-reality show.
Avinash does breakdance, locking and popping—without a formal training—much on the lines of his idol, Dharmesh Yelande who shot to fame with a reality show.
“I learnt dancing on my own, through Internet. It started when I got hooked to dance shows on TV and I picked it up slowly from there. Dharmesh is my idol. When I saw him dance, I was blown away. I thought I should do it too and started dancing around 2011.”
Avinash, who came to the camp in 2017, says it’s his dream to dance with Dharmesh some day. Till then he performs every time a celebrity visits the base camp.
Recently, when TV actor Maneish Paul was here, as part of Comedy Central’s ‘Spread The Cheer’ campaign, Avinash danced his way through and won hearts.
“Because of the duty, I don’t get time to practice. Sometimes when a celebrity is coming or there is a function, I don’t dance but listen to music for one-two hours and visualise what and how I’m going to do it,” he adds.
There are women in the camp as well, and one such, Sandeep Kaur from Punjab, has been here since 2017. Joining the force was her decision. So every moment here, is like “living my dream.”
But sure there are moments when the chips are down and one is feeling low. What does one do then?
“I don’t sing. But I play good music… On the Internet,” Kaur laughs. “I was never into singing. But I love listening to good, entertaining music. It keeps us going.”
Kaur says they train and dream as much as the men and there isn’t any difference—or difficulty—they face.
“We women do our duty comfortably and as equally as the men. When people see a lady in a uniform, they aren’t scared per say. They look at us with respect. You can see they respect us in the way they look at us,” she adds.
According to a BSF spokesperson, nurturing in-house talent is a must and it also helps the jawans to stay motivated.
“We are serving in such far-flung areas that we don’t have any other means of entertainment. Bollywood personalities won’t come everyday. So, we spot our own talent, nurture them a bit and they feel enthusiastic about it. This is our own ‘Make in BSF.'”