By: Aakanksha Saraf
This month in The Word, we are proud to publish a short story written on the adversity and heart-wrenching lives on the border. Read on!
“All forty of you be alert. Maybe it is the last time I will be commanding you. You are required to guard the border at Kargil. I have personally selected each one present in this room because you are the best trained in handling a threat to peace at the Northern border. The trucks are scheduled to leave at 3 am tomorrow. There was a report of random shooting towards our border. The intelligence bureau fears an outbreak of war. You may disperse and prepare for the mission,” said the Lieutenant General of the North Command.
There was so much going on in the heads of those brave hearts or ‘Jawans’ as they were locally called. Mentally, they were prepared for this mission as the neighbouring country had been causing tension at the border for a while now, and refused to listen to any warnings. How ironic it was to be battling with the people who were once a part of the same country!
In their dormitory, the only audible noises were those of loading of ammunitions and zipping of their backpacks. The tension prevailing in that room was akin to an overblown balloon waiting to get pricked by a needle. One of the Jawan’s had got married recently, while the other had just been blessed with his first child. Somebody’s parents were lying on their death bed while some worried about the loans they had to pay. Each one had his own problems to tackle.
“Maa always said that he who sacrificed his life serving the country, was the biggest achiever in life. Therefore, let us have a small chant to calm our minds,” said Suraj, the newly assigned head of the following mission. Being in the army for over twelve years, he was one of the most experienced soldiers in the North. A minor war had been won under his guidance. His undiminishing fighting spirit and selfless attitude had earned him respect not only in the eyes of his colleagues but also of his wife.
In the dead of the night at 1 o’clock, their trucks were loaded with ammunitions. Two hours of sleep was all they got to charge themselves up. Many had made a phone call to their families to inform them about the mission. Few chose to write them letters, since hearing the voices of their loved ones might make them fall short of valour. As for Suraj, his wife’s phone was unreachable. He thought of his infant daughter and wondered whether she had started talking or if she could even say ‘papa’. It had been three months since he had last seen his family.
As they left, the atmosphere in the truck was full of conviction. They knew how crucial this mission was for their county. The victory slogans they chanted en route lifted their spirits and filed each muscle of their bodies and every corner of their souls with courage, making them fierce as lions. Those slogans even transformed into something tangible and surrounded them like an aura. As they moved through the mountains, it seemed as if the trees were bowing down to these brave hearts who seemed as invincible as gladiators.
On arriving at their destination, they settled in their barracks. In no time, they were walking towards the border to check for any peril. As they marched collectively, there was sudden firing from the other side of the border. In order to form a strong defence, they hid behind the mud walls. Canons were being loaded, the jawans were ready with their AK-47s. Intense shooting began. Soldiers began getting injured. The only immortal thing on that battle field was their fighter spirit.
Suraj too, fired fiercely at the neighbouring side. He felt a strange vibration in the pocket of his uniform, only to realise it was his cell phone. Struggling to get shelter, he hid behind the broken brick wall and checked the caller ID. It read ‘Surekha’, his wife. He was adamant on throwing the phone away amidst the chaos and terror.
But something struck him. Perhaps it was his fatherly instinct. Unable to decipher his contradictory feelings, he picked up the phone apprehensively. He knew right then, he cheated on his nation by choosing his family over his duty. But this feeling of remorse was forgotten as soon as he heard his daughter say ‘papa’ in her squeaky voice, which was barely audible in the midst of this horror and the noise of bullets piercing the bodies of men. A faint smile played on Suraj’s lips for he heard his daughter speak for the first time. Fate, being cunning as she is, showed her true colours, when a bullet went right through Suraj’s chest.
Tears of joy, deceit, failure and loss rolled down his muddy cheeks as he fell on the ground with a thud. He did not know if choosing his family over his nation was the right thing to do. It made his soul feel filthy for doing exactly the opposite of what his mother had said. He was dying not fighting for one’s country, but as a result of abandoning his duties as the head of the mission and letting weakness seep in. He began sinking in the ocean of guilt but then again the voice of his daughter acted like a floating plank of wood of his wrecked argosy to which he could cling on to until his very last breaths. His nation had gone to fight but for him, it was all over in a minute.