Monday, 12 March 2018

'Diary Of A Soldier - 1' - English translation of Gautam Rajrishi's 'Fauji Ki Diary' (फ़ौजी की डायरी)

Image result for Gautam Rajrishi photographsGautam Rajrishi, a colonel in the Indian Army, a 'Parakram padak'
'Sena medal' awardee, draws with his words authentic, powerful,and moving pictures of life lived at the frontier, in and around the terror-infested zone of Kashmir, sharing his experiences, memories and thoughts with the reader.

A rare read indeed.

  Adhoore Such Ka Bargad 
( A banyan of incomplete truth)
 January 2017                                                               
There are sounds of crackers bursting late at night and dreading the worst, the sleep turns to instant wakefulness with a start. And then it takes a very long  time to convince the harried sleep that this is not Kashmir...but our very own village, that you are not on duty but on leave...and that in the embrace of peace you can carry on your dialogue with dreams without a worry. And yet, the story of the disturbed sleep keeps on playing through the night to an unheard tune. And then it no longer remains possible for the embrace of peace to resume its dialogue with dreams. This sense of an unbearable inertia has, as if, made it a practice to thread thorns into this embrace...uff ! Half-spoken lines of a couplet...half-woven sentences... continue to compose on the creases of the bedding, the impact of these wakeful nights, in hues that are at variance from the nightly tossing and turning. Staying awake through these carefree nights in the village is so different from those anxious nights in Kashmir. Is it? Really ? Are the nights, even when here on leave, really any easier ? Even the clatter of a pot falling down in the kitchen  makes the heartbeat go bounding the way it does every now and then in the bunkers on the border. The clamour made by a troop of monkeys on the roof brings alarm, each and every time, as does the smallest of noises over there, in Kashmir.
Even over here, all the dreams as if begin to drown in the face of the night. The dreams... now sinking, now surfacing in the shallow nights, fail to find a thing as miniscule as a straw of words to carry them across. A heartrending pain ! These dreams have not yet learned how to let out a scream. ...And even if they do, who is going to listen to the screams of these dreams ? These dreams... all dreams, burdened with the destiny  to be restive... wish at times to sit perched atop a tall cedar tree and see through a sad poet's eyes, the line of the border drawn across the white sheet of snow... at times to bring to the Yamuna the sighs that lie shrouded in the stillness of the Jhelum. ..and at times to push these aged mountains that have stood here for centuries to the brink of the Dal lake and give them a good bath. How absurd ... the desires of these now sinking, now surfacing dreams...!!!
On the shoals of the shallow nights, a long list of silly desires has been lying buried since long back in the sand of these dreams. There was this sage Kashyap...yes, right, it was Kashyap only. It is said he had come here along with the gods on an udankhatola - a legendary flying cot - and waving a gold-handled magic wand  converted this part of the submerged land into the paradise of earth naming it - Kashmir...'gar firdaus bar roo-ey zameen ast, hameen ast-o, hamiee ast-o, hameen ast'... if there is a paradise on this earth, it's here, it's here, it's here. It was probably then that the list of these absurd desires had begun to take shape. However, these now sinking, now surfacing dreams are probably not aware of this. The shallow nights did try many a time to tell them...but the eagerness of crossing over or the fear of drowning keeps these dreams engrossed only in listing out these desires. Giving up, these shallow nights begin on weaving the absurd desires of these dreams. Desires...the desire to join in the flock of ducks swimming without any order in the pond and put them in some order...the desire to paste the leaves of the chinar trees back on their branches during winter...the desire to stretch out and expand the shrinking Wular lake. The desire to ignore the loony line of the border that partitions this side from that. Desires...the desire to see... all 'Hanumanthappas' singing and laughing again...
It was some Hanumanthappa surely who, on his first posting in Kashmir eighteen years ago, had whispered softly in ears "just beware sir ! Kashmir grows into your nerves !!" But the Valley of Kashmir doesn't give you the chance to beware. Yes...after staying buried in that icy grave for six days Hanumanthappa does return but the doctors prove incapable of saving him.  At the spot where all of these 'Hanumanthappas' are posted, the pulse races at double the pace...fearing it may freeze on slowing down. Over there, the heartbeats do not throb to a rhythm but actually perform cart-wheels and somersaults...afraid if they ease up they may cease all together. Over there, yes, it is over there that these 'Hanumanthappas' , along with free rations and free winter clothing, get many other freebies... bottomless crevasses,  avalanches  eager each moment to swallow them down and after a fixed tenure - greying hair, debilitating  faculty of hearing, sluggish digestive system, and the life-long  ache that settles down in their bones... . Before they leave to serve on the higher-than-clouds, snow-covered peak  and during their three-stage acclimatization, these 'Hanumathappas'  are given the details of all these freebies that will become available to them. And yet they go and perform their duty to the last ounce of their capacity ... no ! No !! Not in the name of country, nation or state...but for their section, their platoon, their company and for the badge of their regiment that shines on their caps and shoulders.
During the third stage of their acclimatization these 'Hanumathappas' are taught how, during an avalanche, they have to keep their eyes, nose, and face hidden between their two hands and knees and stay buried under the deluge of snow...and have trust that their other team-mates will come to their rescue. There is this very thin line that keeps that trust and will-power from snapping...  and 'Hanumanthappas' do come out after staying buried for six days under thirty feet of snow. No, this is not a miracle. Just trust on the name - allegiance - badge of their regiment... on their comrades...on their commanding officer , the commanding officer who, after the whole platoon has accepted nine of their team mates as dead, comes and camps down at the spot of the avalanche in a tiny tent... for the throb of the heartbeats of these 'Hanumanthapps'  doing cartwheels is audible to him even from thirty feet under. 
The presence there of these 'Hanumanthappas'  is the exact enunciation of  'valour, vigour and vitality' ... and  their sacrifice is but a polite appeal that to make this country a strong country we should all become  responsible citizens in our own capacities.  And mother... she often keeps repeating  to everyone in the village... 'even after getting a bullet my son came back whole from Kashmir...this is his second birth.' She gets a 'paath' -a reading of the story of 'Satyanarayan ', organised to venerate the deity, without realizing that the son sitting alongside in the 'paath' is cursing, reproaching the deity - if you are that big a saviour why do you not save all those 'Hanumanthappas'!!! Mother whispers to the  Pundit ji... "he has taken another birth...this time I will not let him return to Kashmir." The whisper reaches my ears and evokes a strange stirring in that bullet  wound.  Who was that poet who had said :

"Adhoore such kaa bargad hoon, kisee ko gyaan kya doonga                                                                  
 magar muddat se ik 'Gautam' mere saaye mein baitha hai"   
                                                                                                                                                                     "I am a Banyan of incomplete truth, what wisdom can I impart to another                                                       however since a long time back, one 'Gautam' is seated under my shade"                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

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