Sunday, 29 April 2018

'Diary Of A Soldier - 4' English Translation of Gautam Rajrishi's 'Fauji Ki Daiary'

  Kitne Haathon Main Yahan Hain Kitne Patthar, Gaur Kar !                                                                         (So many stones, in so many hands here, pay heed!)
             April 2017

One of Dushyant's couplets, along with slogans for freedom, is in full swing these days  in the valley below ..."kaise aakaash mein sooraakh ho nahin sakta, ek ptthar to tabeeyat se uchhaalo yaaron" -  'why can't a hole be made in the sky, just pelt up a stone, fellows, with all your might'.  And stones are being pelted up aplenty. The blessings showering down on stones these days are proving mightier than the prayers being thrown up to God. Stones are being pelted with intensity, stones being pelted up with might . Failing however, in making a darned hole in the sky. It's the heads of the uniforms that are getting split up, their shoulders tearing, knees slipping... but no hole is made in the sky, and how can it possibly? When Dushyant had made the call to pelt up a stone with full might, it had implicit in it the might of the truth.  And no matter with what might these stones, enveloped in a wayward,  false dream are being pelted, their reach is restricted to heads-shoulders-knees... it's not in them to make a hole in the sky. This shower of stones is not reaching even as far as us on these sky-high mountains.  Seeing the Kashmiri porters, who bring our rations and other things from the village below, sit down to eat in the langar - community eating  - with our jawans, I couldn't stop myself. I also joined in and when I asked them why they, like their kith and kin in the valley below, do not pick stones too, to throw in our direction... the reply of twenty-one year old Usmaan Chheti raised, among the sounds of slurping of mutton, such an echo of boisterous, collective guffaws that I panicked...what if it causes an avalanche! With an alluring  smile on lips hidden behind his sparse beard, Usmaan said with a little salute, "Saab, the thing is that in the valley below, freedom has been written even on the backs that are bowed in  prayer before God ! Just as children, who've grown up listening to ghost stories know there are no ghosts, and yet hear and repeat ghost stories... the youngsters in the valley below are in a similar situation.  What freedom is or isn't... these boys have no clue... but since they've been hearing it since childhood they go on repeating it and with it keep pelting stones for fun!"
The stones raining down do not agitate as much, as does the apathy of the Jhelum. Wanting me to shake up the Jhelum in its silent and serene flow and ask how it can remain so unperturbed when the children who play on its banks are going astray at the behest of a few nuts. The slogans of 'Go back, Indian dogs' are not as distressing as is the customary blooming of the chinars. I feel like hauling up each and every chinar tree in the valley and ask how it can continue to flower happily when the young ones who've grown under its shade are foul-mouthing its own country. It's not as saddening to hear these absurd demands for freedom as it is to see the reddening, juicy apples in the orchard. I wish to chew into these apples and say what good is your sweetness when the boys who've grown up tasting you are raising such bitter slogans !                       
Want...feel...wish...all in the mind ! unable, really, to do anything ! Disappointed, when the mind runs it's eye over the newspapers, the channels and the social media, it seems to be on the receiving end on that front too. From each and every quarte. The unbiased media, the honest journalist friends show the picture of the injured people of Kashmir but somehow the lenses of their cameras and the ink in their pens overlook the police personnel with split heads, the CRPF jawans with broken shoulders and the Security Force squad. with a limp. And no wonder, since the picture of these wounded security personnel doesn't raise the TRP ratings... the mention of these limping-groaning policemen does nothing to heat up the debate on facebook.
Such strange stories are coming up from the valley below... some from a small group of crazed youngsters involved in burning the office of the Tehsildar, die of a cylinder exploding in the fire started by them and it is the men in uniform who get blamed. A sick senior citizen, admitted in the hospital for many days, breathes his last and when his body reaches home a rumour is floated in the lanes and by-lanes that he died of police-beating and all hell breaks loose on the security personnel in the form raining stones. When an eight year old child falls while running and is abandoned by kinsmen, a soldier from Haryana in the security force, reminded of his son in a remote village, gathers him up in his arms, gives him water, drives him to the hospital in his vehicle and when the child dies in the hospital takes on his head the charge of having brutally killed the same child. It takes lots of guts to exercise restraint on hearing the adjective of 'Indian dogs' to your face. Under the circumstances, the restrain being exhibited by the men of CRPF in the valley is setting an example before the world. A crazy youth, approaches a man in uniform and catching hold of his collar shouts in his face, making a proper show of his knowledge of English, "You bloody Indian dog, go back," And the man in uniform responds by smiling and clasping the crazy youth in an embrace... the crowd is taken aback while that uniformed man moves away, bestowing a thousand silent curses on his own restrain. The SP of a certain region has his head split open by a stone... his uniform drenched in blood, but he stands facing a crowd with just a handiplast stuck on his wound with strict instructions to his subordinates not to charge on the crowd. The next day, a team of doctors declares one of his ears dysfunctional as a result of the injury.
... so many of such stories make their way up from the valley. Hearing them, I begin to envy my own and  my soldiers' good fortune. Thank goodness we are here, on these snowy mountains, watching the borders and not posted in that valley down below ! Had it been so, could we have exercised such restraint...!                     
Kitne haathon mein yahan hain kitne patthar, gaur kar !                                                                      Phir bhi uth kar aa gaye hain kitne hi sar, gaur kar!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
(So many stones, in so many hands here, pay heed!                                                                                       so many heads, have still turned up here, pay heed !)

Sunday, 15 April 2018

'Diary Of A Soldier - 3' - English translation of Gautam Rajrishi's 'Faujee Kee Diary' (फ़ौजी की डायरी)

Ik zakhm Main Mureed To Ik Zakhm Peer Main                                                                                    (The wound, the disciple, the Master in me merge into one)                                                                             March 2017                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  One looks again for that leisure...when it was possible to just lounge day in and day out and dream of one's love...'tasavvure jaanaan'. Loads and loads of leisure...the kind when making false and fake references to others, one talked to friends about that I can, in this leisure, build stories around these lengthy nights. The nights on the border are long, very long... often longer than a lifetime...restive, apprehensive, all wrapped up in alert night vigils. And these nights have an umpteen number of stories that cannot be written, cannot be told...and even if told, there is always this fear of them going beyond common understanding. 'War' is the central character in all these stories. A war that takes place every day on these snow-covered, freezing and shivering, difficult to reach borders. Who, apart from these sentries, is able to witness these endless, every-day wars !
It's another matter that wars are not fought only on borders ! Many a time, even for soldiers...wars are fought, not only on borders. The enemy who, standing a stone's throw away stares you in the eye, or the squad of terrorists who, taking advantage of the foul weather forever push to infiltrate to this side in the name of the so called 'jehad'...together or separately have continuously been creating a war-like situation for the past three or three and a half decades. We may have tried to deny it by calling it 'low intensity conflict', a martyrdom every other day tells a different story... a story which may be nothing more than an anecdote when seen against that  great first world war of a hundred years ago, but  for an Indian soldier standing guard day and night on these freezing-shivering boundaries, this anecdote holds no less an expanse than an epic. This lone Indian soldier, cut off from the sight and mind of the entire country raises, in the backdrop of this untold story, the question as to why, when after that great war a hundred years back, all of Europe, America or even Germany could emerge as great powers and established, developed countries... this country of ours, even after having faced five wars after independence, presents before the whole world the picture of a tottering, helpless and hapless establishment ?
War can never ever, even remotely, be a thing of desire... especially not for a soldier. During any war, what a soldier fears - even more than death, pain or injury - is bringing disgrace to his uniform and his regiment. He fights any war for these two things..only...  his green uniform and for the naam-namak-nishaan (name, loyalty, badge)  of his regiment ! After each such war he looks towards his country and its people with only this small wish that his commitment get recognition,... that his sacrifice be honoured. After world-war-1 ended, soldiers in all the countries  that were involved, were and are still looked at with the same love and respect that they had ever, even minutely, expected. But here in this country, despite - against expectation - having to continuously suffer the sting of apathy, the Indian soldier puts his life at risk each and every time to protect the borders. He watches, helpless and speechless, how the misbehaviour of a handful of his kin in a moving train is thrust upon their entire family... how against the atrocities committed by a few of his colleagues in the north-east states or the Kashmir region, his aeons long commitment is erased... totally. He is enraged, he is anguished, and yet, he continues to serve. Receiving more love from the pine and the cedar trees on the border than from the people of his country.  Apart from the many, everyday battles with the pettiness of the enemy in front, the audacity of terrorists making sly attacks, the lethal lashings of the weather, the behaviour of the difficult terrain, he also fights a war with this step-motherly treatment from his countrymen... wars are not fought only on the border !

Well... the month of April is more than half over and the year still has its body cloaked in the freezing cold of the year gone by. The steps set up by the snow to climb out of the bunker show no sign of shrinking...  still standing shamelessly high with its face turned up.  Everything feels like it's wet ...the whole existence... down to its endless depths. The mind, anxious and eager for bright and fierce sunshine wants to bring the whole sun down on to the roof of the bunker. If only there was this flaming string of sunshine on which one could, squeezing out the body, hang it out to dry !

The nights are longer than a life-time, and the day - just a moment in that long life!

... and the night carries with it a memory, like a memory of you...  despite all the bindings of duty ...and this small motorola radio-set sitting by my side keeps buzzing day and night connecting me to all the sentries far and near with... "Alfa Oscar kilo over" (all okay ! over !!).  And you know this damned, teeny-weeny radio-set reminds me of you... each time, every time, with its non-stop reporting... "all okay, over"

Yes ! Really !! As slender... also as easy on the reliable as you, and to speak into it,... it has to be brought completely close to one's lips... just as with you ! You are going  to laugh, aren't you, if you ever get to read this diary ?

Would that it was possible to signal from these snowy, remote mountains my ..."ok over" ... at times "miss you over"... and a little "love you over" through this radio-set to you too !

Had it been so, would the nights have still been as long as a life-time ?

Ha ha...  I fear, if nothing else, these long, unmoving and stretched out nights may turn the robust soldier in me into a poet. I am reminded of a couplet by Farhat Ehsaas :

"Mujh tak hai mere dukh ke tasvvuf ka silsila
 ik zakhm main mureed, to ik zakhm peer main                                                                                                                                                                                         
(As my pain evolves within and develops a mystic vision                                                                                the wound, the disciple, the Master in me merge into one)