Monday, 18 June 2018

Diary Of A Soldier - 7. English translation of Gautam Rajrishi's 'Fauji Ki Diary' (फ़ौजी की डायरी)

Duniya mein chand log hote hain Jaadugar !
Some In The World Happen To Be Magicians !                                                                                                                                           
The world on the border... the world where the inhabitants live  either in bunkers or at the front... is a weird and wondrous world. The attitude in the laughter here warms the veins of the ice-cold winds. The green-brown prints on uniforms of the inhabitants here makes even the leafs, gone dry in the freezing conditions, go green. Keeping away from the crazed 'What's App' and 'Face book' practices, the people here write letters on inlands and envelops and receive letters from their beloveds in sacks full too.  the inhabitants here keep themselves well informed on week-old newspapers and without getting a glimpse of fresh veggies for months together the blood of the inhabitants here keeps on the boil each moment.

The haphazard kisses blown towards God by the inhabitants here make the stars fall, and wishes are made on these very falling stars by people of the rest of the world in lower plains
Sadness does not get a permanent visa to this world on the border. This is a world of loud guffaws... and  ingrained in these guffaws -- guts and glory have become permanent, full-fledged residents of this place. Often ignoring all these facts however conspiracies to humiliate each moment these permanent, full-fledged residents of this world are hatched constantly. When the story of such a conspiracy came to light a few days back, even surprise sat back astounded for all time to come... was a lazed out morning dawdling under a slack sun. An ordinary morning in Kashmir which by the time it culminated into afternoon was going to turn into an infamous one. Just as he did on any other morning that young major had, immediately upon waking, assumed command of the seemingly indomitable tower-post situated bang in the centre of the city... ignorant completely of what destiny had in store for the morning. The tower-post was a very special one... its architecture, its location at the main crossing of the city and its windows presenting an open, all-round view... all of it together gave it the status of an unassailable and extremely strong army-post. The location of the Tower-post at that place provided a reassuring atmosphere of sorts to the movement of army convoys and other military activities. But it was because of all these specialities and salient points  that the tower had also become an eyesore for a certain section of local people.
 A rumour, that a local girl had been molested by an army man, was doing the rounds since the past afternoon.  Later, when the girl praised the army man in her statement, the rumour itself had revealed itself to have been a concocted one. But that was later... at the moment the major was a little disturbed because of the rumour. Even in his disturbed state, he was somewhere looking for some solace for he believed in the power of the truth. The only purpose behind all these rumours was to... incite the local people and distort the image of the army... the major was thinking ... the initial phase of terrorism has certainly witnessed some soldiers misbehave... no such misdeed however, by any soldier during the past ten or fifteen years comes to mind. In the years gone by the army has improved its image and learning from its mistakes made in the former half of the nineties, has dealt strictly with army personnel involved in any misbehaviour. The major was deliberating silently over all this in the context of the recently floated rumour when suddenly his thoughts went into a tizzy. The crowd of local  people assembling on the road leading directly to the tower post had at once put the laid back morning on an alert mode.

The training of so many years and the experience of this terror infested area... the two together warn the young major's sixth sense. He has seen too many times how the mob here can grow horribly and turn violent in a blink. The local police who, against all his notions formed by watching films, arrives on time on being informed and fires the first round of tear-gas on the by now almost unruly mob. The destiny of the morning... the empty shell of the round falls on the head of a man in the crowd, who dies. the man's corpse turns the mob's frenzy towards the tower-post. The major watches wide-eyed a bottle filled with burning petrol come flying from the crowd and fall on his post followed by a hail of stones. A corner of the tower-post has caught fire... the major cannot see another petrol bomb come that side. When the mob's frenzy does not seem to abate despite three warnings on the loudspeaker and a second petrol bomb falls and explodes nearby in a fraction of a second, the major, pointing to the man leading the mob, orders one of his soldiers to fire once at his feet. The destiny of the morning... the man, stumbling  in the crowd panicking at the sound of fire takes the bullet on his head instead of his feet.

The major weighs all the options present before him. Should he, at the cost of the death of some more in the firing or at the risk of being torched alive along with his colleagues continue to defend the tower post or... he makes no delay in reaching a decision. The young major, abandoning the tower-post,  enters along with his soldiers the safe boundary-wall of his base-camp a little behind the tower-post... praying all the while that somebody has made a video of the entire development.

Believing he'd be tried for murder, he was preparing himself to face the questions of the enquiry-committee and praying that the one to judge his character may be anyone but those who, sitting pretty in the confines of their homes, have taken to this fad of posing as a judge on facebook and whatsapp. He wanted to avoid seeing himself in the truth-twisting, frustration-spewing headlines of the next day. This much is certain... the young major thinks... that  the headline  'Two Dead In Army Firing' would any time sound better than the headline 'One Officer and Five Jawans Of The Army' Torched Alive By An Angry Mob !'

... And whenever I get to hear such a story, I find that young major and each such soldier nothing short of a magician...

Kehti hai ye nazar
kub kya ho kya khabar
Duniya mein chand log hote hain jaadugar!                                                                                                                                                               
(What this glance tells is
that you never can tell-the what and the when of a thing to happen
for some people in the world happen to be magicians !)
July 2017     

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Diary Of A Soldier - 6, An English translation of Gautam Rajrishi's 'Fauji Ki Diary' (फ़ौजी की डायरी)

In Compassion, There Is Always A Personal History

The nights have, as if, got a thing these days about not coming to an end... the blasted snow - as it melted - has, as if, stretched the nights taut while making its exit. The nights are so long that they seem to take a lifetime to reach morning ! "Romeo Charlie for Tiger... all okay ! Over !" This melody  of "all okay" feels more soothing than even Gulzar's verse or Ghalib' couplets. A speck or two of snow, clinging still to the laces of the long, white snow-boots languishing sadly in a corner of the bunker can be heard having their storytelling sessions in whispers... telling stories of those calm, icy nights when the spectres of jihad also had felt cold.

...And the conversation during these long, stretched out nights is often only with the ever-altering moon. But why does this scoundrel of a moon scurry so hurriedly to Amaavas- the darkness of a a new-moon night ? Now that the snow has melted, the thing required most to maintain  an alert vigil on the border is the light of this shifty moon. Why can't the rogue forget the celestial order of shifting its phase till the season of these long nights lasts ? 

The little larger than half-moon - its chin held up - had remained poised for long last night over the roof of the tiny bunker built on that hillock across the border. Last night was a weird and wondrous night... the bands of clouds swirling around from morning till late evening vanished suddenly the moment the night grew young. Was it only a spell cast by that a-little-larger-than half moon or had the clouds, laden and weighed down through the day, become weary of the autocracy of the sky... whatever it was, all of it together was creating a corny contrast.  ...A contrast? Yes, surely, a contrast -- that this bunker built on the hillock on the other side stares continuously with steely eyes during the day, rifle barrels trained in this direction, and now, in the dark of the night and from above the roof of the same bunker, this rogue of a moon is staring this way. Not just staring... but the rogue is also reminding acutely of a certain disc-shaped face...

I had thought ... yes, I had thought I would tell her when she called, that her memory - like an ache - had stabbed sharply on seeing that moon poised, with its chin held up, above the roof of that bunker across the border. The fatigue from patrolling however, had risen from the burning soles to reach up to the tongue and I could say absolutely nothing.... Now I am thinking if I see the rogue staring as before...I'll pick it and bring it over from there to keep under my burning soles inside the sleeping bag. In case that disc-faced dame called now I would ask if her memory, that shot up like an acute ache on seeing the moon was a  blasphemy, since that rascal moon had crossed over and taken residence in the enemy camp?
...And only goodness knows why these eyes have misted over !

For the past thousand...ten thousand years, ever since this green uniform has become a part of this body, these eyes have devised some strange systems for shedding tears. These eyes that used to cry on reading a beautiful poem, mist over while reading stories and novels, well up when watching an emotional film scene, become wet to hear in this remote corner of the country the beloved, living far off, talk on the phone... do not, surprisingly, shed tears over a death.  They did not cry even when just a week back, that young major down in the forest with thirteen bullets embedded in his chest was martyred because he was concerned more with trying to save his fallen soldier than himself. When, after pressing the trigger, the bullet, expelled from the barrel of AK 47 and travelling at a speed of two thousand three hundred and fifty feet per second, penetrates the body, the body gets no inkling of it and by the time it does, it's too late. Bravery, in fact, is not in the shooting or in getting shot, bravery is  in the intent that does not waver even when fully aware of the death lurking around and goes in that very direction to take it fully on.

Bravery has taken on a new name for itself... the name of Major Satish. An absolutely ordinary young man -- like someone living at a turning in the neighbourhood -- standing at the twenty seventh rung of age... the only difference being that whereas his friends were trying to get into IITs, medical colleges and CAT, he made up his mind to don the green uniform for his country. And when this country of his was grieving the defeat of its cricket team playing seven seas across, this brave was fighting a nameless battle without any cheering. On the next Independence day, all this country of his will do, is hand him a medal. The irony of this country is that you are not considered brave until you become a martyr. This word - 'martyr' - for some reason seems, for the past many days, to be pulling faces at me...!!!

Standing silent in the jungles of Rajwad and Hafaruda under high, snow clad mountains in central Kashmir, the pine and the cedar trees are witness to an umpteen number of unseen-unheard tales of bravery...tales of the countless Major Satishes in the Indian army. The fallen leaves and the broken branches of these pine and cedar trees that stand amid the expanse of the white spread-out sheet of snow have, in the time span of more than three decades, cradled in their laps any number of bloodied bodies of soldiers like Major Satish.  These silent trees of pine and cedar watch also when the residents of villages adjacent to the jungle offer their food and their daughters, who have no voice, to entertain the deranged ones who cross over from the other side to their village in the name of jehad... the crumbling down of the morsels of their food are not seen by their Khuda and the mention of their mute and frightened daughters finds no place in the poems and stories by any feminist ! These Satishes however, see everything ! These Satish-like young men can very well continue to sit ensconced in their army-posts watching all the circus, for these Satishes are, in any case going to receive their salaries... however the oath taken by these Satishes before any star came to adorn the shoulders of their uniform, does not allow them to sit in the restful warmth of their army-posts and these warriors get up and go to the jungles to write a new definition of bravery ! At the other end, the mindlessness of those who offer their daughters along with food does not end here... showing up instead, in the form of stones that rain down on the ambulances that carry these wounded Satishes to hospitals. Exasperated, the souls of these Satishes  part with their bodies to go up so they can - on behalf of the voiceless food and the voiceless daughters of Hafaruda and Rajwad - make a plea to God ! Who knows if God listens to these Satishes... it's close to forty years... as of now, there is no news of these pleas getting a hearing !

A wayward thought has begun recently to make its way into my mind... whether or not the representatives in the bunker on the other side miss somebody too, when they see the moon poised thus above their bunker ? It would be interesting to know... ! I am reminded of a few lines in a poem by Geet Chaturvedi :

Bhookh mein hotee hai tapasya
 paani mein bahut saaree atripti
upkaar mein kaee aarope
vyaakhyaa mein thodee see badneeyatee
karuna mein hamesha 
ek nijee itihaas hota hai
In hunger there is a penance
in water, an immense discontent
in favour, many an allegation
in interpretation, a bit of ill-intent
in compassion,
there is always a personal history

(June 2017)