Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Diary Of A Soldier - 8, English translation of Gautam Rajrishi's 'Fauji Ki Diary' (फ़ौजी की डायरी)

Ik Rasta Hai Zindagi, Jo Thum Gaye To Kuchh Nahin
(Life is a path, in case we stop it comes to nought)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
Far from this bunker built with cold and damp stones, beyond the butt of this lifeless AK 47, some place away from the piercing winds on this high mountain... I wish to get distributed between a few big and small phrases jotted up and down in some disorderly lines, free from all bindings, let loose, rid of my wits... so that I could sweep together in my poetry... papa's deteriorating health, the wrinkles on ma's worried brow, the smell of gun powder, all these sandbagged barricades, Deepika padukone's smiling eyes, forgotten names of a few girls, The pealing laughter of my only little girl and lots... lots and lots of leave of absence... all of this at one go.
It is so difficult to explain to everyone... anyone, that to a soldier standing on duty, it often appears like a sin  to even think about taking leave ...

...that moving was implicit in even my pause, and all you saw was, how still I was...

...that the gut wrenching wails of moments you wouldn't want to hear even in your dreams, I was destined to live through and you heard not my scream... but the squeals of destiny...

...that the fingers, broken while writing new definitions of commitment, are unable to write down answers to accusations hidden in your questions...

...that the truth is that this has no meaning... this watching, this hearing, this raising of questions...

...when my valour, my devotion has no place even in my father's gradually dying out memories... what still has a place there however, is the unjustified  uselessness of my justified absences !

And thinking of papa while on apprehensive night vigils on these stretched out borders, I am reminded of the story of Yayaati.  As a result of the curse coming from the wrath of Guru Shukracharya - his own father-in-law and the guru of the daityas - Yayaati, in ancient times, grown old before his time had, under some mental aberration, requested his five sons to lend him a slice of their youth. What I remember of the story read in childhood is that perhaps only Puru, the youngest of the five sons, had been willing to fulfil his father's wish. And the story gives rise to a wayward thought... a wish that science had some such mechanism in these amazing technical times... a wish that a son could, like blood and organs, donate a slice of his own youth to his father... ! Ah, too many of 'wishes' !!!

The spell of these night vigils weaves a number of such bizzare 'wishes' !

Meanwhile, it has come to knowledge... that the grey, sprawled out stone... had kept sneezing till late last night . Yes, that same stone... that largish one, the one that, owing  to its size and greyness, seems absolutely  different even from afar on the descent of the slope, whereafter begin rows of the pines and the cedars and a little after that comes the root of all the false and imaginary disputes - that line called the border. Yes, that very stone whereon sits either a wearied 'noon' or a tired out 'evening' each time on return from a patrol to take a breather and light up a tiny, eighty four millimetre long cigarette stick before it embarks upon the steep, two and a half hour long climb.

...and somehow or the other, each time immediately after the patrol ends, one or the other voice - nervous and concerned -  calls out from the rest of the patrol coming from behind, "It's not advisable to sit there for so long saab, that stone is within the range of the enemy snipers and those nuts are not to be trusted." Hmm...the concerned voices are right. But there is some sort of a trust on that stone... on the grey stop-over on that stone, on the few minutes of laid back sittings... on the 'devtakaaar' - godly (not 'daityakaar') heights of those pines and cedars and on the little smoke-spewing stick. How does one explain this to those nervous and concerned voices ! So, with a nothing-happens-you-know smile, the wearied 'noon' or the tired out 'evening' begins to think that the next time it would certainly leave written on that sprawled out greyish bosom of the stone, either a couplet by Ghalib or a verse by Gulzar. You never  know when a crackpot of a or evening from the other side may come patrolling and leave something written in reply...!!!
Many a page
must have been buried
in the vast bosom of the stone

Let me look for a verse
or find myself a song
one page at least be mine...

...and last 'evening', was bathed in rain as it returned from patrol. And the two and a half hour long climb had slipped many times under the 'evening's feet, pleading each time as it slipped for the 'evening' to make a stop for the night around the stone. Making a stop was difficult for the evening, however that minutes long stop-over did get stretched... for the thin and tiny Wills classic stick, dampened by rain drops, took a very long time to light up and irked by the delay, the wet socks in the water-filled boots became very adamant...  demanding to come out of the boots to lie awhile on the sprawled out stone to soak in its warmth. Grape wine has it that there was also a lengthy exchange of verses between the socks and the stone. The socks had dried up... that supine looking stone had stayed wet.

...and that stone had sneezed through last night... splayed out, greyish sneezes !

A song in the voice of Naik Mahesh, standing guard at a far off barricade, comes floating in...

Jaate huye raahee ke saaye mein simatana kyaa 
ik pal ke musafir ke daaman mein lipatana kya
aate hue kadamon se, jaate hue kadamon se
bharee rahegee rahguzar, jo hum gaye to kuchh naheen
ik raastaa hai zindagee jo thum gaye to kuchh naheen...

(Why shrink into the shadow of a voyager going away
why cling to a traveller, here for a moment's stay
steps that come in, steps that go out
shall keep the road abustle, our leaving matters not
life is a path, in case we stop it comes to nought


August 2017

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