Monday, 17 September 2018

Diary Of A Soldier - 9, English translation of Gautam Rajrishi's 'Fauji Ki Diary (फ़ौजी की डायरी)

Mujhse ek kavita kaa vaadaa hai milegee mujhko
(I have the word of a poem, it'd be there for me)                                                                                       

The evenings are growing chilly. This darned September... stuck here since who knows when... was refusing completely to make its exit. It seemed the month had become so enamoured of these sky-kissing heights of thirteen thousand feet that it would not give way to October. But in the end October did arrive... breathing hard from the slope far down ...shoving September away. At times it feels as if I've been here, encamped here on this mountain... for aeons. Did I ever exist anywhere else before this? Or is it that I've been here since the beginning of creation ? Who do I ask ? There are times when even this enormous family of twelve hundred jawans and fifteen to sixteen officers seems to fall short in filling up this vast loneliness stretched all around. There is perhaps no job more lonesome than leading a large family ! Each phone call coming from the bunkers, each message received on the radio set, unless it begins with an 'all okay' ... invariably makes the heart miss a beat at first. What if, in this utter desolation, this damned, anxiety ridden heart stops beating ! What a futile death would it be ! This clammy death-smell clings so close to the body during the month of September! The month has become a little too saddening in the past eight years... extending the desolation more and more with each year.

It was a moment that the gloom had struck... it is the load of a century that lies sprawled. Eight years have passed already since bidding farewell to Suresh. Yes...eight years ! Suresh... Suresh Suri... Major Suresh Suri ... whose very existence defined valour in motion... but whose exit had been pre-ordained somewhere in it's list by destiny in order for me to exist. Everything becomes so easy, doesn't it, when we assume that it had been so written... destiny ! And death, when it occurs, is complete destiny in itself. The other day when captain Rakesh, at the mention of Suresh, had asked me, "how does it feel sir, in those last moments of death"... I'd almost laughed. Last moment of death ? How can any moment of death be its last ? Life... it is life that has a last moment . Death has just that one moment, isn't it... whether its first or its last.

All the officers had wanted that day to hear from me the story of that September of eight years ago. I had again put it off and in lieu, had been lobbed that poser... how does it feel in the last moments of death ! It had almost evoked laughter, but it had disappeared in a blink - the laughter... alarmed that it had dared to appear when it was Suresh who was being discussed ! In these past eight years he comes alive almost daily, courting death again and again on the cruel canvas of memory. Mulling the thousands and thousands of options such as - had that happened,  this wouldn't have happened or had this not been done, it wouldn't have come to that - the mind brings Suresh to life each time and then kills him again. There was probably no moment for him that could be called his last...whether of life or even of death.  That last moment eventually has remained stuck only to my 'self'... as my destiny. When I think of Rakesh's question now, I recall the nature and number of thoughts assailing the blood-soaked body on the day. The first being that Suresh is alive... everything will be fine in a moment...that this is a mere nightmare and will disappear immediately on waking up. And the second about how my Chhutki - my ilittle girl - would grow up without her papa in case I did not survive ! And some other pointless thoughts... the anger on this unexpected turn of an absolutely well planned operation... anger on the blood drops dripping from the body... anger on the about-to-run-out bullets. In those last seconds, perhaps only anger was the foremost emotion. Something like life flashing before eyes in the fashion of a moving reel ... ha ! Perhaps that happens only in films .

Would it be poetic or realistic... to say that the bullets that are stuck in the body do not give as much pain as do the bullets being extracted from that same body by the doctors' scissors despite the administration of anaesthesia...? This dialogue had made all the officers laugh for a long time that day and this laughter of theirs had brought, for the first time, solace even in the month of September . May be... it just may be that the pain is finally accepting the might of destiny ! Many a time I feel like calling up Suresh's place... to have a long talk with aunty... tell her of all these realistic or poetic thoughts assailing my mind. She perhaps is the one person on this earth who may be able to reach to the bottom of all this turmoil. But then I can't muster the courage ! Something begins to pound deep down the chest... somewhat like the pounding rising in the chest on the day when bullets had begun to boom suddenly from all directions.

Right now...right at this instant, sounds of fire coming from far afar out in the space are as if providing a  background music of drum beats to these sad memories making a march ! 'Sad'... 'Suresh'... 'September'... why do all these begin with an 'S' ? September, the 'sadist'... ha ! what a cliché !!
Brings to mind a verse by Gulzar...

Maut tu ek kavita hai
Mujhse ek kavita ka vaadaa hai milegi mujhko

Doobati nabzon mein jab dard ko neend aane lage
Zard saa cheraa liye jab chaand ufak tak pahunche
Din abhi paani mein ho, raat kinare ke qareeb
Naa andhera naa ujaalaa ho, naa abhi raat naa din
jism jab khatm ho aur rooh ko jab saans aaye
mujhse ek kavita ka vaadaa hai milegi mujhko  

(Death, thou art a poem
A poem has given me word, it'd be there for me

When in the sinking pulse, the pain begins to slip into sleep
When the moon, with its pale face, makes its way to the horizon
When the day is still in the water, the night, nigh the shore
Its neither dark nor light, neither day nor night
when the body ceases to be and the soul begins to breathe
A poem has given me word, it'd be there for me)

September 2017