Monday, 22 October 2018

Diary Of A Soldier - 12, English translation of Gautam Rajrishi's 'Fauji Ki Diary' ( फ़ौजी की डायरी )

Mere saath hee saath barra ho gaya hai mera dar
(Along with me my fear has grown bigger)

The pranks of the wanton youth of  new year had gone so out of hand that the weather has had to don the mantle of its guardian. Covering these dried and parched, green and brown mountains in spotless white capes, the weather, in this serious avatar has as if turned them into so many yogis practicing pranayama - yogic breathing. How these mountains, looking  so severe and formidable two weeks back, have begun to look like becalmed ascetics deep in samadhi - a meditative trance ! Snowfall did have a delayed start but now that it has started, is showing no signs of stopping, breaking -  like the famed pole-vault athlete Sergei Bubka - its own record of the previous year. Eighteen feet in just three weeks... whoa ! The barbed  fence has, as if, ceased to exist. It's white all over from this side to that. The territorial division by the border holds no good for this white sheet of snow.
... and the temperature, falling below zero due to snowfall, does not discriminate between anyone either, doling out cold in equal measure to both ... the border security and the mad jihadists ! The security personnel have, any way, not been given an option by their green uniforms... they have to carry on with their duties as always. Yes, all the spooks and the ghouls of the said jihad, scared and shivering in the bone piercing cold are crouched cowering under blankets, clinging to a 'kaangaree'- a small pot filled with lighted charcoal - to take in its warmth. The said pledge etc. taken by them and their handlers across the border for jihad to free Kashmir seem to be on casual leave for the time being. There is not even a suggestion of a jihad visible in the endless expanse of this white sheet spread out far and wide !
Meanwhile, the snowfall piling up in layers has, in a sense, provided some relief as one is no longer required to be on the alert each moment, but the problems now are of a different kind... the problem of continuously  clearing out the snow falling down the roof and windows of the bunker lest the roof gives way under its weight and rifle barrels are unable to point at the enemy because of blocked windows... the problem of cleaning out the path from one bunker to the other after every hour or two so that the regular patrolling on the border and unhindered supply of rations to the bunkers remains possible. Each bunker has, of course,  been provided with tea-making ingredients in plenty, hoards of maggie packets, barrels of kerosene oil etc. Many a time during blizzards, it becomes difficult to cover even the distance of seventy to a hundred metres from one bunker to another. But the greatest of all problems and fears comes from the possibility of an avalanche on the freshly fallen snow. Even though all jawans in the battalion have become fully trained in dealing with this crisis... an apprehension of sorts always lurks  in the mind. Its impossible to sit relaxed inside as long as even one of the patrol teams is outside the bunker. One sits surrounded by a strange anxiety... and in this strange anxiety , the initial 'kirr-kirr' coming before each wireless message makes the heart-beat leap up high until the ''oscar-kilo-over" coming straight after that 'kirr-kirr' reaches the ears. Taking pity on my jumping-every-now-and-then heart-beats, I have issued this standard order making it imperative to start any message with an 'all okay, over' before coming to the main message . Now, of course, it has become the trend.

Just see diary dear, how in the past one and a half - two years, I seem to have turned into an image that is forever engulfed in apprehensions, unease and unknown fears. No one will ever know how this colonel, constantly talking to his junior officers about ardour, vigour and valour, is always so anxious within him, with regard to the safety of these same jawans and junior officers. Goodness knows why there is this fear... this dread ? And why after a certain stage in life, this fear, this dread is less for your own self and more for those your own ? This fear too comes in so many different forms. Changing its veneer as per the time and the occasion, the fear appears in its many different and overpowering avatars. I recall an incident in Premchand's novel 'Seva-Sadan'. When Sadan had to go out of the village on an important errand in the dark, he didn't want, even if he wanted it, any thought of a ghost or a spirit to come to his mind. But the same thoughts, even if unwanted, keep invading his mind... and then, on his way, he comes across the infamous peepal tree, known in the village as an abode of spirits. Sadan's mental state at the time ! Height of fear and dread ! And then in a state of some kind of mental aberration, Sadan goes round the tree at first and then grasping the tree trunk, shakes it with all his might. And this is where Premchand writes, 'Fear, at its height is courage.' If my memory is correct, Premchand has repeated this line time and again in his stories and novels. But where am I to find the height of this unknown, undefined fear of mine ? Where has the rascal sprung up from all of a sudden ? Is it that it has has it been growing silently with me from childhood ? Some day... yes, one day I am definitely going to write a few such stories of this fear... this dread, never before heard or told till now...

hurfon kee zubaanee ho bayan kaise wo kissaa
likkhaa naa gaya hai,jo sunaayaa na gayaa hai 

(How to tell in words the tale
never before written nor told)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        i
A poem by Naresh Saxena raises its head suddenly in the middle of this cold and freezing night...

Hawaa ke chalne se
baadal kuchh idhar-udhar hote hain
lekin koi asar nahin padataa
us lagaataar kaale padate jaa rahe aakaash par

mujhe yaad aataaa hai bachpan mein
ghar ke saamane taaron par latakaa
ek mare hue pakshee kaa kaalaa shareer

mere saath hee saath badaa ho gayaa hai mera dar
maraa huaa voh kaalaa pakshee aakaash ho gaya hai

(The blowing of the breeze,
moves the clouds hither and thither
making no difference however
to that increasingly darkening sky

reminding me of the blackened body
of a dead bird in my childhood
that had hung down the wires before the house

Alongside with me, my fear has grown bigger
that dark, dead bird has become the sky).


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